You don't see much Northern Thai food on takeout menus in America. Maybe it's because the flavors of the mountainous, heavily forested region—bitter, spicy, delightfully funky—are harder to translate than the fried noodles and coconut milk curries popular further south.
Maybe it's because Northern Thais have a particular fondness for pig offal and blood, sometimes for breakfast. Maybe it's because the staple of the Northern Thai diet, sticky rice, requires a labor-intensive process of steaming, turning and kneading before it's ready.
Whatever the reason, it's a pity that more people aren't familiar with Northern Thai food, because it's some of the most intriguing and satisfying in all of Thailand. Should you have the pleasure of finding yourself in Chiang Mai or its surrounding environs, keep an eye out for these dishes, all available from local markets and street vendors, that capture the taste and spirit of the region.
- Khao soi (curry noodle soup)»
- Naem (fermented pork sausage) »
- Nam phriks (chile-based dipping sauces) »
- Sai oua (spicy sausages) »
- Khanom jeen naam ngeow (rice noodles in spicy, meaty broth) »
About the author: Jamie Feldmar is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor eating her way across Southeast Asia for the next three months. See more of her work at jamiefeldmar.com or follow her misadventures on Twitter at @jfeldmar.