Yesterday, Phii Laa, my neighbour, came over with the tray of ingredients pictured above and a desire to share her recipe for saa, a local type of yam or Thai-style ‘salad’. I was excited about this because in Mae Hong Son there are several variations on the standard Thai yam that I've yet to get my head around: there’s the type I mentioned in the previous blog, that uses par-boiled veggies; there’s sanaap, which apparently combines par-boiled veggies and a rather different dressing; and finally there’s saa, which appears to revolve around fresh greens.
The most common greens used to make saa range from tender mango or tamarind leaves to shredded lettuce. In this recipe Phii Laa used yot thua lantao, the tender young leaves from a type of pea, which she has growing in front of her house. If you're making this at home, I reckon you could use just about any salad-type green.
Regarding the other ingredients, keep in mind that the type of sesame oil people in Mae Hong Son use is made from raw, not roasted sesame seeds. The flavour is significantly subtler, and if you can only get the more ubiquitous Chinese-style roasted sesame oil, I’d suggest diluting it with equal parts plain vegetable oil.
And many cooks here protein up their saa with bits of plaa thoo, steamed mackerel, but a few still do it the old-school way: with bits of deep-fried pork rind.
Saa (Shan/Thai Yai-style yam using fresh greens)
Fresh greens, sliced thinly, 1 large bunch Shallots, sliced thinly, 3 Tomatoes, seeded and sliced thinly, 3 Steamed mackerel or pork rinds Roasted peanuts, ground coarsely, 3 Tbsp Nam phrik phong, 1 Tbsp (see previous blog for a description of this ingredient) Sesame oil/garlic oil, 1 Tbsp Salt, to taste
Combine greens, shallots, tomatoes and fish or pork rinds, in a large bowl. Top with peanuts, a pinch of salt, oil and nam phrik phong:
Mix thoroughly by hand:
and season to taste. Serve on its own as a snack or with rice.