Yum Tawai was one of the most popular meatless dishes at my boarding school. Outside of school, people make Yum Tawai with ground fish and boiled chicken. At school, we used to joke about the school trying to save money and that, even though it didn't have chicken, it had a chicken's soul. I love this dish without fish or chicken.
Tropical Yum Recipe
I usually grill my banana flower whole in an oven for a couple of hours and use half of it. Then peel off the black part on the outside until you only have the grayish cooked banana flower. But if you want to save time, you can also cut the uncooked banana flower in half, lengthwise, and boil for 5 minutes or until soft. Again, peel the reddish peel outside until you have the off-white banana flower. You might end up with a substantially smaller banana flower, but you'll find that it will be more than enough for the meal.
After cutting the banana flower in half, rub the opening with lime juice to keep it from turning black which looks unappetizing. Rub the lime juice on the opening even if you want to boil it. I didn't listen to my mother the first time I boiled a cut banana flower and it turned black and icky.
Cut green beans, eggplant, bamboo shoot, bell pepper and Chinese water spinach into inch long pieces. Boil eggplant, drain and set it on a serving plate. Blanch green beans, bell pepper, Chinese water spinach and bean sprouts in sequence, drain and set them on the plate. Cut the banana flower into inch long pieces and set them on the plate.
In Thailand the type of pepper that is used is Prig Chee Fah, a big, light green pepper that is not hot. But I can't find that type of pepper here. So I substitute green bell pepper. You can use the red bell pepper, too, for the color. The flavors stay true to the spirit of the original recipe.
Tropical Yum Sauce
In a pan or wok at low to medium low heat, add the coconut milk and red curry paste. Stir to mix the curry paste with coconut milk to prevent the bottom from sticking. Bring it to a simmer. Add palm sugar, tamarind, fish sauce, crushed sesame seeds and fried shallot. Stir until all ingredients are well mixed and turn off the heat. The mixture should taste strong in all flavors with a nutty flavor and aroma from the sesame seeds. The strong taste will offset the bland vegetables.
Serve with rice.