We love to get notes from people returning from a Thailand vacation; they often ask us about dishes you never find in US restaurants. Having discovered such a gastronomic Alice in Wonderland, many people want to recreate the dishes at home, but don’t know where to start. Lohn Pboo Kem is a dish that you will find in fancy Thai restaurants in Bangkok, in people’s homes and at street food stalls. The small bowl of creamy, salty, sweet and sour sauce is served with a large platter full of fresh local vegetables.
Lohn is a class of cooking which combines coconut milk, shallots, preserved meat, fish or seafood, balanced with sweet and sour flavors. The main ingredients, such as coconut milk, shallots and salted crabs, are readily available in Thai kitchens and blend well together. The sour flavor can come from tamarind or other native sour fruits. A hint of sweet can come from the palm sugar or a combination of sweet and sour can come from fermented sticky rice.
The popular group of dishes goes back a long time, perhaps before the introduction of the chili peppers by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The chili peppers in this dish is almost like an afterthought. If you are apathetic about spicy food, Lohn lets you dig deep into Thai food history. To taste Lohn is to experience Thai cuisine and culture before the modern imports invaded it.
The way you eat Lohn is quite elaborate. In order to taste all the flavors; each bite consists of a spoon of rice with a piece of vegetable on top and a little sauce on the vegetable. Once in a while you’ll hit the crab, chew on the it to access this super salty juice inside. The swift contrast of sweet and sour and the ultra salty crab makes a perfect bite. Each bite changes with your choice of vegetable.
If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, this is the dish I would recommend you try. And when you come home, now you can recreate it to remind you of the fun time you had.