Friday, March 25, 2011

Grandma's Famous Khao Jam

One great thing about coming from a "rojak" (mixed) family background is that there are so many kinds of different customs, culture, and food you can find. One of them is food; you get to eat a wide varieties (although sometimes they can taste kinda weird haha!) of food, if the elderlies are willing to share the recipe with you and perhaps even better, cook it for you.

Technically speaking, I have Chinese, Sinhalese, and Siamese blood. Therefore, that should explain my physical features, in which I don't think I look like a typical Cina guy at all. However, I always believe that I look like Wang Lee Hom haha!

Alright, I shall return to the main topic. One of my favourite dish by grandma is "khao jam".


The ingredients used in preparing khao jam.

What is khao jam?

Khao jam is Thai, which comes from two words, "khao"(rice) and "jam" (mixed together). Hence, khao jam would mean a rice dish that has all the ingredients mixed together and eaten raw. In Malay, this dish is more commonly known as nasi kerabu or "vegetable rice" and is a very popular dish in the East Coast, especially Kelantan.


My grandma knew I would be taking photos of the food, so she prepared this for me. Isn't she so sweet? *hehe* : )


The various kinds of wild herbs to be added into the rice, which includes turmeric, kaffir lime leaves, bunga kantan (ginger flower), jambu air (water apple), shallots, lemon grass, turmeric leaves, etc.


Kerisik (grated, toasted, ground coconut paste), fried dried prawns and sliced half-ripe mango are also among the ingredients used.


Not forgetting, the home-made sambal belacan to give the khao jam that extra umpphh!

For anyone who has not heard or seen this rice dish before, khao jam looks like a colourful dish, mixed with rice. The most tedious and time-consuming part in the process of preparing the dish is the collection process of the many kinds of herbs. It is either you buy them from the market, or get them from the backyard garden. There are times where some of the herbs can only be found in the wild, and they are not sold even in the market.

There is no certain rule or a tied recipe that state what herbs must be used in the dish. Most of the time, it is entirely up to the individual to include anything available. Of course, some people may have their own preferences of a certain kind of herbs to add into the khao jam, and the ingredients also slightly differ from one region to another.


Here comes the chef doing a demonstration on the preparation of khao jam.


You need a happy chef to get a delicious dish haha!


All the ingredients were added and now all that's left is to mix everything!


After all the kerabu is added into the tray, it is time to mix everything with the rice together.


This is the final result, ready to be eaten. The effort and dedication that goes into cooking this dish is truly impressive.

Some people might not be aware that making khao jam would require the leaves of so many different herbs. The actual recipe requires over 100 kinds of herbs but it is just not possible for us to get them at one time. It will certainly make the khao jam tastes so much better if more herbs are used but usually, we just use whatever herbs we can find.

Among the herbs commonly used are basil leaves, lime leaves, kaffir lime leaves, ginger leaves and pandan leaves. Other ingredients include lemon grass bulbs, long beans, bird's eye chillies, lime, bean sprouts, cucumber, onion, ginger lily, grated coconut, dried prawns, half-ripe mango, and a pinch of salt and sugar.

The reason why they need so many kinds of herbs is because people in the olden days used to live in areas that were prone to floods. The weather was cold, so they would eat this rice to ward off the chills. This dish also helps to prevent rheumatism, a medical problems affecting the joints and connective tissues.


No cooking is required for preparing this meal but trust me, I am very sure anybody who tried this will want to have a second helping.
As for the rice, my grandma only use normal white rice. However, there are other methods to prepare the rice, such as cooking it using juice extracted from dozens of different leaves, which will give the green-colour rice a refreshing fragrance of the leaves used. Another method of cooking the rice is by cooking the rice in the blue extract of a kind of blue flower called bunga telang in Malay. This produces the classic blue rice of nasi kerabu, which is commonly seen in Kelantan.

One difference between khao jam and nasi kerabu is found on the rice. Khao jam is cooked using the juice extracted from herbs, whereas nasi kerabu is rice mixed with finely chopped leaves. Hence, it makes khao jam more fragrant. Even though only white rice was used by my grandma this time, the finely sliced herbs are enough to give every bite suffused with a tantalising herbal fragrance. It is certainly a healthy and hearty meal, especially for people who are on diet.


Grandma almost got choked while eating, and she said one old petua is to turn the plate around several times haha! I am not sure how effective it is,
but has anyone heard of this method before?

According to this source on how khao jam came about, I found out that in the past, most Thais worked in the fields for a living, they were farmers, they farmed chilies, working from dawn till dusk, so they spent all their time in the fields, which were wet. Thus eating this would help to ward off chills. Khao Jam first gained its widespread popularity in Kelantan; and this dish is actually less common in Thailand.

For desert, she prepared another kind of dish - tok (pronounced "talk"). The dish is a combination of krayasaat, Thai traditional popped rice and gravy made of durian flesh and coconut milk like what I had last time. This time however, she prepared a different version of tok.


 Grandma grates the coconut herself using these traditional grater. The one in front was hand-made by my late grandpa.

Instead of combining the popped rice with durian gravy, she used freshly grated coconut and mixed it with the popped rice. To give the desert that extra flavour, she added a pinch of sugar and salt. The result is a wonderful desert that not only smells good, but tastes really great!

Having a bowl of tok will never be enough. I think I had at least two to three bowls of it that evening haha!


Preparing tok is as simple as ABC. Just pour all the ingredients into a tray, mix them well and it is ready to be eaten.


Before mixing the popped rice and grated coconut.


In less than five minutes, the dish is ready to be served.

So, is there anyone interested to have a homestay at my grandma's place next time?


Kae Vin said...

looks spicy!

and nowadays people photo got watermark liao XD

Christopher C said...

drool~ makes me hungry

DT said...

hahaha... can i enrol... for homestay.. :)

calvin said...

@ kae vin:
it is not spicy at all! unless you wanna add some extra cili padi into the rice. and this statement came from someone who cannot really take spicy food xD

i have been putting watermark on my photos all this while ler :P

calvin said...

@ christopher c:
nemo, i really think that this dish suits you well, since you are always on diet :P

calvin said...

@ dt:
you gotta give my grandma a call on her mobile phone and ask her about that *hehe* =P

TZ said...

I never hear about this... How it taste like? Looks yummy~

calvin said...

@ tz:
like i had said, it tastes great! i am quite sure anybody will love this dish a lot! : )

sakura said...

it's eaten raw with all the herbs? really?.. hm, wonder how it tastes like.. i love to hunt for new yummy foods :p

calvin said...

@ sakura:
yup! except for the kerisik and dried prawns, other ingredients were eaten raw. i don't know how to explain the taste exactly, but it smells really nice! do give it a try if you happen to see this dish : )

DT said...

need to call ur grandma ar? i tot she might see this comment here while surfing here.... and offer us homestay... hahahah!!! ;)
@Calvin's ah Ma: can homestay boe? :P

calvin said...

@ dt:
haha! she is not that high-tech, although she owns a mobile phone. or maybe i should create a facebook account for her lol! :P

i am sure she would be more than happy to have you at her place : )

DT said...

hahaha.. good idea.. perhap u can teach blogging and share her secret recipes... :)

calvin said...

@ dt:
my grandma is always so busy with her gardening everyday, that i doubt she will have the time to blog. maybe she will only update her blog once a month lol!