Thai street food : Yam Naem Khao tod (fried rice ball salad)

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Nam khao tod is something we discovered in Vientiane, Laos entirely by accident, I ordered out of curiousity, with an “I want what he’s having” kind of mentality. I had no idea what I was about to eat, but drawn in by the arancini like rice balls on the shelf of the street cart.

It’s something I’ve since seen in Laos, and also in the north eastern Thai province of Isaan and made myself a tonne of times because it’s awesome.

The arancini-like rice balls are flavoured with curry paste and deep fried and left to cool before being used to order.

When you order a serve, the lady will take one of the precooked balls, and smash it up, mixing it with raw red onion, fresh chilli, lime juice, fish sauce, green beans, coriander, scallions or spring onions, peanuts and naem – fermented sour pork – in her mixing bowl. In Laos we found it included shredded coconut and mint.

The end product is essentially a cold rice salad, with flecks of crunchy, crispy rice that became golden from the fryer and spicy, sour flavours.

In the Isaan region it’s customary to serve spicy dishes with some raw cabbage and a few herby leaves to help offset the chilli. I like to eat this with a couple of sticks of carmelised barbecued pork sticks known as muu ping. The sweetness works really well with the spicy sour flavours of the rice.

In Laos, nam khao is often eaten as an appetiser, with the rice wrapped up in a lettuce leaf cup.

Useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy’  – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Aroy – delicious
Mai Sai Prik Khap/khaa – no chilli (M/F)
Sai tung – take away (put in a bag)
Pai sed – special, as in the large size in at a foodcourt.
Tow rai? – how much. 

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Thai street food : Tom saap (Isaan spicy sour pork rib soup)

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The eastern region of Thailand, known as Isaan (sometimes spelled Isan) is the home of so many great dishes, most of my favourite Thai foods – and a lot of the things you’ll see posted on these pages – come from this area.

In isaan, chilli is a key flavour and this soup is full of flavour and spice.

The ribs are cooked down to create as stock with lemongrass, garlic, chilli, shallots and galangal which is a large part of this dish. After some time of stock development, more ingredients are added including mushrooms, tomatoes, lime leaves and finally dried chillies and lime juice.

Tom saap pork (muu) soup

Tom saap pork (muu) soup

The soup is a thin and translucent.  Watery, but salty, spicy and sour at the same time, with soft flaky meat which falls of the bone and chunky slices of mushrooms. It packs a far bigger punch than it looks like it’s capable of.

Tom sap goes great with other Isaan staples such as sticky rice (khao niao) mince pork salad (laab) papaya salad (som tam or tam mak hung) and grilled chicken (gai yang)

Phrases worth knowing

mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Mai sai prik  Khap – no chilli please (khap is only for males, females use ‘khaa’ )
Sai tung – take away  (literally means put in bag)
Pai sed –  when ordering it means the large size, or special – the difference is often around 10 baht on a street cart .
Tow rai? – how much.
Arroy! – delicious

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Thai street food : Nam prik num (roasted green chilli dip)

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Chiang mai is a great city, full of life and good food at every turn.  There is real food heritage, and dishes you wouldn’t find in western style Thai restaurants. Northern food contains influence from many of the surrounding countries – Loatian, Burmese and Chinese food.

Nam phrik (or phrik) num isn’t a meal as such, but a component of one. Traditionally, in a Thai household a family meal is a selection of lots of different flavours and textures for everybody to eat.
Nam prik num is a flavour of the northern provinces of Thailand and easy to find in Chiang Mai.

A mixture of roasted green chillies, garlic, onion and green aubergines – different from the small round purple ones found in curries – are pounded in a khrok and saak (traditional Thai mortar and pestle) to create a smoky, spicy paste, a salsa-like mix.

Nam Prik Noom eggplant dip - Songkran Festival Gala Dinner at Raming Lodge Hotel
Photo sourced from Flickr via a Creative Commons License. Thanks to Alpha, no modifications made. 

It’s eaten as part of a main meal or can be ordered with sticky rice (khao niao) and raw vegetable sticks for dipping.

In Chiang Mai Khao Soi Jamer Jai is a popular restaurant/food court which sells a number of popular northern dishes and general Thai food. It’s a good place to try the name sake khao soi as well as gaeng hang lay.

