Complex Tastes of Northern Thailand

During our work in Northern Thai province of Chiang Rai last month, we had some time to sample the local delicacies.  Now for those not familiar with Chiang Rai, it is the northen most part of Thailand if I’m not mistaken bordering Laos and Burma commonly known as the Golden Triangle before a high influence on the trade of opium.  Now it’s a great tourist attraction for those who like nature since Chiang Rai is still quite quiet and peaceful.  With being so close to many other countries I think the food is largely influenced as well.  There is quite an Muslim population here which is why many spices not normally seen in Traditional Thai Cooking plays a huge role here.

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The usual laarb or minced por, chicken or beef yam or thai salad is usually, fish sauce, lime, int, roasted rice, shallots, spring onions, thai basil and chillies.  It’s spicy and fresh and sour.  However the Northern Larb is more heavy on the non traditional spices, i think cumin, saltier not sour version.  I feel it’s a more dry and meatier version.  I’m not sure of all the spices but it feels more indianish than thai.

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The Sai Oua or northern thai sausage is not different, the meats and pork fats are chunkier and loosely packed not minced sasages like we are used too.  I’m sure there is cumin or tumeric present in here, chunks of lemongrass, thai basil, chillies and other herbs.  It’s hot, meaty and very very flavorful.  You can taste all the spices, saltiness, porkiness of the entire mouthful.  It’s fantastic served with sticky rice and some side veggies. Not to be missed when travelling there!

Khao Soi aka Chiang Rai Curry Noodles

Khao Soi is usually served with a side of lime for squeezing and vegetable relish, this rich coconut curry egg noodles is served with beef or chicken, bean sprouts and spring onions with  crispy fried egg noodles on top for that crunch.  It’s a savory meaty, creamy dish best served with lots of freshly squeezed limes and dried chillies.  It’s a rate Thai dish that combines all aspects of Thai ,Chinese and Islam heritage together.  No one knows exactly how the dish came about but it originated from Northern Thailand, supposedly from the border of Myanmar and Chiang Rai.  There are dominant Chinese and Islam heritage in this dish, I also heard from the locals it was a Burmese Chinese Muslim family who emigrated to Thailand and created a dish with all the local influences.  I’m sure this dish must be from Islamic creators since I’ve never seen this dish available in pork, only beef and chicken as well as usually they sellers are often Muslim.

It’s a must try if you venture into the the Northern part of Thailand,  (ranges from 40 – 60 baht depending on the amount of Chicken and Beef) and dont forget to add the spicy chilies and fresh limes and cool it down with a nice herbal lemongrass drink!