Thai Food

Kanom jeen nam ya

Kanom jeen, or rice noodles, are a kind of Thai spaghetti served with various sauces such as green curry served with fresh veggies. Nam ya is a southern style sauce made from a variety of herbs and spices normally with ground fish to thicken it and give flavour, this veggie version is made with ground oyster mushrooms which give a similar consistency. Note that the krachai (fingerroot) is a key ingredient in this dish. It’s not easy to find veggie version but a friend of mine made one at a party recently and it was really good. This will make about 4 portions, it’s easy to scale up to feed a crowd.

So what do you need?

For the curry paste

  • dried chillies
  • galangal
  • turmeric
  • krachai (fingerroot)
  • shallots
  • garlic
  • lemon grass
  • a little salt

For the sauce

  • oyster mushrooms
  • coconut milk
  • mushroom soy sauce / or regular soy sauce
  • tamarind paste
  • palm sugar

To serve

  • fresh rice noodles (600 – 800g)
  • Thai sweet basil (horapa) / lemon basil (mengrak)
  • veggies such as bean sprouts and green beans
  • pickled mustard greens (optional)

So what do you do?


Start by making your curry paste. I used about 8 – 10 large dried chillies which I cut into pieces and soaked in hot water to soften. Smaller chillies will make a spicier paste but you don’t want the chilli to overpower the other flavours. You can make it either in a blender or a pestle and mortar. If you make it in a pestle and mortar then it’s a good idea to chop / slice everything up quite small to start with as it will make it easier to pound. I put the drained chillies in the mortart and added about 5 discs of glangal, a couple of the bulb (tender) part of lemon grass stalks, a piece of turmeric about the size of a finger, about 5 / 6 krachai ‘fingers’, 4 / 5 shallots and 4 / 5 cloves of garlic. I added a couple of pinches of salt and pounded everything together into a paste, it takes a bit of elbow grease to do this. Any left over curry paste can be kept in the fridge.

I used fresh coconut milk which has a creamy head and a thinner part when it separates. I put about half a cup of the head into a saucepan and added 3 tbsp. of the chilli paste. If you’re worried it might be too spicy then start with 2 tbsp. I heated this through and added the rest of the coconut milk (about a litre in total). If you are using coconut milk from a carton / can which is richer then I would use 500mls and make the rest up with water. I then ground about 200 g of mushrooms in a food processor until they were quite fine, but not a pulp, and added them to the pan along with about 1/2 tbsp. of tamarind paste and 1 tbsp. palm sugar. I then brought the sauce to the boil and cooked for about 10 – 15 minutes, uncovered. It will thicken up. Taste the sauce it will probably need more soy sauce and perhaps more curry paste or sugar, balance the flavours to your taste. If you add more curry paste at this stage cook it through for a couple of minutes.

Serve over the rice noodles and garnish with the veggies, the horapa basil really helps bring out the flavor here so this is essential.

Veggie mains

Spicy mushroom and cashew pasta

This is another vegan pasta dish inspired by a spicy mushroom and cashew nut dish I had recently at an Issan (northeastern Thai) restaurant. It was served with small rice noodles, here I made it with pasta. I think the mushrooms, cashews and garlic make a great combination of flavours and textures here.

mushroom pasta

For two servings I started by putting the pasta water on to boil and then fried a handful of cashew nuts, on a medium heat, in about 4 tbsp. oil (you can use olive oil or any oil you prefer). Once they become golden brown I removed them and the fried about 8 cloves of peeled and softly crushed garlic until they were golden and crispy and I then added put them with the nuts. Then I fried a dried chilli in the pan and put it aside, you can just use chilli flakes if you prefer adding them at the next stage. The amount of chilli you use will depend on your chilies and how spicy you like things. The oil will now be flavoured with the chilli and garlic.

Next put on about 200g of pasta and fried about 300 g sliced mushrooms, I used orinji mushrooms with a pinch of sea salt. When they were almost cooked I crumbled the chilli (remove the seeds if you want to control the spice) and added it into the pan. I drained the pasta reserving some of the water and added about half a cup of the pasta water to the mushrooms and let this reduce a little into a sauce and then added the pasta and stirred so it was covered in the mushroom sauce. I served on a bed of asparagus, and then sprinkled over the cashews and garlic.