All week I've been publishing recipes and stories from Northern Thailand, the country's least exported regional cuisines. With strong funky aromas, heavy spicing, and the kind of bitter and hot flavors that can make you weep simultaneous tears of pain and pleasure, it's definitely not Thai Food 101 material, but you'll be richly rewarded if you delve into it. If you can't make it all the way to the spice markets and roadside restaurants in Chiang Mai, making these dishes at home is the next best thing.
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Recipes From Chiang Mai: How to Make Real Deal Khao Soi Gai (Coconut Curry Noodle Soup With Chicken)
Khao soi, a curry- and coconut-flavored noodle soup, is Northern Thailand's most famous export. Westernized Thai recipes often make compromises to suit Western palates. Not this time. This is the recipe for folks who are willing to scour the backstreets in search of makrut limes and settle for nothing but fresh turmeric. Fasten your seatbelts, we're going for a trip.
Rich, creamy, and packed with uncompromising flavor from a slew of aromatics and shrimp paste, this classic Northern Thai soup combines tender braised chicken in a coconut-y curry broth with boiled and fried noodles. Our version is the real deal, straight from the streets of Chiang Mai.
Think of the best chicken soup you've had: steaming hot, rich, comforting, and soul-satisfying to the core. Now add to that the complex fragrance of fresh Thai herbs like lemongrass, galangal, a sweet shallots. And wait, we're not done yet! To that base, add a big fat pinch of warm Northern Thai spices and you're starting to get an idea of what yum jin gai is all about.
This ain't your grandma's pork larb. Unless your grandma happens to be of Lanna descent and native to Northern Thailand, in which case, this is probably very much like your grandma's pork larb. Unlike Isan larb, this is a darker mince, with tender bits of lean pork mixed together with chunks of fat, chewy bits of intestine, and a rich, thick sauce flavored with crushed spices and pork blood. It's not larb for the faint of heart, but it's one worth seeking out or cooking at home if you've got any interest in offal.
If you're anything like me, when you first taste nam phrig noom, the smoky, garlicky, roasted chili dip from Northern Thailand, it's gonna blow your mind. Made with roasted green chilies, shallots, and garlic, it's served as a side dish alongside all sorts of raw and cooked vegetables, boiled eggs, or—my favorite—crispy pork rinds.
Chiang Mai easily makes the list of my top five favorite cities in the world. Culinarily, it's one of the least familiar regions of Thailand. The local dishes, influenced by Burma to the Northwest, and China's Yunnan province and Laos to the north, don't really make it far beyond Northern Thai borders. With the exception of a few dishes at Pok Pok, Andy Ricker's ode to Chiang Mai in Portland and New York, I'd never seen half the dishes I tasted while we were there. The big exception is Khao Soi, the area's most popular export. I was eager to taste this fantastic dish at the source.
You can wander the streets of Bangkok for weeks, pointing at every single thing that looks tasty, handing over a couple dozen baht, and eating until you burst, all without ever eating the same thing twice. And you'd have difficulty spending more than around $10 a day doing it. And, in fact, that's pretty much what my wife and I did for the few days we were there. Here's just a taste of what you'll get.
My first pa tong go, or Thai cruller, experience was a tad disappointing. I gave the treat another chance at a cafe fittingly named Pa Tong Go. This time, the results were crunchy, sweet, and awesome.
Exploring the rich, spicy world of Southern Thai cuisine in an extended stopover in a tiny town with big markets.
Northern Thai food—bitter, spicy, delightfully funky—is some of the most intriguing and satisfying in all of Thailand. Here's how to tell your naem from your nam phrik.
Meet dong daeng, essentially the Thai version of spaetzle, invented and perfected in a small town in northern Issan.
I've spent the past week traveling through Isaan, the northeast region of Thailand, the agricultural heartland of the country. Few tourists make it up this way—Isaan is a long way from Bangkok but is home to some of the most complex and intriguing foods in the country. Here's what we found in the markets of Nong Khai.
Like most Thais who like to keep up with what's happening with American-Thai relations, I was interested in every detail of president Obama's brief visit to Thailand a few weeks ago. But more than anything else, I wondered what the President ate. I needed to know what the government of Thailand served Obama at a special dinner in his honor. Once I found out, I recreated all of the dishes at home.
The Pad Thai was startlingly complex in a way that makes the gloopy, sugary versions served back home feel like a crime. I also snacked on pieces of deliriously crispy fried pork belly at a market, ate a bowl of noodles made right before my eyes by a lady on a boat, and had not one, but two excellent Vietnamese meals. See all of my best bites in Thailand.
From the moment we drove out of Chiang Mai Airport until we made our last food-grazing stroll down Bangkok's famous Yaowarat Road, my eyes were bouncing from one delicious site to the next. Check out the coconut pancakes, pad se ew, rambutan, and more snapshots of the best stuff we ate in Thailand.
The most popular appetizer (and perhaps the most impressive dish on the menu) is a dish called Miang Kum Som-oh ($5). Translations vary, but they all suggest basically the same meaning: "leaf-wrapped tidbits," "food wrapped in leaves," "many things eaten in one bite," etc.
We've been to an Arrested Development-inspired banana stand in Austin, but traveled all the way to Thailand to investigate this one. (Alright, so maybe the trip wasn't solely on banana stand-related business.) Choconana at the weekend market in Bangkok dips frozen bananas in chocolate and peanuts to order.
Here's a bold statement: Bangkok is the greatest eating city in the world. It's the only place I can think of where you can spend a month just wandering the streets, eating every single thing that tickles your fancy, three meals a day (with snacks in between), and never try the same thing twice. And to top it all off, you can do it all for under $5 a day.