You look at all these things and think you could never put them in your mouth, raw, just like that. And then you wrap up bits of tangy lime, crunchy coconut, dried shrimps, shallots, chilli and roasted peanuts in a fresh leaf and take a big bite and it all magically melds into one fantastic, power-packed sensation in the true Thai manner. You can find glossy, green pointed betel leaves (Thai: bai cha plu) at Asian greengrocers, or use spinach or lettuce leaves instead.
Bring sugar and water to the boil and stir until sugar has melted. Heat a dry frypan and toast the grated coconut until lightly golden. Remove the coconut and dry-fry the shrimp paste until fragrant.
Pound together or blend shrimp paste, one tablespoon of the coconut, shallots, peanuts, shrimps and galangal or ginger until mushy. Combine the paste with sugar syrup, and simmer, stirring, for 15 minutes or so until it thickens. Cool to room temperature.
Arrange remaining toasted coconut and remaining ingredients - shallots, lime, ginger, dried shrimps, roasted peanuts and chilli - in small piles or small bowls on a serving platter or tray. Add a small bowl of the sauce, and a stack of the leaves.
Take a leaf, put a few assorted tastes on it, top with a spoonful of sauce, wrap and eat.
© 1998 All rights reserved. Published by Murdoch Books.