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Thai Curry Noodle Kanomjean Namya Recipe

Kanomjean-namya, aka Thai curry noodle. We celebrate the New Year's Eve 2009 in style with this easy to put together healthy yet delicious dish.

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Thai Curry Noodle "Kanomjean Namya" Recipe

What a way to celebrate the last day of the year! And I always thought that this delicious fish curry in coconut - with just the right amount of herbs and spices (that are so good for the stomach with the benefit for the skin)topped off with a variety of vegetables- was as complicated as the way it looked when served on my plate!

If you would like to go straight to my recipe, please do so by clicking here. But you are most welcome to travel with me through my kanomjean namya journey; please continue on.

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To My Mother

My mother always has great instincts when it comes to food. She applies all her senses, especially her commonsense which comes to her naturally without having to "learn." It was a shame that she had real personal and behavorial conflicts with her own maternal grandmother, who, evidently, was famous for her dishes. She was not allowed within the sight of her grandmother but was curious, stubborn, and determined enough just to go against the order and make her presence known by climbing up on a big tree with its branch hanging down toward her grandmother's kitchen window. That was when her instinct kicked in and she entered her "free" learning experience by observing with her eyes, listening with her ears, and using her nose to take in all the aromatic smells - enough to make a good distinction between the different kinds of herbs and spices. Her young mind absorbed all the detailed information. My mother would never admit that she was fortunate to have been her grandmother's LEAST favorite grandchild. Had she been the more favored one, my greatgrandmother would have called her in to stand next to her and give my mother her cooking secrets the boring, humdrum way - by pure memorization. If my mother were there, her instinct would not have put her senses into work and she would have been just another recipe-follower. This great learning experience that was embedded inside of her early on has played a very important role throughout her life. It enabled her to visualize in three-dimensions and not to be afraid to follow her gut. She has had a successful career as one of the very first Thai businesswomen who started her business with two bare hands along with my father when I was a mere baby - without any support from her own family - because she was just simply too innovative for them. I will not say that her journey has been easy, but it was not uneventful. We don't always get along, but that's because both mother and I are so much alike. I am proud to be my mother's daughter and, as painful as we both feel sometimes, I still wouldn't have it any other way!

Although she never complains, I know she wishes that I would listen to her and follow her advice about any important decision that I have made all through my life: Something that I'm sure her parents felt about her as well. But there is one thing that she and I have in common -one which I don't mind listening to her and taking her advice- and that is cooking. I didn't really have to cook for myself (as I'd often say, "fend for myself") and anyone else (my "victims") until I had my own apartment as I was attending graduate school. I didn't go looking for recipe books because I found out early that my brain has refused to understand the concept of following measuring numbers. Truly, it shuts off completely when I see 2 teaspoons of this, 1/2 cup of that with 5 tablespoons of this. The only way for me to understand -when there's no visual aid such as photos involved- is to look for the relationship, or ratio, between one ingredient and another. So, when I see 3 tablespoons of one ingredient and 6 tablespoons of another, my brain says, "I will put in one portion of ingredient A, and twice that amount of ingredient B."

