Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thai Tapioca Dumpling Filled with Pork (Sawku Sai Muu)

We've made it home safe and sound! And our roof is still intact! Yay! It started leaking, dripping water into our dining room a couple of days before our trip so we didn't know what to expect when we got back.

Before the trip, mom asked if there was anything special I wanted to eat. I told her I wanted to find a particular snack we used to get at a small Thai grocer. It’s a tapioca ball stuffed with a sweet-savory filling of pork, pickled radish, palm sugar and chopped peanut. It’s been at least 15 years since I last had it. Mom did better than find it, she called in her friend who used to make and sell them to various grocers to demonstrate how to make them!

Here's the quick version:

Start with rehydrated tapioca balls. I didn't get to see the tapioca being prepared, but it sounded very involved. I wrote it all down, but I have a feeling it's going to take a few tries to get the right texture, which is very pliable and soft. It looks crumbly, but it's not at all.

I could never cut it as a photojournalist. With all the talking and photographing and notetaking, this turned out to be the shameful picture I got of the filling! The filling is brown in part from the caramelization of the palm sugar. Those light flecks are chopped peanuts. There's also pickled radish and fried ground pork. The filling is so uniform, that the only recognizable texture of the filling are the peanuts. If you overcook the filling it will be hard and dry. If it's undercooked it's going to be too wet. I have a feeling it's going to take a few tries with this too.

The filling is enclosed in the tapioca. Make sure none of the filling is showing. It needs to be completely covered, otherwise it will come out. Also, the tapioca cannot be too thick or else you'll just get a chewy, messy mass in your mouth.

Drop the balls into boiling water. They will rise to the top when they are done.

Once the balls are done, toss them with garlic oil and bits of fried garlic.

Chopped garlic is fried in plenty of oil, then drained, reserving the oil. The oil is used to keep the balls from sticking and the fried garlic is sprinkled liberally on top. Don't try to cut corners and use the store-bought fried garlic. This needs to be made fresh every batch.

Ta-da! Tell me that doesn't look tempting. I won't mention how many of these bad boys I ate. Suffice it to say, it was a lot!

Sweet, savory, salty, fresh and spicy in one bite!

Easy, right? Let's see how long it's going to take me to get it right.


Wandering Chopsticks said...

These look fabulous. I tried making a VNese version with just shrimp filling. My mom also used to make another dumpling with pork, tree fungus, and dried bamboo. When I mentioned to her recently that I had tried to make them, she told me she used a packaged mix since she didn't know how to get the right texture otherwise. So, if you go to Fubonn, look for a package of flour for "banh bot loc" and it might work for you.

Dee said...

WC, I was so excited to see how they were made. I'll have to see if I can find that packaged mix because her explanation with the tapioca was a little complicated.

I was planning on a trip to Fubonn today or tomorrow to restock my pantry.

gaga said...

Yum, those look great. I also like to pan fry them like potstickers to get some crispiness too.

Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

I've had these before but never new the Thai name for them. I can eat a dozen of them...for breakfast.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I don't think I've ever seen/had anything like this, but I am intrigued--it sounds amazing! Also, happy new year!

Dee said...

James, me too! There's not set rule about what can be eaten when. That's why I love Thai food. Great excuse to eat green curry in the morning.

Mike, it's definitely not something you'd see everywhere, especially because it's quite involved. I have a feeling this is going to take a few tries for me to get right!

claudia said...

Those look delicious! I wonder if I could make a vegetarian version? Perhaps seitan for filling? Any ideas? :)

Dee said...

Claudia, I've only ever had it with pork, but let me ask mom about it and get back to you.

dp said...

claudia, I asked my mom about how to make it vegetarian. She said you could just omit the pork but doesn't see why the seitan wouldn't work.

Unknown said...

I've tried making these once before from another recipe, it didn't turn out so well. Hopefully I'll have better luck with this one. I love your blog! I like the fact that you have other international recipes besides Asian dishes.

Dee said...

Pok, these are not easy to make but there isn't any alternative since they are impossible to find. I've yet to attempt it again, and it's been so long since the last time I'm it's going to take a lot of trial and error. Good luck!