Northern Thai cuisine is characterized by hot spices. Many dishes from this region incorporate large amounts of various chili and jalapeno peppers, but you can make most dishes milder by reducing the amount of peppers while not sacrificing overall flavor. Sticky rice is the preferred variety in northern Thai cuisine.
Popular Dishes in Northern Thailand
A few of the more popular dishes in northern Thai cooking are:
• Gaeng hang lay: a sweet and sour pork or beef curry, served with rice. The curry paste is made from tamarind, ginger, shrimp paste, fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce, lemon grass, garlic and peanuts. The meat is simmered in the curry until tender.
• Gaeng khanoon: jackfruit curry, made from jackfruit, coconut shoots and cream, sultanas, raisins, kaffir lime leaves, red curry paste, garlic, fish sauce, Thai red jalapenos and game meat. The sultanas and raisins are soaked in whiskey or sake prior to cooking.
• Khao soi: noodle curry dish, composed of yellow egg noodles served in a bowl of soup with chicken or beef. The curry paste is made from coconut milk, fish sauce, red curry paste, garlic, turmeric, sugar and lime juice. It’s popular in the city of Chaing Mai.
• Nam prik num: dipping sauce, made from green chili peppers, onions, garlic, cherry tomatoes, coriander, lemon juice and fish sauce. Nam prik num is spicy, and is normally served with vegetables and sticky rice.
• Nam prik ong: chunky pork dipping sauce made from red curry paste, red chili peppers, tomatoes, onions, lime juice, sugar, coriander, fish sauce, garlic and pork. Nam prik ong is very spicy, and is generally served with sticky rice and steamed vegetables.
• Sai ua: grilled pork sausage, mixed with herbs and spices like lemon grass, coriander, kaffir lime leaves, garlic and red curry paste. A common street food, sai ua is often referred to as Chiang Mai sausage in English.
A khantoke is a small, free-standing serving tray that is often used as a dining table in northern Thailand. A Khantoke is low to the ground, and you’ll sit on cushions on the floor while eating a khantoke meal. Any dish can be served on a khantoke, and you’re traditionally only expected to use your fingers to eat, a break from established Thai culinary customs.