fermented soybean paste (ถั่วเน่า—thau nea)

Fermented soybean paste makes a great addition to curry paste, soup, or other dishes. They can also be made into a standout condiment to rice.

To ferment fresh soybeans, first boil and simmer them. Drain; spread beans on banana leaf, wrap, and poke holes in the leaf(alternatively, place beans in a bamboo basket or other container). This keeps some moisture in the beans but allows plenty of air circulation. Place on a rack; it is important that air surrounds the soybean packet, otherwise the beans may not get the air they need to ferment properly. Let sit about three days; they should begin to be fragrant.

Check the beans and unwrap if mildly fragrant. Simply mash the beans in a mortar or other vessel until smooth. Optionally, the beans can be mashed with ginger, galangal, lemongrass, sesame, kaffir lime leaf, chili, or a combination for additional flavor. Add a little water while mashing if the beans are dry and not blending evenly; they should become thick and creamy.

The fermented soybean paste can be served right away as a dipping sauce. In parts of Myanmar and Northern Thailand, mashed fermented soybeans are then dried for easy storage. To dry, flatten the soybean paste into thin disks. Place flattened soybean disks on a rack to dry. The disks should dry out in about three days. The dried fermented soybean disks can be stored at room temerature indefinitely.


(serves 2)

2 cup organic soybean
3 cup water
1 tsp salt

ginger, galangal, lemongrass, sesame, kaffir lime leaf, or chili

• boil soybean
• simmer about 3 hours
• drain
• wrap in banana leaf and poke holes in leaf or place in bamboo basket
• let sit 3 days
• grind soybean, salt, additional ingredients into thick paste, adding water to adjust consistency

• flatten into disks
• dry on rack 3 days
• disks store indefinitely