Miang Kham — A Tasty Thai Street Food Snack Pays a Surprise Visit to Us in Texas

| August 16, 2010 | 5 Comments

It’s late at night in early August, 2002, and I’m relaxing with a book on a flight from Baltimore to Dallas, Texas. The book is Comfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl, then the Executive Editor of Gourmet.

Sometime during the flight, I start and finish the chapter Raining Shrimp, a phrase referring to the monsoon season in Thailand.  (I imagine something like when we say “It’s raining cats and dogs out there!”)

The subtitle of the chapter reads:


Our bold author is enjoying an endorphin high on the multiple flavor layers of a super-fiery Thai soup when a piece of satay lodges in her throat. When you’re really choking, the whole world stands still. A Heimlich maneuver is administered and everyone is breathing easier, especially Ruth.

At this moment, an epiphany takes hold of Ruth and she blurts out that she has to go to Thailand. About 12 paragraphs later, she’s in Bangkok, being escorted to “non-tourist places only” by her friend Jacques. She ends the chapter with a brief story about Miang Kham, a common street food snack in Thailand. She closes the chapter, as always, with a recipe.

Soon I’m landing at DFW Airport where Vic is waiting to greet me. (He arrived several days earlier to take care of some business.) He is finishing a two-year stint as National President of Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA).

It’s close to midnight in Dallas and as we exit to the parking lot, the stifling heat is still in the upper 90s. I grew up in this very heat, but when you live here you slip into it a day at a time. This is just like entering a stoked-up sauna fully clothed. Actually, getting off a plane in Bangkok is a shock too, although it’s more like stepping into a steam bath.

On all of our previous visits to my home town, we were hosted by my sister or friends, but because of Vic’s presidential status, we’re poshly put up in one of the Fairmount Hotel’s large suites with a sweeping view of North Dallas.

Vic’s Mom is still living in Houston and she comes to see her son preside over the annual AAJA meeting. His Aunt Noi from San Antonio comes too. Soon we’re all relaxing and catching up and making plans for the week.

Aunt Noi pulls out a bag and says she brought a snack for us. Next we notice her setting out several small covered bowls, a couple of spoons and a larger container of a stack a bright green leaves. She explains, as she’s opening the containers, that she’s brought a surprise that I’ve probably never had before. As I look over the contents of the bowls—crushed peanuts, dried shrimp, small lime pieces, garlic, chiles, toasted coconut, shallots and a thick sauce—I ask, “Is this Miang Kham?”

Acting surprised, Noi asks if I have ever had this before. I say no but I had just read about it on my flight to Dallas and there was a recipe for it too.  We compare the recipe in my book and they’re very similar, except a traditional recipe will use palm sugar instead of brown sugar for the sauce.

Now for my first taste. I take a betel leaf, as instructed, and place a piece of each ingredient, finishing off with the thick sweet sauce, fold the leaf over and pop the whole package in my mouth. Wow! It’s like fireworks in my mouth, each individual flavor exploding on different areas of my tongue. Each one of these ingredients brings strong flavors, enough to jolt you if eaten alone but they meld together beautifully.


Miang Kham - Betel leaves surround the sauce - Clockwise from left: toasted coconut, lime slivers, dried shrimp, shallots, minced ginger, and peanuts

Miang Kham

For the Sauce:

The best way (for me) to roast coconut is in a dry cast iron skillet. Once the color begins turning golden, it won’t take long for it to burn. Keep your eyes on it and stir constantly with a wooded spoon.


  1. ½ cup (120 ml.) roasted unsweetened shredded coconut, pounded in a stone mortar and pestle*
  2. ¼ cup (60 ml.) unsalted roasted peanuts, pounded in a stone mortar and pestle*
  3. ¼ cup (60 ml.)  small dried shrimp, shredded in a blender
  4. ¼ cup (60 ml.) palm or coconut sugar
  5. 2 tablespoons (30 ml.) nam pla (fish sauce) or to taste
  6. 1 cup (240 ml.) water

* You can use a food processor for the coconut and peanuts but the texture will be more authentic with the mortar and pestle.

  • Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Lower heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes while stirring frequently.

For the condiments:

  1. Betel leaves*
  2. ½ cup (120 ml.) unsalted, roasted peanuts, chopped
  3. ¼ cup (60 ml.) dried shrimp
  4. ½ cup (120 ml.) roasted unsweetened coconut
  5. ⅓ cup (80 ml.) diced ginger
  6. ⅓ cup (80 ml.) diced shallots
  7. 1 unpeeled lime, cut into small peanut-sized wedges
  8. 3 serrano chiles cut into thin half circles (optional)
  9. ⅓ cup (80 ml.) chopped cilantro

* Betel leaves can sometimes be found at Asian grocers. If you can’t find these leaves, you can still enjoy the condiments in small lettuce or spinach leaves.


Pranee shows us the folded leaf and condiments about to get a small spoonful of sauce

Making a packet:

  • Take one of the betel leaves and make a small packet by pulling the sides together on either side of the stem end.
  • Add a little of each condiment to the packet.
  • Top with a small spoonful of the sauce.
  • Fold over and enjoy!

Bon appétit




Tags: , ,

Category: Appetizers, Snack, Thai

About the Author (Author Profile)

Music, food and photography are at the center of Charles’ life. He performed with the Dallas Symphony, Dallas Opera and was assistant principal bassoonist with the Fort Worth Symphony for more than 20 years. When Charles and Victor moved to Baltimore, Charles created Lone Star Personal Chef and Catering Service and taught cooking classes at Williams-Sonoma. Now in Salem, Charles is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Mountain West Real Estate, taught cooking classes for children at the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village, and owns and operates Charles Price Photography. Charles and Vic enjoy entertaining and frequently host dinners as fundraisers for local non-profits and charities

Comments (5)

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  1. Marlene says:

    You are having a lot of fun with fun. Enjoy.

  2. Marlene says:

    Whoa!! What I meant was you are having a lot of fun with food.

  3. VPanichkul says:

    For those of you in the Portland area who want to try to make this, you can get betel leaf at Thai Lilly Grocery, 11001 Northeast Halsey Street, (503) 255-0448. In Thai, betel leaf is called “Sha-poo.” Be sure to call them before heading out there as they don’t always have the leaves in stock. If you can’t get betel leaf, spinach leaves or Boston lettuce leaves will also work.

    — Vic

  4. Lowell says:

    What fun. Explosions in the mouth! sounds great.

  5. Jan says:

    We used to get these at Thai Derm in Beaverton. OMG - what an explosion of flavor in every bite. I’m dying to learn how to make these special treats myself. Just picked up some dried shrimp from the Mexican food aisle at Winco (VERY cheap!)

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