An Anatomy of Khao Kluk Kapi – A Thai Dish Deconstructed

The classic combination of flavours in the dish of Khao Kluk Kapi
The classic combination of flavours in the dish of Khao Kluk Kapi

There’s a revival of Thai street food going on right now in the scenes of the local ‘haute’-restaurant. Instead of serving fancy dishes like the fusion, the Italian or anything Western and so on, they stick to the tried-and-true dishes that have been nourishing local Thais for decades, if not centuries. One of the revived dishes in this case, based on my experience, is this lovely Khao Kluk Kapi (rice fried or mixed with aromatic shrimp paste + all the ‘trimmings’)

Khao Kluk Kapi is not a fancy choice, but always a tasty one. Thai families cook it at home when all the members are together, for the preparation requires a certain amount of effort. First, you need to have a good type of kapi – the shrimp paste that should be aromatic and well done from all natural minuscule shrimps and sea salt and nothing else. Then there are all the trimmings that include thin and julienned omelette, deep-fried dried chilies, finely chopped green mango, finely sliced shallot and sweet pork that need to be prepared in advance. At this place, they also serve the rice with fresh cucumber, scrumptiously adding to the crunches.

The rice, steamed to cook, needs to be soft but not mushy. When mixed and stir-fried with the shrimp paste, the rice needs to still hold its shape while being fantastically coated with the aromatic paste from the sea.

And this is it. The classic and fantastic combination of flavours – Thai style. You can grasp this dish from Somsong – a small nondescript place in Banglamphu where crowds stroll in from as early as 10.30 am for their myriad of wonderful Thai home-cooked dishes. A fantastic example of the remaining Thai-style eating in the old quarter of Bangkok.

One note, though, is that this particular dish has been adapted and fancied up in many new and fancy Thai places around town. Some add extra ingredients, such as sliced string beans and so on, into this dish. Debates are ongoing for whether that is correct and appropriate. But for me, I stick to this tried-and-true, honest and unpretentious place that has inherited the arts of Thai cooking from their ancestors and never, given the time that people are hyped about new ideas and considering themselves as ‘smart-as-hell’, thought to distort or outsmart them. Clever! 😀

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