Lately, I have often asked my younger sister to ask my mother for recipes of the dishes that I never tried to make and my sister was to write them down for me. When my parents were still building their business in my childhood years they traveled extensively, and they would take me along as often as they could because they: a) believed that one learns from real life situations, and, b) missed having me around them. My sister and I would be picked up after school and we would join my parents at their office building. We'd often leave the city (Bangkok) in the evening, with a bunch of their district managers in the van with my father behind the wheel. And he would drive all night. During the business' expansion period they would travel to the north, northest, and, south - which happened to be my most favorite part of Thailand - the southern peninsula. My parents would alternate between the Phuket and Songkla routes. When we went down to Phuket in the old days my father would drive through Ranong - Takuapa to Phuket. After a new highway was added he would go through Surat-tanee, Krabi and Pungna to get to Phuket. I don't remember much of the old Songkla days, but there was not a trip that did not involve dangerous driving on narrow, badly-built roads on the shoulders of steep mountains - not to mention guerilla troops (this was back during the fear of communist fundamentalists) robbing cars and buses nightly. Because of my father's strong and steady nerve, his excellent driving skills, and great gut instinct, we made it through every trip safe and sound. We survived mudslides, flooding, getting out of the car in the hopes of diverting a huge, mad, and in heat, water buffalo that was blocking our path, and being gunned down- literally- by night-time highway robbers. Thailand has certainly come a long way since these long-ago days, and my children have been born into a far more luxurious time of beach condos, mountain resorts and five-star hotels wherever we took them! But, at the time, I felt the more dangerous it was, the more beautiful and breathtaking the land. The south of Thailand is so rich and voluptuous and just simply beautiful. No wonder everyone wants to put his hands on it. My mother would pack lunch for all (about 15 people) and we would stop at Krabi - Thanboak koranee, to be exact. The most beautiful waterfall in the middle of the jungle of Krabi, discovered and named by my maternal grandfather when he was stationed as a sheriff, there. My mother was very young and often told me that it was the happiest time in her childhood days. My khunta (grandfather) named the waterfall "Thanboak koranee," because there were seven levels of the fall, and at the bottom where the water gathered it was so deep and serene and surrounded by smooth dark rocks that reflected the color of emeralds. He thought that this resembled heaven from the ancient mythology, so he took the name of the stream running in heaven. My father would drive out of the way to stop at the waterfall so that my mother could reminisce on her happy days. It was only a win-win situation when we also got to enjoy her delicious food that she had prepared for us.

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Everywhere we went, it didn't matter how late we checked in the night before, my mother always made sure we got up at the crack of dawn and went over to the local market where we could have the best local breakfast and my father would have his "real" coffee with condensed milk sitting calmly at the bottom of the thick clear glass, separated from the dark thick and very strong black coffee above it. (My sister and I used to say, "Blacker than dad's skin," since our father's skin color is so dark that it glows.) My father told me once that the way to drink it -that, if you are a real "coffee-throat" (the term we used for coffee drinkers)- is never to mix the condensed milk, for its purpose - according to my father- is for its aroma (jasmine tinted) and its faint flavor only.

While father was content with his coffee and a glass of jasmine leaf tea at its side, my mother would be busy hopping from vendor to vendor and pointing out the breakfast food she wanted. It was not omelette or eggs sunny side up, not even boiled rice, not in this case. But it was the marvellous "kanomjean namya". There are so many different namya that one can have with kanomjean; some spicy, some very spicy, and some super-extremely-incredibly-atomic bomb(ly) spicy. Yet everyday there are at least a hundred people sitting at the tables in the middle of the market having kanomjean before eight o'clock. The only salvation from having your mouth catching on fire is the various kinds of condiments offered free of charge, right at your table. Such condiments include: fresh and cool young cucumbers, small white eggplants, "sataw" and other strange and smelly kinds of nuts grown only in the south, from which I often stay away, and leaves: lots of leaves from luscious trees, also grown in the south. Then, there were steamed vegetables, bean sprouts, sweet green beans, and more of the strange and smelly nuts. My most favorite would be "all I can eat" perfectly soft-boiled eggs that did take away the heat from the spices. Even my father, who grew up on the edge of the northern part of Thailand, fell for the kanomjean namya. We would eat-eat-eat, then my father would run- run-run to get the car which we all rushed into to get back to use the (comfort of) the hotel's bathrooms. Thanks to all the goodness of the herbs, spices and smelly leaves and nuts, no wonder there is almost no obesity among the southerners.

I have a letter size piece of paper with my sister's chicken scratch writing of her "short-hand" version of mother's kanomjean namya recipe. I studied it, and finally was able to read it. (Although she has her Master's degree from abroad, the portion of my sister's schooling in Thailand ended at the fourth grade, which obviously wasn't long enough for those great teachers to elevate her to the level of "more refined" Thai writing, and, spelling - OY!) I thought that "kanomjean" is the most appropriate kind of food to serve while we kiss year 2009 goodbye and welcome the New Year of 2010. Why? Because kanomjean is noodle, and noodle = endlessly long = excellent blessings to all for prosperity, health, and happiness.

