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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Thai street food : Khao soi (Chiang Mai curry noodles)

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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.

Khao soi (sometimes soy) is a coconut based curry historically originating from Burma, served with noodles instead of rice.

The flavours are big hitting, with different ingredients to other, more familiar Thai curry pastes – turmeric, coriander root and curry powder, as well as ground red chillies, galangal, lemongrass, shrimp paste and garlic to create an orangey, brown curry sauce. The curry powder adds a whole new dimension compared to other popular Thai curries. It’s deeper, with a more earthy, spicy flavour.

Khao soi pickled mustard & onions

Khao soi pickled mustard & onions

Two more additions make Khao soi such a welcome variation to other Thai curries – Crispy fried noodles and pickled mustard with slivers of raw red onion.

Khao soi is served with egg noodles swimming in the coconut gravy. On top of that is a nest of deep fried egg noodles adding an extra textural dimension and a lot of crunch.  A side plate of pickled mustard also comes with the curry bowl. Watching locals eat khao soi it’s apparent that there’s no right or wrong way to eat it – some mix everything together and coat the crispy noodles in gravy. Some add the pickled mustard and onions into the gravy, others leave them out completely.

Khao soi crispy noodles

Khao soi crispy noodles

A slice of lime is served on the side to add extra tartness and cut through the fat of the meat and coconut cream.

It’s thought the dish is historically Muslim, as such chicken and beef are commonplace, but pork is also available – The chicken is often served as drumsticks and the meat falls away off the bone.

Khao soi is served all over Chiang Mai and is the local signature meal, a must eat when visiting. There are lots of specialty restaurants that only sell khao soi – After doing some internet research, we visited Khao Soi Samer Jai (twice) which also has stalls selling another local dish, gaeng heng lay as well as lots of other northern dishes. We also ate khao soi from a street cart on Moon Muang soi six near to the wet market which is popular with cookery school tours. It was also quite good, perhaps the broth was slightly thinner.

There is also a Laos khao soi, which apparently is quite different however we’re yet to try it.

expect to pay between 30-50Baht for a bowl.

Some useful words

Neung – one
Sawng – two
Muu/moo – pork
Gai – chicken
Noo-ah – Beef
Tow rai? – how much? 

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Thai street food : Ho mok pla (fish curry mousse)

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Thailand, as a country is a place we’re both pretty familiar with. We know the food relatively well.

It’s a country where we especially like to visit night markets because the variation of food is usually focused on what local people in that area are eating. It’s often the case that we’re sat at a foldaway table, eating something simple, packed full of flavour –unfortunately, almost exclusively out of Styrofoam – and watching the world go by, locals whizzing up to stalls on motorbikes and adding another carrier bag to their collection of treats to take home for the family dinner.

Hor mok is a Thai fish curry which has been enriched with egg to make it custardy when it’s steamed.

Baskets are made from banana leaves and the ingredients are layered. Shredded cabbage and basil sit at the bottom followed by chunks of fresh fish, the curry sauce is added on top of that. According to one recipe I have read, the base of a red curry paste is called kaeng kua which, includes all the usual roots and spices expected of a Thai curry paste – Chillies, galangal, lemongrass, garlic, lime leaves, shrimp paste and coriander. Additional ingredients can be added to transform it into other, more specific curry pastes, a mussaman; for example.  If you want to have your mind blown by all the differences and intricacies of red curry you can read the post here, it’s long but well worth it.

Egg, kaeng kua and some fish are blended together to create the sauce which will create the mousse like texture. – Historically, before technology brought us food processors and blenders this was done by hand, in a clay pot and tradition dictates that you only stir the mixture clockwise. The mixture is steamed and becomes firmer, with a more custardy texture and is topped with coconut cream, julienned red bell pepper and finely chopped kaffir lime leaves.

You should be able to find this at most decent sized food markets throughout the country, expect to pay around 20Baht.  We found this particular one at Ayutthaya night market, which was stocked full of tasty options.

 

some useful phrases

Tow rai? – How much? 

Neung / sawng ho mok pla khrap (male) kha (female)   – One/ two ho mok pla. 

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Malay street food : Curry laksa (curried chicken noodle soup)

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Laksa, the soup of the gods.

I’ve previously written about asam laksa and how depending on where you are in Malaysia, the word ‘laksa’ means different things – in Kuala Lumpur, for example just asking for laksa will get you a curry soup, but if you asked for the same in Pinang, you would get an asam laksa.

Curry laksa is characterised by its thick, rich, spicy curry soup broth. The soup is created by mixing worm-like laksa noodles, beansprouts (known as taugeh, in Malaysia) with the unctuous, coconut milk heavy chicken curry which will have been bubbling away and developing flavour for many hours before you sit down for lunch. The curry base showcases chicken on the bone and blood cockles; a rich shellfish which actually contains haemoglobin and has a strong taste. They are quite different from the pickled cockles available from European fishmongers.

Penangs version, curry mee will usually have a thinner vermicelli type noodle called bee hoon, or rice vermicelli.

For some reason, I never took pictures of Curry laksa, so thanks to Mylifestory & LWYang via creative commons licensing. 

Additionally, boiled egg, prawn and bean curd or tofu puffs are added with one last chilli kick added  – a spoonful of fresh sambal is thrown in for good measure.

Curry laksa is the sort of big, bold dinner that includes huge flavours of Malaysia and also the sort of hearty concoction you wished you could get hold of on a cold winters afternoon back in Europe. It’s soup and curry all in one!

Satu – One
Dua – Two
Tiga – Three
Hello  – Hello
Apa kabar – are you well/ how are you?
salamat pagi – good morning
Salamt tingal – goodbye
sila (see luh) – please
Terima kasih –  Thank you
berapa harga – how much?
tidak pedas – no chilli
bungkus – Take away
Tidak – No
Ya – yes
Maaf – sorry

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