Some useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy’  – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Aroy – delicious
Mai sai prik khap/khaa – no chilli (M/F)
Sai tung – take away (put in a bag)
Pai sed – special, as in the large size in at a foodcourt.
Tow rai? – how much.

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Thai street food : Ka na muu krob ( crispy pork with kale)

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Street food opportunities are abundant in Thailand, with carts and pop up street restaurants everywhere. When the cover of night falls, plastic chairs are whipped out in front of closed shops, people drink, eat and socialise on the street.

ka na muu krob is a dish of crispy pork and chinese greens in gravy. It’s pretty easy to find this all over the country in pop up street restaurants and mobile kitchens.

Chunks of deep fried belly pork are added to stir fried Chinese kale in a gravy of garlic, oyster sauce, soy and sugar. Based on the flavours and ingredients presumably this dish has Chinese heritage – the use of Chinese kale, known as gailan in Cantonese and oyster sauce another common Cantonese ingredient.

The sauce is a salty, sweet and heavy on the garlic. It’s thin, almost like a dressing but packed full of flavour with the pork which is fatty, juicy and super crisp.  

Ka Na Moo Krob (Crispy pork belly with Gailan) - Koon Thai

Photo sourced from Flickr using a creative commons license. Thanks, Kirk K – no modificatons made.  

I like this, a lot – It’s a go to dish and, like pad kra pao something that’s a guaranteed pleaser if I’m not sure what I want to eat. It’s also cheap and easily found in street kitchens.
A fried egg (khai dow) on the side is an excellent choice and usually sets you back around 10Baht extra. Fried eggs will be cooked in wok with an excess of very hot oil you should expect to get crispy edges. If you’re having trouble getting a soft yolk you could try asking for khai dow mai suk.

Some useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy’  – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Aroy – delicious
Mai Sai Prik Khap/khaa – no chilli (M/F)
Sai tung – take away (put in a bag)
Pai sed – special, as in the large size in at a foodcourt.
Tow rai? – how much.
Khai dow – fried egg
Khai dow me suk – fried egg ‘soft’ (hopefully with a runny yolk) 

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Thai street food : Muu ping & khao niao (grilled pork skewers & sticky rice)

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Street food opportunities are abundant in Thailand, with carts and pop up street restaurants everywhere. When the cover of night falls, plastic chairs are whipped out in front of closed shops, people drink, eat and socialise on the street.

Like many of my favoured Thai meals, muu ping (grilled pork) & khao niao (sticky rice)  is from the northeastern area of Isaan.
Sticky rice is eaten as a staple in Isaan and across the border into Laos, a handheld carbohydrate, eaten with the right hand to accompany meats and mop up dips and sauces.

The fatty slices of pork meat are marinated and grilled over coal, often on a streetside barbecue. The resulting pork is sweet, juicy and full of flavour – the perfect hand held meal, a stick of delicious glazed pork in one hand and a bag of sticky rice in the other.

A market stall selling grilled meats and fish

A market stall selling grilled meats and fish

Food markets and street vendors sell muu ping & khao niao all over the country, expect to pay from around ten baht per stick – more in Bangkok – and around five baht for a bag of sticky rice.  Cheap AND delicious!

Some useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
Aroy – delicious
Sai tung – take away (put in a bag)
Pai sed – special, as in the large size in at a foodcourt.
Tow rai? – how much

 

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Thai streetfood : Khai Jeow muu (thai style omelette with pork)

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A Thai omelette is a curious thing.

A mix of eggs, pork mince and a splash of soy sauce are poured into boiling hot oil, a ‘thai style’ omelette is different in appearance, ingredients and flavour.

Whereas a European omelette is a slow cooked even texture, the signs of a good Thai omelette are the variations in texture – Crispy dark edges with a light and fluffy middle, it can look more like a poppadum with blistered, glossy skin.

Khai Jeow muu

Khai Jeow muu

Khai jeow is served on top a mound of jasmine rice, with chilli sauce on the side, the thai condiment, sriracha – a tomato sauce, heavy with chilli and garlic – is perfect. If the flavours aren’t quite right for you, use the caddy of flavours on the restaurant table, called kreung prung. It’s not salty, or spicy enough a few spoons of prik nam pla (fish sauce with chilli) will round off the flavours. Aroy!

