I’d never heard of it either. But let it be known—this delicate starter is unlike anything else you’ve ever ingested. It’s like chomping on a rainforest and having the full spectrum of the human flavour palette erupt on your tongue, riding out in a wild flourish of exotic taste cameos.
Every sharehouse has it’s ‘dining room away from home’, that place with foul wallpaper and fluoro corpse lights that you feel more comfortable in than any other place, where the fare is soul nourishing, unable to be made at home, and the hangover clanging in your head doesn’t stand a chance.
Living in Adelaide many years ago, Hon’s sharehouse go-to for two years straight was a funky joint called Danny’s Thai Bistro. Danny’s was the kind of place where guests were looked after, where smiley, lanky Danny would wander from table to table serving a veritable selection of delicious Asian morsels and rose by the litre, while his aged Mum sat on the round table by the kitchen slurping soup.
When you’re hungover, you want it all—sweet, sour, salty, savoury, everything. As well as the champagne ambience, Danny’s drawcard was his menu of exotic appetisers and starters, and there was one in particular that satiated every hangover craving: ‘Miang Kham’, legendary, rare to find, a comprehensive flavour and texture explosion.
Wrapped in Betel leaf, garnished with lime, chilli, Vietnamese mint, prawn and burnt coconut with charred peanut chutney, the ride you find yourself on after downing one of these morsels is borderline psychedelic.
The culinary rollercoaster ride begins with an innocuous leafy crunch followed by a citrus burst; a sharp tense chilli hit; smooth coconut tamarind level-out; chilli revenge; a wild loop of spicy, sweet, sour, savoury, umami, sweet and hot; collapsing into a lush ferny green crunch, It has been known to awaken taste buds you never knew existed. Your body will rush. Your eyes will twitch. You’ll see geometric symmetry in the ether. All hangovers will be forgotten.
Being a long way from Danny’s Thai Bistro, we decided to challenge ourselves and whip up a little Miang Kham of our own. It’s a salute to the ‘dinner of starters’, a shout out to Danny’s and all the diligent hangover curers of the world who continue to deliver their crucial service. To the homely, reliable share house dining rooms away from home, we raise our rose glasses to you.
- 16 Small prawns, peeled
- 16 Betel or chaplu leaves
- 6 Sprigs of coriander, leaves removed from stem
- 4 Hot bird’s-eye chillies, finely sliced
- 4cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
- 1 Lime, cut into very small wedges, rind reserved
- 1 Cup of shredded coconut, toasted
- ½ Cup of unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
- ½ Red onion, very finely chopped
- SWEET SAUCE:
- 1 Cup of shredded coconut, toasted
- ½ Cup of palm sugar
- ½ Red onion, finely chopped
- ¼ Cup of rice syrup
- 1 Tbls tamarind puree
- ½ Tsp of shrimp paste
- 4cm piece of galangal, chopped into quarters
- 400ml of water
- Place coconut, onion, shrimp paste, tamarind purée, 80ml of the water and 1 teaspoon of salt into a large mixing bowl and process into a paste (if you have a food processor – use it). Add remaining water and process into a smooth liquid.
- Place the liquid into a large frying pan and mix in the galangal, rice syrup and palm sugar. Heat on high until boiling, reduce to medium-low and simmer until the water evaporates and the sauce reduces to a thick consistency (approx. 15-20 minutes).
- Remove the galangal pieces from the sauce and place in a serving dish. Garnish with a pinch of toasted coconut, peanuts and coriander leaves.
- ASSEMBLING THE MIANG KHAM:
- Place betel leaves on plates and top with coconut, lime, onion, ginger, peanuts, prawns, chilli and coriander leaves.
- Serve with the dish of sweet coconut sauce. Dollop teaspoon of sauce onto the Miang Kham, wrap tightly and eat in one bit. Strap yourself in for the ride.
- Serves 8 (2 per person)
To toast the shredded coconut, heat a frying pan on medium and add the coconut, tossing and stirring regularly. Once the coconut is golden and fragrant it is ready.
Chaplu leaves have a slightly less intense taste and are a suitable alternative. If neither of these are available, Chinese broccoli leaf or lettuce is fine.
Wrap approx. ½ teaspoon of paste into a piece of aluminium foil, place into a pre-heated oven at 200°C for 8-10 minutes.
Rice syrup is gluten and wheat free and a healthier alternative to corn syrup. If unavailable, corn syrup is a suitable replacement.