ไข่เจียวชะอม Khai Jeow Cha Om – Thai Acacia Omelette
I was at Golden Mile Complex along Beach Road last week and believe it or not, it was my first trip to this place. Often dubbed as “LittleThailand”, it is the place to go for Thai groceries and produce. 10-15 years back when Singapore’s construction industry heavily depended on Thai and Burmese workers, this place was packed over weekends by those in seek of solace for something that reminds them a bit of home, be it food or just to be in the company of fellow kinsman. The lower floors are now occupied by travel agents who mainly offer coach packages to Malaysia and southern Thailand as well as hair salons and eateries offering authentic Thai cuisine while the higher levels are dotted with Thai bars, nightclubs and massage palours, not unlike wha one would find in Patpong, Bangkok. But it is the supermarket on the second floor that I am here for. It boasts to have the most comprehensive spread of Thai groceries and sundries and with a mega floor space that occupies almost the half of the entire level, I’m quite convinced that this would be a one-stop Thai shopping experience for me. The fresh food section was quite an eye-opener with an assortment of Thai vegetables and fruits on display, some of which I’d totally not seen before. There are at least five different types of basil available, all smelling and looking different. Some of them have only their Thai names labelled making them incomprehensive and alien. Altogether very intriguing indeed! One name struck jackpot as it was ชะอม Cha Om, a vegetable Wendy had told me about before. Curious that we should be able to find it here in Singapore. Had to grab a bunch or two for ไข่เจียวชะอม Khai Jeow Cha Om, a Thai Acacia Omelette!
I don’t read Thai of course but its scientific name was labelled albeit mispelt as Acacia insuvis [sic.] on the side of the chiller display. Cha-om is actually a subspecies of Acacia pennata thus making its full name Acacia pennata subsp. insuavis. Oh well, enough of all these biology jargon.
Bought 2 bunches of Cha-Om for omelette. It is interesting in many ways. First is the stench of gaseous sulfurous compounds it produces that reminds me much of another local favorite, petai (Parkia speciosa) otherwise known as “stink beans”. Quite revoking to say the least, I could smell them even when they are well wrapped in a plastic bag. Just hope that they don’t stink up the rest of the vegetables I bought that day as well!
Only the leaves or tips of young shoot are harvested and used in cooking. The more matured leaves and stem are definitely way too fibrous for consumption. The latter is also lined with thorny stipules which makes the stem inedible.
Pickings of the leaves yield about 25g of leaves from one bunch before they are thoroughly rinsed. Still smelling quite a bit, which made me very curious how the actual dish would actually turn out. The leaves are then mixed with beaten egg and seasoned with some fish sauce and sugar before being pan-fried to form an omelette.
The thorny stipules on the branch. Dealing with this vegetable for the very first time, I didn’t know they are quite thorny and to make things worse, I’d picked up my first bunch by grabbing the lower stem where all the thorns are concentrated! OUCH! Natural reflexes made me drop them instantly, only to discover the thorns upon closer scrutiny. Nasty fellas! A thai lady who was also shopping for vegetables saw and giggled. Perfect opportunity for me to confirm the identity of the vegetable with her. It is Cha-om indeed! I took the opportunity to learn the omelette recipe from her which turned out to be really easy! Interestingly, the vegetable loses almost all of that vile odours from the sulphur compounds and turned out quite yummy instead! The Thai lady shared the recipe for preparing Khai Jeow Cha Om with me and here I share it with you!
ไข่เจียวชะอม Khai Jeow Cha Om – Thai Acacia Omelette Recipe
Leaves and tender shoot from one bunch of Cha-Om (appro. 25g), rinsed and drained
3-4 eggs (depending on how “eggy” you want the dish to be)
1-2 tbsp fish sauce, depending on the quality of fish sauce used, i.e. some brands taste more concentrated than others
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cooking oil
Crack eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk coarsely to break up the yolks.
Add Cha-om leaves and the rest of the condiments except oil, and mix well.
Heat up a frying pan or kuali (I’d used a non-stick pan to make work easier) over medium heat, and add cooking oil. Swirl the oil around to ensure that it coats the base of the pan/wok thoroughly.
Pour Cha-Om egg mixture into the heated pan and swirl it around to get the omelette as uniformly flat as possible. spread out the leaves as evenly as possible over the omelette while the egg mixture is still runny. Leave it to cook for approximately 1-2 min before flipping to cook for another 1 min or so . Break up the omelette into quarters using the spatula. Plate and serve with hot rice and other Thai dishes.