pronounced as “Muh–Kan” in North Thailand or “Ma-kwem” elsewhere.
A couple of days ago I was given a very simple, very aromatic soup which has haunted my taste buds since. The ingredients seemed too simple to have such a tantalising taste and depth of flavour and I was left scratching my head.
The soup was catfish simmered with onion, tomato, garlic, chilli and water – finished with cilantro (sawtooth or broad leaf coriander)
There was a secret ingredient – dried flower buds from a local tree which are simply pounded and added into the soup a moment before serving.
The taste is incredible.
Heady, slightly woody, aromatic, intoxicating and so deep and rich – this is my ingredient discovery of the decade.
The recipe for the soup will follow on this blog later this month.
This is an amazing spice sure to add a point of difference to any chef’s menu.
It is a regional specialty from Chiang Rai, the North of Thailand & Laos but not at all common or available in Bangkok, Isaan or the South.
It can be used as a specialist regional Thai cuisine ingredient for Thai chefs, or as a rare spice for fine dining chefs, bakers and creative culinarians.
As well as the soup application, I can see this really taking off as a great ingredient for breads, pizza bases, or infused into a jus for beef, venison, lamb, kangaroo or game meats.
In the North it is used mainly in “Gaeng” style soup broths with fish, chicken or beef, or in Northern larb, which is a tad chunkier and more “rustic” than the now popular Isaan version.
It is so EASY to use too. Pound or grind briefly – and add to the soup last minute before serving. Easy and foolproof. Chefs and suppliers are welcome to contact me and I’ll see if I can organize to post a bag out, or sort out a regular supply.
I have met a couple of growers here.
This is a spice that deserves to be discovered by innovative chefs.
Move over the mighty truffle…….this is a contender for the King of rare spices. Here is a little more detail, and some photos of “muh-kan” – both dried, and on the tree.
I can imagine this would slay unbelievers if it were seeded through a pure, well made jus, over game meat or high quality beef, accompanied by a glass of exceptional Cabernet.
***Thanks to Robyn from eatingasia blog, and my friend Dadi from Bangkok for assisting with identification, English name and substitute for this amazing spice.
Robyn suggests substituting with Schezuan pepper pounded with a little orange zest. It could be almost awesome.
For a deeper look into Thai cuisine as you rarely see it, I must also recommend David Thompson’s THAI FOOD – an encyclopaedic reference of Thai cuisine from centuries ago to the streets around Thailand today.
He has two versions, both the same content. One is pink/purple, bound in Thai silk. I have that one – it’s pure Asian food porn! As a professional expat chef in Thailand, it is my Thai food reference bible – and it is in English.