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10 Must-Try Northern Thailand Foods

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Paradoxically (and unfortunately), it can be quite difficult to find authentic local food in northern Thailand.

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Northern Thailand foods are 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 sticky rice, known in the local dialect as kôw nêung. Coconut milk rarely makes its way into the northern kitchen. Northern Thai cuisine is probably the most seasonal and least spicy in Thailand, 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.

1. Khao soi. Northern Thailand’s version of khao soi (which is made differently in neighboring Laos and Myanmar) is an addictive dish of soft egg noodles and (traditionally) chicken leg in a creamy yellow curry, garnished with a nest of deep-fried crispy noodles.

2. Naam phrik ong. This punchy dip of blended pork, tomatoes, chili, and fermented shrimp and soybeans is usually served with steamed veggies and sticky rice.

3. Laab muu khua. Originating from Thailand’s northwestern Isaan province, this is a spicy “salad” of roughly chopped pork or chicken, mixed with lemongrass, chili, lime juice, fish sauce, dried spices, and cilantro.

4. Gaang hang lay. Usually made with slow-cooked melt-in-the-mouth pork belly, this fruity curry is loaded with ginger, tamarind, and turmeric but usually proves less spicy than better-known Northern Thailand curries.

5. Miang kham. Thailand’s variation on tacos are betel leaf–wrapped bites of varying flavor, be they sweet, spicy, sour, or salty.

6. Jin tup. Beef that’s really been put through its paces, jin dup is marinaded, grilled, and then extensively tenderized before being served with a spicy dip.

7. Kanom jeen nam ngiao. This Northern Thailand fresh and eclectic rice noodle dish traditionally consists of pig blood curd and pork balls in a light tomato broth, topped with bean sprouts and pork crackling.

8. Gaang khanun. Perhaps the least famous of all Thai curries, this is more of a hot-and-sour soup of pork chunks, unripe jackfruit, and cherry tomatoes.

9. Khao kan jin. This is a satisfying patty of minced pork, pork blood, and long-grain rice, steamed in a banana leaf and garnished with garlic oil.

10. Sai oua is a northern Thai sausage made from minced pork mixed with a variety of ingredients which makes it packed with flavour, and gives it a unique scent.