I was first served this dish by a Thai friend, when I was feeling under the weather. She called it “suki” and when I looked at her quizzically, she said, “Thai suki”, which didn’t clarify things. Finally, she called it “sukiyaki”, and, after I started eating it, I realised it’s a Thai version of what, in Japanese cuisine, is a dish with sliced beef, vegetables (leeks, Chinese cabbage, mushrooms) and glass noodles in a savoury-sweet dressing.
Thai sukiyaki uses similar ingredients, but is a lot more freewheeling. Yes, it has the vegetables (at least the cabbage and mushrooms) and glass noodles, but the protein can be meatballs, fresh shrimp or sliced pork, beef or chicken, it usually contains thick discs of egg tofu, and everything comes swimming in a light, clear broth.
It is served with nam jim suki – a spicy sauce that you can mix into the broth or use as a dipping sauce for the meat.
This dish doesn’t take long to prepare – everything (apart from the sauce ingredients) is just boiled together in a pot. If you dislike pork meatballs, substitute fresh shrimp or sliced pork, beef or chicken (or you could use a combination of meats and seafood). Shrimp and sliced meat don’t take long to cook, so stir them into the broth just a few minutes before removing the pot from the heat.
I like to season the meatballs with the tougher stems from fresh coriander stalks (or even better, coriander roots), and use the leaves and thin stems to garnish the suki.
Glass noodles are also known as mung bean noodles (or vermicelli) or fen si. They are usually soaked in water until they soften slightly, but that’s not necessary for this dish – you can put them straight from the packet into the simmering broth.
Egg tofu is sold in tubes or rectangles. If possible, buy the tubes. If you can’t find egg tofu, use plain soft tofu, instead.
Make the nam jim suki first, so it has time to cool. Put the sriracha, tomato paste, soybean sauce (or light soy sauce), oyster sauce, sugar and sesame oil in a small saucepan with 50ml (3tbsp and 1tsp) of water. Bring to a boil, then taste – if it’s too spicy, add more sugar. The consistency should be quite thick; if necessary, simmer for a few more minutes.
Mince the garlic clove and add it to the sauce and simmer briefly, then turn off the flame and leave to cool.
Briefly rinse the dried shrimp, then put them in a small bowl and add 60ml (¼ cup) of warm water. Set aside to soak.
Put the minced pork in a bowl, add the fish sauce, sugar, salt and white pepper and mix well.
Finely mince the coriander stems or roots and the spring onions. Add them to the bowl with the pork and mix.
Pour the stock into a medium-sized saucepan, add 10ml (2 tsp) of fish sauce and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and the soaking liquid, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Use a teaspoon to scoop the pork mixture into roughly shaped meatballs and add them to the simmering liquid.
Add the glass noodles to the pot.
Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core. Cut the leaves into bite-size pieces and add them to the pot.
Cut the egg tofu into six to eight discs and add them to the pot, stirring them in gently (they are delicate).
Trim off and discard the base of the enoki mushrooms, then break them into clumps before adding them to the pot. Simmer for a couple of minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through. Taste the broth, and if necessary, add salt.
Stir about 10ml (2 tsp) of lime juice into the nam jim suki and taste – it should be spicy yet balanced. Add more lime juice, if necessary. Spoon the sauce into two small condiment bowls and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.
Divide the suki between two large soup bowls, then garnish with coriander sprigs and minced spring onion. Serve immediately.