Tam Taeng Kwaa Recipe

Sour and salty mix in this cucumber shrimp salad.


1 tbsp medium-size dried shrimp, rinsed and patted dry
1 oz. palm sugar
1/4 tsp water
1 small lime (preferably a Key lime), halved through the stem
3 grams peeled garlic (about 1 medium clove), halved lengthwise
1 gram dried Thai chiles (about 4), soaked in lukewarm water just until pliable, about 10 minutes, then drained
1 oz. long beans, ends trimmed, cut into 2″ lengths (about 1/2 cup)
7 oz. Persian, English or Japanese cucumbers (or any firm variety without large seeds and thick, bitter skin)
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce
1 tbsp naam plaa raa (fermented fish sauce)
1 tbsp lime juice (preferably from Key limes or spiked with a small squeeze of Meyer lemon juice)
2 oz. cherry tomatoes (about 4), halved, or quartered if very large
2 generous tablespoons coarsely chopped unsalted roasted peanuts
2 oz. Vietnamese or Thai dried rice vermicelli (optional)


Step 1: Dry-fry the shrimp and soften the palm oil. Heat a small dry pan or wok over medium heat, add the dried shrimp and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re dry all the way through and slightly crispy, about 5 minutes. Set them aside in a small bowl to cool. They’ll keep covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Step 2: Put the palm sugar in a small microwavable bowl, sprinkle on the 1/4 tsp of water, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave on low just until the sugar has softened (not liquefied), 10-30 seconds. Pound the mixture in a mortar (or mash it in the bowl) until you have a smooth paste. Covered, it will keep soft for up to 2 days.

Step 3: Make the salad. Cut one of the lime halves lengthwise into thirds, then cut the thirds in half crosswise. Set aside 3 of the pieces (reserve the remaining lime for another purpose).

Step 4: Combine the garlic, chiles and 1 heaping tsp of the softened palm sugar in a large clay mortar and pound just until you have a chunky sludge with small but visible pieces of garlic and slightly broken down chiles (do not turn the chiles into mush), 5-10 seconds.

Step 5: Add the 3 lime wedges and pound very lightly and briefly, just to release the juice. Add the shrimp, pound lightly just to release their flavour (don’t smash or pulverize them), then add the long beans and pound lightly to bruise them (they should not break into pieces or dramatically flatten).

Step 6: Halve the cucumber lengthwise and cut it into angled, irregular 3/4- to 1-inch chunks. Add the cucumber, both fish sauces, and lime juice. The next step is easy but subtle. You want to use the pestle to barely bruise the cucumber (lightly pounding at a slight angle, not directly up-and-down) for about 10 seconds, while simultaneously using a large spoon to scoop up from the bottom of the mortar, essentially tossing the cucumber, palm sugar mixture, and the other ingredients as you pound. Do not smash the cucumber.

Step 7: Add the tomatoes and pound lightly, just to release the juices. Add the peanuts and mix briefly but well with the spoon.

Step 8: If you’re using the noodles, put them on a plate with raised edges or in a shallow bowl. Spoon the contents of the mortar, liquid and all, over them. Stir well before you eat.

See more recipes from Pok Pok.

Excerpted from Pok Pok by Andy Ricker (2013 Ten Speed Press).