Have you ever had a dish that was so good that you wanted to jump into your bowl or plate and just lap it all up??? This happens to me pretty regularly here in Thailand, and the heavenly salad known as yam tua plu is just the latest example. Tua plu means winged beans in Thai, and it was just recently that I sung the praises of these cute green beans which make cool x-shapes when you chop them and used them in a South Indian-style poriyal. Winged beans are indigenous to tropical climates, and you can find them everywhere here in Thailand. In North America, there are reports of winged bean sightings in Chinatowns and Asian markets of major cities.
The common use of tua plu here in Thailand seems to be in this salad, which is just out of this world good! I don't recall where I first tried it, but after having some for lunch at a friend's house on Friday I just knew that I had to replicate it at home ASAP! It's nothing fancy at all, but it's the amazing dressing that really makes this dish extraordinary. It's got a coconut milk base, but gets tang from lime juice and tamarind paste, sweetness from palm sugar and/or brown sugar, saltiness from fish sauce (which I replaced with salt to keep it vegetarian) and just a bit of spice from the roasted chili paste, or nam prik pao. You can buy nam prik pao in a jar at most Asian groceries or try to make your own from scratch (try this recipe from She Simmers). However, vegetarians should keep in mind that nam prik pao typically contains shrimp paste and dried shrimp, so try to find the vegetarian nam prik pao by Mae Pranom brand, which is of course readily available here. This version is made of vegetable oil, soy sauce, sugar, soy protein, fermented beans, tamarind, shitake mushroom and dried chili. Because it's a jae product (jae being a very strict form of vegetarianism), there is no onion and garlic in this paste, so I added a clove of minced garlic into my dressing for an additional kick.
This recipe for yam tua plu is adapted from this awesome recipe from Real Thai Recipes.com, which is a treasure trove of authentic Thai recipes as well as valuable information about Thai ingredients and cooking techniques. Don't worry if it seems like you have more dressing than you need...it's really so good that you won't mind! I particularly love the combination of the creamy hard-boiled egg slices and the tangy dressing. It's too bad that yam tua plu is not a well-known dish outside of Thailand, as it's really one of outstanding yams (salads) in Thai cuisine, in my opinion. Try it, and I think you'll agree! If you can't find winged beans where you are (though please try!), try this with regular green beans (though you might need to increase their cooking time). Feel free to add some pan-fried tofu pieces as well.
Adapted from Real Thai Recipes.com
Served 2 as a main dish (with rice) or 4 as a side dish/starter
3/4 cup coconut milk (don't use light)
Juice of 1 small lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
2 tablespoons nam prik pao (roasted chili paste)
1 teaspoon palm sugar
1 teaspoon brown sugar (or 2 teaspoons brown sugar if you want to omit palm sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 cups chopped winged beans
2 teaspoons roasted peanuts
1/4 cup toasted coconut (unsweetened)
1 tablespoon fried shallots
2-3 dried red chilies
1. Make the dressing by bringing the coconut milk to boil in a small pot or pan. Remove from heat, pour into a large bowl and let it cool down to room temperature (about 5 minutes).
2. Add the lime juice, tamarind paste, nam prik pao, palm and/or brown sugars, salt and garlic. Mix well with a small whisk until everything gets incorporated together and you get a nice creamy sauce. Set aside.
3. Hard boil the eggs in boiling water, about 8-10 minutes. Rinse under cool water and peel. Once cool, slice into half-moons. Set aside.
4. As your eggs are boiling, steam the winged beans over a pot of boiling water, using a steamer or colander. You want them to be tender but not soft, so it should take somewhere between 5-7 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to keep the beans from cooking further.
5. Mix the peanuts and coconut into the dressing. Stir well.
6. Add the beans to the bowl with the dressing and mix well. Arrange in a large serving bowl, plate or platter and serve topped with the fried shallots and red chilies and garnished with the hard boiled egg slices.