It’s the Thai comfort food, and although I like it for breakfast it works just as well any time of the day.

Phrases worth knowing

mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Mai sai prik/sriracha/muu Khap – no chilli/chilli sauce/pork please (khap is only for males, females use ‘khaa’
Sai tung – take away  (literally means put in bag)
Pai sed –  when ordering it means the large size, or special – the difference is often around 10 baht on a street cart.
Tow rai? – how much.
Arroy! – delicious  

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Thai Streetfood : Yum Muu Yor (spicy sausage salad)

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Street food opportunities are abundant in Thailand, with carts and pop up street restaurants everywhere. When the cover of night falls, plastic chairs are whipped out in front of closed shops, people drink, eat and socialise on the street.

Thailand, the sausage champion of Asia and there are a few that the reasonably inquisitive traveller will more than likely stumble across. Sai oua, sia krok and muu yor.

Sai oua, a grilled coarse pork sausage made with big explosions of flavour and spice. Sia krok, a pinkish coloured fermented sour pork and rice sausage originating from the Eastern province of Isaan.

Muu yor is also a pork sausage but white in colour, and more rubbery in texture due to the cooking method being steaming as opposed to grilling. It’s got a clean flavour and smooth texture, it carries bigger, hard hitting flavours well.

Yum muu yor: Thai steamed sausage salad

Yum muu yor: Thai steamed sausage salad

Yum, in Thai refers to a spicy salad and moo yor is the main ingredient, to simplify, or anglicise it could be a ‘spicy steamed sausage salad’.

Sliced muu yor is mixed with sliced chilli, lime juice, slithers of onion, garlic, herbs and mixed leaves.

Best served with sticky rice (khao niao) and some smoky barbecued meat.

Some useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
mai phet’ – not spicy
phet nit nawy’ — a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Aroy – delicious
Mai Sai Prik Khap/khaa – no chilli (M/F)
Sai tung – take away (put in a bag)
Pai sed – special, as in the large size in at a foodcourt.
Tow rai? – how much

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Thai street food : Pad kra pao (stir fried with basil)

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Street food opportunities are abundant in Thailand, with carts and pop up street restaurants everywhere. When the cover of night falls, plastic chairs are whipped out in front of closed shops, people drink, eat and socialise on the street.

Pad kra pao is a favourite of mine and something you can always find whether it’s on a street cart, in a food market or in a casual restaurant. It’s really tasty, really quick and seemingly really hard to get wrong because it’s always delicious.

Pad kra pao

Pad kra pao

Photo sourced from Flickr using a creative commons license, thanks to Alpha

The whole basis of this meal is holy basil, mixed with the pungent tastes of garlic, fish sauce and fresh stir fried meat – usually minced pork (muu) or chicken (gai) – with a bit of chilli , oyster & soy sauce.

One of the best things – I think – about this dish is the adaptability of the flavours. By using the caddy of ingredients commonly found on a Thai restaurant table,to suit your own taste. If you’re quite new to Thai food, or street food – You can ask and vendors will serve it not particularly spicy for you and you can adjust as you please. It makes it both an excellent intro to Thai food and a dish you know won’t have you feeling like you’ve set your oesophagus on fire if you’re a little chilli phobic.

This will usually be served with a side of plain white rice, most places will offer a fried egg (khai dow) on the side, which goes really well, but because they will usually be cooked in wok with an excess of very hot oil you should expect to get crispy edges. If you’re a regular eater of this, and have trouble getting a soft yolk you could try asking for khai dow mai suk.

Some useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy’  – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicy
Aroy – delicious
Mai Sai Prik Khap/khaa – no chilli (M/F)
Sai tung – take away (put in a bag)
Pai sed – special, as in the large size in at a foodcourt.
Tow rai? – how much.
Khai dow – fried egg
Khai dow me suk – fried egg ‘soft’ (hopefully with a runny yolk) 

Note- if you’re ordering this dish outside of South-East Asia it’s possible they don’t have access to ‘holy basil’ (krapow) and will substitute for ‘Thai basil’ (horapa) which although is delicious, is not the same. There’s loads of spelling variations including pad kra pao, pad kra pow, ka prao etc.

