You may be wondering WHY I’ve not only taken a picture of these rotten soy beans that have been flattened and are drying in the sun, but that I’ve also decided to post this picture. Well, let me tell you… I pretty much eat them everyday. No – not the “tow naow” on it’s own (although I have had it that way before – but it was crispy; normally sun-dried “tow naow” bends somewhat). But it’s in many Thai-yai dishes. It, along with shrimp paste (that may deserve a post all its own too…) are what gives Thai-yai food its distinct flavour.
Before adding “tow naow” to a dish, it’s first made crispy by toasting it over the flame (or in the toaster – I have seen that before), or by frying it. The latter seems to be generally what my language teacher does, but it could also depend on the dish itself. Then the “tow naow” has to be crushed or grinded – this can happen in a mortar and pestle or in a device similar to a coffee grinder (the former is most widely used). And then it’s combined with a few other ingredients, making up the base of many Thai-yai dishes (or “phak” in Thai-yai).
If you come visit me, you’ll get to taste some for yourself. I promise you’ll like it. Really!