RATCHABURI — Leaves of the sweet wormwood are kneaded into a stretchy dough to make soft, pale-green dumplings at what could be the only shop in Thailand making this rare Thai-Hakka street food snack.
Wirot Thawonkeerati , 50, owns the sole “ngae pun” shop in Ratchaburi province, founded at the Hakka community’s Huay Krabok Market. The shop’s name, Aligor Wong Fa Mu Pan, translates to “Big Brother of the Li Clan, Yellow Flower.”
“It’s a snack that has disappeared,” Wirot said. “If we don’t cook it, younger generations won’t know what it is.”
“Ngae pun,” literally “molded ngae” or “ngae balls,” is made from the “ngae” or sweet wormwood plant. The ngae plant is also called the kot chula lampa plant in Thail .
Using a recipe passed down through his family, the ngae leaves are picked, salted, washed, boiled, blended, and kneaded with sticky rice dough.
When the pistachio-green dough is smooth, Wirot shapes the dough into flat discs and fills them with a filling of roasted sesame and crushed peanuts with fresh cane sugar. He expertly pinches the wraps closed, forming small domes. The green dumplings are steamed for about 10 minutes before they’re ready to eat.
He sprinkles on some white sesame as a garnish. The soft, stretchy, mochi-like dumplings go great with Chinese tea and sell for 50 baht for four.
Wirot said Thai Hakka used to dry the leaves and use them in postpartum baths. Some people use the plant as vegetables in boiled egg dishes or boiled chicken dishes.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the plant is believed to be able to treat fever. Wirot says ngae pun can enrich eyesight, blood, and overall health.
Aligor Wong Fa Mu Pan is open every day except Monday from 8am until 2pm at the Huay Krabok Market. For delivery, contact Wirot at 099-391-4848 or his Facebook page.