Thai Cooking 101 - All You Need to Know About Khanohm Jeen
When you think of eating curry do you usually associate it with rice? In fact in Thai cuisine it is very common to eat curries with Khanohm Jeen noodles.
Khanohm Jeen or rice noodles has been a staple dish in Thai cuisine for over a century. In fact, it dates back all the way to the Ayuthaya era, as there’s a canal in the province called “Klong Khanohm Jeen.” The locals claim the canal has had that name since the city was still the capital of the Siamese empire, which dates back to the mid-1300s.
Khanohm Jeen goes by different names in different places around the country. For example, they call it “Khanohm Sen” in the north, “Nom Jeen” in the south, and “Khao Poon” in the northeastern region.
Its rich, soft, and slightly gummy texture makes it one of the most popular types of carbohydrates in Thailand, way up there with rice and “Kuay Teaw” or Chinese noodles. The name has been a topic of debate for Thai people over many generations, as the word “khanohm” means snacks or sweets and “jeen” means China or of Chinese descent. However, the dish is neither a snack, nor does it have anything to do with the Chinese in any way. The most probable theory over how the name came about was that the dish was originally invented by the Mon people. The Mon tribe in the north of Thailand has a dish called “khohn ohm jin,” which means kneaded and double-boiled. It’s believed that the name has persisted and transformed into the term Khanohm Jeen that we know today.
Now that we have the brief history of Khanohm Jeen out of the way, here's a quick rundown of the different types of Khanohm Jeen that can be found in Thai markets:
Khanohm Jeen Paeng Mhuk (ขนมจีนแป้งหมัก)
This is the most traditional style of Khanohm Jeen, as it’s speculated that it was a way to preserve rice back in the day. The rice is pounded into starch and then left to ferment for a few days before cooking. This type of Khanohm Jeen has a slightly sour taste due to the fermentation process. Additionally, the sugar in the rice will become slightly caramelized by the heat in the fermenting pot, which will give the noodles a natural nutty flavor.
This type of Khanohm Jeen is much rarer than it used to be, as it takes a lot of time and effort to make. Most manufacturers nowadays are family-run businesses that still use the traditional method to make them.
Khanohm Jeen Paeng Soht (ขนมจีนแป้งสด)
Unlike the fermented style of Khanhom Jeen, this type is made from fresh rice starch, which speeds up the preparation process significantly. This type of Khanhom Jeen is usually eaten with some sort of curry, but the most common type of curry to eat with fresh Khanohm Jeen is green and Naam Ya curry and served with fresh vegetables and herbs. We recommend you try it with Thai basil as that’s the most popular way Thai people enjoy the dish.
The Subtypes of Khanohm Jeen
Now that you understand what the main types of Khanohm Jeen are, let’s go into detail about its subtypes:
1. Tuaa Tong Tang
This type of Khanohm Jeen is shorter and fatter, and it's most commonly found in the northeastern region of Thailand as they are commonly eaten with Som Tum or papaya salad.
2.Hua Gai Ohk
This type of Khanohm Jeen is made into small rolls that resemble a chicken head, which is where its name comes from. It’s most commonly found in the north and eaten as a substitute for sticky rice.
3.Colored Khanohm Jeen
You can often find Khanohm Jeen that has been dyed using natural ingredients. Some of them are listed down below:
Safflower – Orange, saffron-like color
Turmeric – Deep orange
Green Tea leaves – Deep green
Pandanus leaves – Vivid green
Butterfly pea flowers – Purple-blue, or Pink-blue and violet when you add a couple drops of lime juice to it
if you walk around any fresh market in Thailand you will find Khanohn Jeen foe sales in colorful plastic bowls. If you want to explore a market with us or learn how to cook Thai food, get in touch to book one of our classes or market tours!