Paa Add cooks and sells a variety northern Thai and Shan dishes at Kaat Yaaw, Mae Hong Son’s evening market. She can be a bit of a hard sell, but is an extremely talented cook, her dishes both well executed and perfectly seasoned (her local-style fern shoot salad is a culinary masterpiece), even if you’re not familiar with the cuisine. I’d been buying her delicious curries, stir-fries and salads since coming here, when one day I asked her if she’d mind if I stopped by to see how they were made. She immediately dropped what she was doing and stared at me for at least five seconds. ‘Are you going to open a restaurant abroad?’ she asked.
Despite her initial skepticism, and with my promises that I wasn’t going to open a restaurant, she allowed me to come to her house and was a kind host and a patient teacher. She made several things that day, ranging from a delicious soup of grilled pork and phak waan, a local vegetable:
to three different types of laap, a northern Thai meat dish, that I plan to detail in a subsequent post. She usually makes a total of seven dishes to sell, including a few she does every day, including laap, moo phalo, and a sublime kaeng hang lay:
She prepares all these dishes by 1pm, then loads them on a cart to take to the market:
The dish I want to share first is khai oop, a dish emblematic of Mae Hong Son-style cooking, as well as a very simple dish to make, the ingredients for which are obtainable just about anywhere. Although Paa Add made enough to feed a dozen people, I’ve adapted the recipe to make a decent serving for two.
Khai Oop (Shan-Style Egg Curry)
Hard-boiled eggs, peeled 3 or 4
Shallots, sliced, 2
Garlic, small cloves, 20
Tomatoes, seeded and sliced, 2
Oil, 2 Tbsp
Shrimp paste, 1 Tbsp
Turmeric powder, 1 tsp
Dried chili powder, 1 tsp, or to taste
Salt, sugar, MSG, to taste
In a mortar and pestle or food processor, combine shallots, garlic and tomatoes. Blend thoroughly, set aside.
Heat oil in a wok over med-low heat. Add shrimp paste and turmeric, stirring to combine with oil. When fully incorporated and fragrant, add shallot mixture and chili powder (shown at the top of this post).
Allow to simmer and reduce, stirring constantly to avoid sticking. It is at this point where my recipe differs slightly from Paa Add’s. She used enough oil (more than enough, actually) so that the shallot mixture never really dried up or stuck to the wok. When I made the dish it quickly became dry, so I added water, a couple tablespoons at a time. I allowed the water to reduce and added more, repeating this process until the mixture gained a smooth, slightly oily consistency.
Season with salt, sugar and MSG as desired. Add eggs to mixture, and allow to heat up:
Serve khai oop with rice.