(*--Did you all fall for that? I have no idea why kanomjean is good for the occasion, besides the fact that I have such a craving for it and want to try out mother's namya recipe. But if it sounds good to you, then keep it. Every now and then it's good to bless ourselves with our own blessings!--*)



Kanom is snack, or dessert of any kind, and jean means Chinese. This is a small white noodle made from fermented rice flour, or "fresh" flour. But it clearly is a major food item, and not some quick snack or an after meal dessert. I noticed that we Thais call many food items "kanom". We have "kanomjeeb" - Chinese dimsum, "kanom paakkadd" - similar to our famous paddsee-ew, but with turnip paste instead of white flat noodle, "kanom pung" - sandwich bread, and more that I can't recall off my head right now, but I can assure you that they are not desserts. Maybe the Thais are notorious for their love of eating and we just eat all the time. If you know Thai people, especially those of us in Thailand, you'd quickly come to realize that we schedule our important meetings and activities around food. Maybe we eat all the time to try to fool our bodies into believing that we only eat "kanom" snack, or a dessert, but not really food? Strangely but truly, people in my country are small in size and medium in height! I grew up in the United States, and that's probably why I didn't adopt the "Thai size"!!

A clip of Tosca for your listening pleasure!

As far as the "jean" part in the "kanomjean," I don't think that this particular kind of noodle originated in China; but is, rather, a Thai's own creation. It is "jean" because it is a type of noodle - fermented rice flour, thin and round, and a lot softer than Italian spaghetti. Someone could have forgotten and left the already kneaded rice flour out overnight, perhaps? And, when the morning came, after she uttered an operatic cry in agony she tasted the flour to see if it had gone bad? The result was history and -perhaps- that was how kanomjean was discovered. Ok, fine, you don't have to like this version! In the US we can find the dry version of kanomjean in every Asian grocery. It can be easily cooked the same way we cook our pasta, and it takes only a few minutes.

Now that we got kanomjean out of the way, let's talk "namya". We call just about anything that comes in liquid form "water" - nam - which, in this case, is the sauce. "Ya" literally means medicine which, in this case, refers to spices. As I mentioned before (or didn't I?), there are quite a few kinds of namya, and each region has its own trademark. The namya that I make on New Year's Eve is Bangkokians' namya, or that from the region of central Thailand. To my dismay, my local Vietnamese store is closed for the holidays, therefore please note that I do not have all the ingredients and had to "force" myself to shop for my Thai ingredients in the "farang" grocery, with the full knowledge that the more exotic the name of the ingredient the higher the price.

As Tosca would say (sing), "Perche, perche Signor," her last note being a dramatic Bb, I sighed as I paid for coconut milk and such.

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Thai Noodle "Namya" Curry -Kanomjean- Recipe

So, I am ready to celebrate the last day of the year! And to fancy myself making this delicious fish curry in coconut and herbs and spices, not to mention the time it will take to get the side vegetables and kanomjean noodle ready. Oh, such complication! But, I am determined that today is the day. All my children are at home and I would like to make a dish that reminds them of our good times while living in Bangkok. Yes, you guess correctly, I fiercely miss home and my parents and my sister! Holidays are hard for a cross-cultured married person like me.

This recipe serves 8-10

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My Ingredients

2 packs of kanomjean noodles (from most Oriental grocery stores)

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Namya part 1

6 pieces of thinly-sliced Tilapia or other lean fish (no fat)

3 cans of coconut milk

3 tablespoons of julienned fresh lemon grass (about two stalks after cutting off roots and 2-3 inches off very top)

6 tablespoons of rizhomes - or, if desperate like me, you can substitute fresh rizhomes with powder - Its function is to get rid of the fishy smell. Please be sure you have this ingredient!

