When I taught in Bangkok, I would spend the hours before my lunch break sort of lesson planning, but mainly dreaming about what fresh, cheap Thai food I was going to eat for lunch.
Sometimes instead of going to the busy market to buy food, my co-workers and I would walk in the opposite direction to a nam tok street vendor. The smells of roasted rice powder and lime freshened up the polluted air around us as we stood and waited for our nam tok, which means waterfall in Thai.
The nam tok vendor would scoop the grilled beef, green onion and cilantro mixture out of a silver pot, and slide it into a clear, plastic bag and twist a rubber band around it so it puffed out like a balloon. Then she would put the pure white sticky rice in a smaller clear plastic bag and fold the top over. All of it went into a white grocery bag, and she would gingerly place cabbage and mint on top.
After picking up a creamy chayen, Thai iced milk tea, at the next vendor up, we would head back to school to eat before our next classes started. After getting white plastic bowls, forks and spoons from the kitchen area, we would dump our beautiful lunch into the bowls, sit down at small desks, and dig in.
I loved grabbing the sticky rice with my fingers and feeling it adhere to them like Elmer’s glue. Then I would swirl the sticky rice ball in the nam tok juice, create a perfect bite of beef, cilantro stems and green onion, pop it in and savor.
My mouth starts to tingle and long for my favorite nam tok street vendor to pop up in my kitchen right now, but Dom said he likes my nam tok recipe better than Thailand’s street vendors’ because we use skirt steak, and not fatty pork or beef like many street vendors use.
The best part of nam tok is how the sticky rice complements the dish so well by soaking up the mouthwatering juice. If you don’t know how to make sticky rice, one method is to use splatter guards to make it, which you can learn all about here. I tried doing it this way, but my little boy got hold of my splatter guards and loved pressing his face against them, making me laugh and eventually busted the screens. I just bought some more today and will hide them in a secret spot.
Another method I’ve tried is putting the Thai sweet rice in a large glass bowl in a pot of boiling water, covering it, and steaming it that way for about 20 minutes or so. You can of course can also buy a sticky rice maker at the Asian store or on Amazon, but we don’t have room for that, so I make do with what I got.
Give this nam tok recipe a try, and let me know your thoughts! I’m here to help!