 

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Thai street food : Som tam (green papaya salad)

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Som tam is a dish, synonymous with Thai food although it has variations all over the region. In Vietnam it’s known as goi du du and tam mak hoong in Laos.

the flavours of somtam

the flavours of somtam

It’s a light but punchy salad that works as a side to a lot of Thai cuisine, or as a lunch in it’s own right – it’s origins are disputed between the South-East Asian countries, but is most well known in Thailand, where the Northeastern province of Isaan is known to be its home, it’s Thai home at the least. The ingredients are a who’s who of spicy, sweet and sour which are all pounded together in a mortar and pestle.
Typical ingredients included shredded green papaya, garlic, tomato, lime juice, green beans, fish sauce, dried shrimp peanuts, palm sugar and chilli. The mortar and pestle are known as khrok and saak respectively. These ingredients are ‘typical’ when I make it and eat it in Thailand, It’s how I like it, but there’s no definitive way to make it, no set recipe- everything can be added or subtracted to taste, variations exist.  

To the unknowing, all the ingredients are added to the khrok progressively to create a coleslaw-esque mixture of delicious, fresh, pungent spicy and sour vegetables. A serving is traditionally known by the same name as the mortar – a khrok.

I understand that heat isn’t of singular importance, but I do think it’s better spicy.

Spice level really depends on the individual, to those a little phobic of chilli – and its irritably active ingredient, capsaicin – Som tam is often something to be wary of, but spicy is a subjective term, and new two chilies are alike –  Trying out a new som tam place can be like playing Russian roulette with your tastebuds, and also a complete disappointment

My favourite way to eat som tam is the Isaan way, with sticky rice (khao niao) and barbecued chicken (kai yang) – Another thing I really enjoyed som tam with was smoked catfish.

A lot of places you’ll be able to find variations such as som tam with rice paddie crabs, which have been smashed up in the khrok, or som tam with salted egg.

Som tam with salted egg

som tam with salted egg

A good way to spot a cart or stall that sells som tam is to look for the large khrok! Expect to pay 20-50Baht per serve.

Phrases worth knowing

mai phet – not spicy
phet nit nawy – a little bit spicy.
Phet mak – very spicyMai Sai Prik/goong/tua li song  Khap – no chilli/shrimp/peanut please (khap is only for males, females use ‘khaa’ )
Sai tung – take away  (literally means put in bag)
Pai sed –  when ordering it means the large size, or special – the difference is often around 10 baht on a street cart .
Tow rai? – how much.
Arroy! – delicious  

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Thai street food : Gaeng hang lay (northern style pork curry)

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Chiang Mai is a great city, full of life and good food at every turn.  There is real food heritage, and dishes you wouldn’t find in western style Thai restaurants. Northern food contains influence from many of the surrounding countries – Laotian, Burmese and Chinese food.

Gaeng hang lay is, like khao soi a bit of a local speciality in the Chiang Mai area. Historically, like a lot of regional delicacies it was more than likely a special occasion meal, due to its long cooking time and use of expensive meat.

Unlike a lot of other Thai curries it doesn’t involve coconut milk, so the stock is topped up with water and cooked down.

So what goes into it? The meat is pork, usually big fatty chunks of pork – in this case it looked like belly pork. With layers of caramelised fat and flesh coated in shining syrupy gravy.

Gaeng hang lay - northern thai style pork curry

Gaeng hang lay – northern thai style pork curry

The gravy is a rich stock cooked out for hours using lots of ginger, cloves of garlic, lots of onion, tamarind paste and sugar. Peanuts are often added to stock too, and it’s not unheard of to find pineapple included. Obviously variations exist and recipes will have been adapted, changed and I’m sure in some cases completely ruined, but it still stands that this is a traditional northern Thai dish, something you’re unlikely to find executed well outside of the country

It goes without saying that, as a traditional celebration dish this is not the healthiest dish, but well worth trying during a visit.

We tried this at khao soi jammer jai, in Chiang mai, which is also home to a pretty banging khao soi – A good place to stop if you want to try a few different things, the nam prik num was tasty and the satay was popular amongst others.

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