12-14 small red (pearl) onions, peeled

9 small cloves, or 4-5 larger cloves of garlic, peeled

1 small containter of anchovies in oil (no capers, just oil), but we will use only the anchovies - without the oil that comes with them in a container.

3 spatula fulls of nampla

15 dried red chili peppers, each split open with the seeds shaken out, then soaked in water at least twice. - This portion will be cooked with other ingredients

Namya part 2

7-9 dried red chili peppers, treat them the same as above. This portion will be fried in oil for use at the end of the cooking.

Or, use ready-to-use ground chili pepper of any amount that pleases you.

1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil

Fresh vegetables suggestion

Small cucumbers, peel and cut in quarters length-wise.

Bean sprouts

Basil, Thai basil is best, but Italian and others from local markets are fine, also.

Cole slaw style cut cabbages

Steamed vegetables suggestion

Bean sprouts

Asparagus - cut thinly across so you get tiny pieces.

Green beans, Sting beans - cut in the same manner as asparagus

Chinese water cress - if you can find it in an Asian grocery, then you don't have to use asparagus. Cut in tiny pieces.


Soft boiled eggs cut in halves - as many as you'd like!

The only thing in this dish that is served hot is the namya itself. You can prepare steamed veggies ahead of time and put them in the fridge. The kanomjean is served at room temperature. To cook kanomjean, do as you do with cooking pasta, but do not add salt and/or oil. When the water comes to a boil, add kanomjean and stir so the noodle will not stick together. Please keep an eye on it, because it takes only a few minutes. Try not to overcook or it will get mushy, and then it will not form nice "chunk" (will explain). Once cooked, pour out the water and run cold tap water on the kanomjean noodle, and let it sit for a minute or until it cools down enough for you to touch without getting burned.

Grab a bunch of cool noodle with your thumb and middle finger, Twirl the noodle with your other hand to form a spiral. Place each chunk on a plate or platter. This section took me about five minutes but I'm used to doing it. -It may or may not take you a little longer. Thais like neatness and will do what we can. In this case, some people believe that when you twirl it this way, the flavor of namya will be just right. I don't know if that's true but I've always done it this way because it looks nice. You can choose to leave kanomjean in a pile like spaghetti, and that is alright.


Preparing Namya

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1. Put all ingredients in Namya part 1 in a large pot, stir and bring to boil. Please be careful that you do not let it boil too long or the coconut will release its oil. - No, we do not want that.

2. While waiting for the sauce to boil, please turn your attention to your Namya part 2 ingredients. Pat dry your red chili peppers and grind them, either in a chopper or in a mortar and pestle. Or, if you decided to use the ready-to- use ground chili pepper, skip this step.

3. Taste your Namya part 1 that's boiling in the pot. - Please keep in mind that if this tastes "perfect" for your liking it will be too weak when served over kanomjean and your veggies. Make sure that the flavor has that extra "umph" so that it will be just right served.

4. Once the fish is cooked, turn off the heat and leave for several minutes for the whole thing to cool down; For your next step will be blending it, and you will have to make sure that the temp will not be too hot for your blender or it will stop working for you.

5. Once it's cooled down -really cooled down- pour the contents from the pot to the blender and blend well.

6. You will get fluffy looking sauce. Pour it into a serving bowl.

7. Heat up a skillet and pour in 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil. This is part of your Namya part 2, the finale. When the oil is heated, pour in your ground red chili peppers. Cook until the oil turns red.

8. Turn off the heat, and carefully spoon the chili-oil and pour it on top of your namya contents which you previously put in the serving bowl.

9. To serve, put two or three chunks of kanomjean that you twirled on a plate and surround that with all your condiments. Pour a few spatula fulls of namya on top. It has to be soaked and covered with namya - the more the merrier.

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Happy New Year, everyone. My best wishes for endless prosperity, health and happiness - just like the long kanomjean noodles!!!

Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit Pradichaya Gafaae Poonyarit

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