Focus On Food From The North East Of Thailand

For those of you who know and love your Thai food you will of course have your favourite dishes. Thai food is now immensely popular all over the world, but there is of course no substitute for eating it in Thailand that is for sure. However whether inside Thailand or outside how many of you actually know which region of Thailand your favourite dishes come from.

Today we will start with a look at Thai food from the region of the north-east of Thailand or more often known as (Phak Isaan) in the next post I will give 10 language phrases and culture  connected with food and eating in Thailand. I have engaged the knowledge of Keown and Kitiya our two north-eastern ladies to take a deeper look at Isaan fare.

Introduction Tips: Did You Know That

  • The word Isaan is used to identify the region. In this case the north-east region of Thailand
  • The people are known as khon Isaan
  •  The food is known as ahaan Isaan
  • Did you know that: The language and the culture of Isaan are heavily linked to Lao and Khmer  influences
Lets Get Cooking

So what are the main differences between ordinary every day Thai food and food from the north-east region of Thailand (Isaan)?

Keown said: In Issan food we don’t use coconut like general thai food,most of the regular thai dishes use coconut milk. A lot of the food is adopted from the neighbouring country of Laos where the ingredients and the vegetables  are slightly different from general thai food , in fact the vegetables are totally different.

Kitiya said: Some Isaan food has an aroma that takes a bit of getting used to, because the main ingredient is Anchovy. You may also be quite surprised to know that some Isaan dishes are uncooked and contain raw meat. It is wise to proceed carefully as Isaan food tends to be very spicy, but of course delicious.

Take Care With Those Chillies

Most Well – Known Isaan Dishes

The north-eastern dishes that the Thai food fanatics amongst you would probably have heard of are …..

  • Som Tam (Green Papaya salad)  (ส้มตำ)
  • Kai Yaang (Isaan style grilled chicken) (ไก่ย่าง)
  • Khao Niaw (Sticky rice)  (ข้าวเหนียว)
  • Laap (Spicy minced – meat salad)  ( ลาบ)
  • Tom soup (Chilli and Lemongrass soup)  ( ต้มยำ )

Keown And Kitiya’s Favourite Isaan Dishes They Say You Must Try.

Keown said: Her favourite dishes  are Laab Muu and Laab Phet Isaan spicy mince – meat salad and Tom Yum chicken soup. Laab Muu is fantastic as I can eat it with lots of fresh vegetables, soup that go with Laab muu  and sticky rice. Laab muu is Spicy pork mince – meat salad

Laab-Ped I love so much and I will have that with ped soup and again masses of raw vegetables. I am also addicted to spicy cucumber salad with grilled fish.

However my favourite lunch which I do eat a lot because it’s so delicious is Kanoom Jeen (rice noodles) with various sauces from Isaan and from the north and south of Thailand and now my mouth really is watering.

Night Market Scene

Kitiya said: That Som tam (papaya salad) is her favourite and it’s the most famous dish here in the north-east. In Udon Thani we don’t have a specific time of day for eating this dish, so please don’t be surprised when you see many people waiting for som tam at the fresh market/stalls in the morning, afternoon or evening.

Tomyumkung (spicy prawn soup) the original one without coconut milk  must be very spicy and bloody sour.

Pad Krapaw-Spicy stir fried pork/chicken/seafood with Thai holy basil

Dinner On A Stick

Trevor: As a foreigner with a western palette I must admit that my favourite combination snack is Kai yaang ( grilled chicken in a marinade of coriander root with black pepper and fish sauce cooked slowly over hot coals), Som Tam ( grated green papaya, fish sauce, garlic, fresh chillies and more,  don’t forget Isaan papaya salad is far spicier than from central Thailand) and finally sticky rice. In phak Isaan the preferred rice is sticky rice which you eat with your hands, all you do is form the rice in to balls and dip in to the no end of delicious dishes. This combination is simply delicious.

I also like that there appears to be a lot of grilling and roasting in the way the Isaan people cook their food and there are no end of ingredients that can go in to a dish. My advice for westerners regarding the north-eastern cuisine is you certainly must experiment, but proceed slowly it can be far spicier and have many different ingredients than you are used to in general Thai food.  The best thing is to  taste various dishes here and there, acquiring the taste and distinguishing your personal favourites, then  in no time at all where ever you maybe and in a moment of hunger an isaan dish will spring to your mind and the craving for certain Isaan dishes will begin.

Evening Bakery

I asked Keown  is it true that sticky rice can send you to sleep and what else would she say was popular in Isaan food

Keown: Sticky rice is a  heavier sort of rice and  if you eat a lot of it then yes it can make you feel quite sleepy. Sticky rice is also sweet and easily addictive if you try it once you could well be hooked. My boyfriend is from the UK and has never been to Thailand before and has also never eaten sticky rice before until I  Introduced him to it. It is safe to say that now he’s  addicted to it and can’t get enough and yes after eating enough of it  he falls asleep.

In Issan after lunch it is quite normal for folk to have a little nap in the afternoon and go to bed earlier after dinner. People tend to eat more quantity of sticky rice than the actual dishes, because  the way people eat is to dip the balls of sticky rice in to the dishes.

To the second part of the question I would say that  bamboo is very popular in Issan food,but there are quite a few different types of bamboo. I am talking about bamboo shoots I love that in my food.

When we were younger my mum would to take us to see the grand parents and where they lived was quite close to the jungle and her cousin would take us to hunt for wild bamboo shoots and vegetables, loved it. It was so exciting to pick those fresh vegetables especially wild mushrooms I  adored wild mushroom pate and make it as curry also.

Every year at certain times of the year wild mushrooms would pop up at the top of my mum’s garden and we would pick and cook them, god I miss those Laab Het spicy wild mushrooms, it taste so good.

Always Lots Of Fruit

Kitiya Reveals More Isaan Dishes

I had no need to ask Kitiya anything else as she recently did a post on her own blog called ”Traditional Isaan food” full of fine information, delicious Isaan dishes and fabulous photos. To learn more check out the post from Kitiya.

Book Thai Gourmet In The South West Of England

For those people in the south-west of England who want to re-create their Thai or even Isaan experience then you are certainly in luck. Why not arrange a party or home gathering and have superb Thai chef Khun Lek come over and cook you a meal, it will be an experience to remember, in fact you will think you are in Thailand.

More On Thai Food

For more information tips and advice on Thai cuisine

Recommended Books

1) For delicious Thai finger food the book by David Thompson (The Australian born expert Thai chef) called Thai Street Food is a fantastic addition for a fan of Thai finger food and fun food. Superb colour photos and in-depth recipe instructions. Time to re-create those Thai street stalls and roadside vendors that you loved so much on holiday.

For people in the UK, you can get the book here

For people outside of the UK, you can get the book here

2) The book Thai Food by David Thompson (The Australian born expert Thai chef) is the choice for those seeking to create all manner of Thai dishes. This book with its fabulous photos and superb instruction encapsulates all that is wonderful about Thai food and Thailand.

For people in the UK, you can get the book here

For people outside of the UK, you can get the book here

3) The complete guide to the culture and food of Thailand. This book by Joe Cummings at lonely planet is superb. Joe Cummings has lived in Thailand for many years and is someone who actually can be called an expert in all things Thai. This guide is the business for those who want to know all about Thai food and the culture of Thai food. The book is called World Food Thailand.

For those people in the UK, you can get the book here

For those people outside of the UK, you can get the book here.


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