Kao Yam

Kao Yam

So what does one do with budu?

One makes kao yam, of course. That’s one sensible, dependable option, anyway. “It’s the most nutritious dish,” Khun Wilaiwan says, “because there’s nothing fattening in it.” Veggies, herbs, budu, fish powder, coconut, a little chili, maybe a few noodles, all mixed together with blue rice. Blue rice? Ya, you betcha! Pretty baby-blue rice dyed with the blue pea flower. This is the same plant frequently used in shampoo around here.

Kao yam is standard street fare in the deep south, and it’s some of the cheapest food available anywhere on earth. These days in Pattani town, one helping goes for 5-7 baht (about 14-19 cents), and in the countryside, you just might get your kao yam for the low, low price of 3 baht (8 cents) because farmers grow the rice right there.

Once again, Khun Wilaiwan was kind enough to translate a recipe. But she was quick to stress: there’s really no going wrong with kao yam, as it depends on the local and seasonal ingredients available. The singular kao yam goal: “get as many vegetables as possible because the more vegetables, the more delicious.” And nutritious.

Here’s what you need:

1 cup of cooked rice
A variety of shredded vegetables (cabbage, carrot, cucumber, long beans, bean sprouts, aromatic leaves, etc.)
Delicately fried grated coconut meat
Fried fish powder or dried shrimps
Budu sauce
A little pepper powder
A little dried chili powder or a few fresh Thai dragon chilies
Chinese vermicelli (optional; sometimes added to make the dish more delicious and colorful)

Place a cup of cooked rice in a dish. Set all shredded vegetables, fried coconut and fried fish powder to the side, or on top of the rice; then add budu sauce (as much as you like). Top the dish with pepper powder and dried chili powder or a few fresh Thai dragon chilies (as you favor). Mix all ingredients together before eating.

Thank you again, Khun Wilaiwan!

4 thoughts on “Kao Yam

  1. Hmm – at first I thought this was a Thai version of Malay nasi ulam (veggie + rice salad), but now I’m thinking it’s a Thai version of the Kelantanese nasi kerabu (the blue rice is a dead giveaway). The pepper powder and dried chile pepper/dragon chilies are definately a Thai touch. Kelantanese get their heat from budu doctored with chopped fresh chilies, and would have a piece of fried chicken or a dab of curry on the side.

  2. Budu is so Kelantanese! This blue rice or ‘nasi kerabu hitam’ as it is known in Kelantan (strange though because people don’t refer to the rice as blue but black instead), is a well known dish from Kelantan. Since Kelantan (a state on the north east coast of Malaysia) is so close to the Thai border, we get a lot of influence from Thailand. Budu is a dipping sauce that is served with chopped small bird chillies and lime juice mixed into it. Budu is salty (made of fish) and has a bit of fishy smell. Budu is normally eaten with fresh vegetables such as sliced cucumber, four angle beans, ‘daun kesum’ or Vietnamese mint/laksa leaves and a fish dish – preferably grilled. You should dip a bite size piece of fish into the budu, place that onto your rice, together with one small piece of vegetable and eat! Mmmm, yummy!

    Budu is also used in some Kelantanese cooking.

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