My glorious and superlative Citizens of TFD Nation! I – the Supremacy that ALONE is TFD! – am proud to today end our 7 recipe trip around the world covering rare Asian dumpling recipes! We finish on a truly apropos royal note, as I share the unusually vibrant cerulean treasures from Thailand that are chor muang!
Chor muang or cho muang (Thai: ช่อม่วง), sometimes referred to as “Thai flower dumplings”, are a traditional Thai savory snack. Its existence has been documented since the reign of King Rama II more than 200 years ago, where it was mentioned in the Kap He Chom Khrueang Khao Wan poem.
Chor muang is regarded as an ancient royal dish and is often recognized by its seemingly carved flower-shaped appearance and indigo coloring from the anchan (butterfly pea) flower. The steamed dumpling is formed into a flower-shape and contains either a salty or sweet filling. It is then served with lettuce, coriander and chili.
As noted in this excellent (excerpted article) from expique.com:
Royal Thai Food or Chao-Wang food has been around since the Ayutthaya Era, which began in 1351 and ended in 1767. While the royal family of the previous eras had their own cuisine, the traditional style originated during this time.
In Thai, “Chao” means “the people of” or “the citizens of” and “Wang” means “palace.” Therefore, Ahan Chao-Wang means the “food of the people in the palace.”
During the Ayutthaya period due to close alliances with the Portuguese several sweet and beautifully presented desserts were introduced such as sangkaya (coconut custard), look chup (Thai marzipan) and tong yip, foy tong and tong yod (egg yolk-based sweets).
The process of preparing these dishes was kept a secret from the general public during those times, which is partly why so much of it was lost when Ayutthaya was sacked.
The royal temples, libraries, and archive rooms were burned down by Burmese soldiers in 1767 when they attacked the city after a decade-long conflict between the two kingdoms.
It’s not clear how much of recorded history was lost, as the damage to the city was so severe that it led to the fall of an entire kingdom until the new dynasty was established.
Fortunately, some parts of the process survived that attack, and it became Royal Thai Cuisine as we know it today. Royal Thai Cuisine is known for its mild taste, lavish presentation, and a combination of different rare and expensive ingredients.
Only the best and freshest ingredients will do. While some of them may be normal by today’s standards, you have to remember that back in the day, those things were so rare that only the wealthy were able to afford them. For example, khao chae or cold rice is something you would never find ordinary people eating a few hundred years ago.
This is because the rice must be soaked in cold, floral (jasmine) water. Back then, to make cold water you need to take a jar of water infused with the essence of fragrant flowers and place it in an underground stream to keep it cool.
Afterwards, it will be poured on cooked white rice, which will be served with sweetened fried beef, stuffed bell peppers, pulled pork, and other condiments. No peasant would have the money or time to do all that, which is the reason why it was reserved for the rich.
Thai Royal Cuisine is typically served on a small table and people would have to sit on the floor to eat it. Like European meals, the food is served in courses and it’s speculated that this is because of the Western influence in the region during the 1600s and 1700s.
Impeccable presentation is essential. The fruits and vegetables that are presented on the plate would be carved with intricate designs, which adds to the extravagance and complexity of the cuisine. Dishes may also incorporate edible flowers and leaves which add both flavor and color. A classic example of this would be the use of pink lotus leaves.
The colors also play a significant role in how the dishes are arranged, as there needs to be a balanced combination between red, yellow, white, green, black, and brown. It was believed that these colors corresponded to specific organs and some elements of health and wellbeing.
For example, red was associated with the heart, yellow with the bladder, white with bile, etc. There were also some off-season fruits and vegetables, as those are extremely rare compared to what they are today.
Some fruits such as jackfruit (kanoon), lychee (ngoh), mangosteen (mung kood) and, of course, durian were extremely expensive and they would be served at the end of a royal meal.
The original recipe of chor muang contained a sweet filling and was later developed with the savory filling. The name chor muang means ‘violet bouquet’ in the Thai language. The name comes from the appearance of several flowers in a traditional plate arrangement.
The exterior batter is made from rice flour, arrowroot flour and tapioca flour stirred together in a brass pan. The violet color of the exterior batter comes from a butterfly pea color mixed with a few drops of lime juice. A seasoned meat filling, such as shrimp, fish, pork, or chicken, is fried with coriander root, garlic, and pepper until dry.
The filling is then coated with batter and molded into the shape of a flower using tweezers to create the petal shapes of a flower before being steamed. After the steaming process, the dumplings are sometimed sprayed with fresh coconut milk to honor their original creation as a sweet snack.
As the delicate process of creating the intricate flower shape requires time-consuming craftsmanship, and due to the limited amount of time it can remain moist, chor muang has become rare to find in a typical Thailand market. Chor muang is now only often found in special dessert houses.
Chor muang was first documented during King Rama II’s rule. Its unique appearance represents a rose, which is a very common recognized identity of chor muang. The middle of this snack usually contains seasonings such as garlic, pepper, and coriander roots.
The poetry of Jinwell II has content from a Thai poem called Kap He Chom Khrueang Kho Wan. This snack was created by the Thai Royal Kitchen which is also known as Chao Wang’s kitchen. The poems (which was the first mention of this snack) explained information about both Thai dessert and Thai food.
The meaning of one of the verses is that the chor muang has the sweet smell and taste of a flower. The color of the chor muang is purple like the color of the Poudean flower. The chor muang is likened unto a gorgeous woman with her head wrapped in a purple shawl.
Today, chor muang is a rare Thai snack – it is expensive as it requires a great deal of skill and effort to make. Chor muang is commonly shaped like a rose, but can be found in many different shapes. The hue is similar to a purple rose, and comes from a mixture of blue pea and lemon juice, which oxidizes the liquid blue.
To make chor muang, you need to be aware that it is a fussy recipe to make properly, and in fact this recipe requires a special tool to make the petals. These brass tweezers come in 2 styles: the squared and the leaf shape. You can use either one, but the squared one is the most common – you can buy a pair here.
The technique to make the petals is not overly difficult, especially once you have watched chor muang being properly made – the video below demonstrates the proper technique!
There are many unusual ingredients in this recipe, at least by standard Western kitchen standards (TFD – of course! – has all of them in His pantry at a moments notice!). As such, I have conveniently made life easy – as always! – for the proud Citizens of TFD Nation by finding all the needed sources for you!
The best white peppercorns are a necessity here – I use Kampot peppercorns from Cambodia which are universally acknowledged as the most flavorful and finest on the planet! This is My preferred source. Palm sugar, the finest fish sauce Thai oyster sauce and Thai soy sauce may be purchased from their respective links.
Adding lime (or lemon juice) to the pea flower infusion turns them a truly stunning shade of blue/purple! Unusually, this dumpling uses ground chicken – not overly surprising once you realize the wild chicken in fact originated in the jungles of Laos, right next door to Thailand!
All of these items may be purchased from their links – you will also want to use the freshest U.S.-grown garlic you can, preferably heirloom. U.S. garlic has the roots intact, Chinese garlic has a smooth bottom. U.S. heirloom garlic is ALWAYS the best to use in this recipe, as it is far more pungent than the Chinese product.
My Citizens – this is the final recipe in the series and by far the most complex! Do not be dissuaded, gird your culinary loins and make what was for many years enjoyed ONLY by the Thai Royal family – and you are all indeed walking with Me on the Royal road of gustatory excellence and gastronomic fervor! 😀
Battle on – the GeneralissimoPrint
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