Think you know Thai food? Think again. Thailand’s cuisine takes a different form every time it crosses a provincial border, and the dishes of Thailand’s northern provinces are no exception.
Northern Thai food is a world away from the dishes you’ve probably encountered at your local Thai restaurant at home – or even in Bangkok for that matter. The food of the north is indicative of the region’s seasonal and relatively cool climate, not to mention a love for pork, veggies and all things deep-fried.
Traditionally, the residents of Thailand’s north ate almost exclusively kôw nĕe•o, sticky rice, known in the local dialect as kôw nêung. Coconut milk rarely makes its way into the northern kitchen, and northern Thai cuisine is probably the most seasonal and least spicy of Thailand’s regional schools of cooking, often relying on bitter or other dried spice flavours.Paradoxically (and unfortunately), it can be quite difficult to find authentic local food in northern Thailand. Outside of Chiang Mai and the other large cities in the region, there are relatively few restaurants serving northern-style dishes, and the vast majority of authentic local food is sold from stalls in ‘to go’ bags. However, if you manage to come across a restaurant serving northern-style food, read on for ten top dishes worth trying.
Kôw soy, arguably the most famous northern Thai dish, combines wheat-and-egg noodles and a rich, fragrant curry broth. The dish is closely linked to Chiang Mai, and was probably introduced to northern Thailand by travelling Chinese merchants. Supplement your noodles with chunks of pickled vegetables and slices of shallot, and season the dish with a squeeze of lime and ground chilies fried in oil.
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