There is a reason Thai cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. It is complex, regional, flavorful, spicy and downright delicious. There is an abundance of fruit, vegetables, white rice, jasmine rice, sticky rice, varieties of noodles and curries, shrimp, fish, squid, chicken, chicken feet, chicken blood, liver, beef and pork. Everything is prepared fresh using a variety of herbs like cilantro, lemon grass, Thai basil, ginger, garlic, mint, galangal, tamarind, turmeric, shallots, white and black peppercorn, kaffir lime, and, of course, chilies. Fish sauce is used by the truck load as is shrimp and curry paste.
Northern cuisine tends to have a Burmese influence and differs greatly from southern cuisine. I’ve by no means tried everything there is to try, but I definitely have my favorites and here are some of them.
Som tam is made with shredded papaya (sometimes mango), chili, lime, fish sauce, yardlong beans and tomatoes. It’s wicked hot – my lips have gone numb numerous times – but it’s healthy, light and delicious. On a hot day when your appetite is lacking, som tam is the perfect remedy.
Khao soi literally translates to “cut noodle.” It’s a northern soup dish made with egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, and chicken in a curry-like broth. It’s topped with crispy fried noodles and served piping hot.
Tom yum goong is a spicy, complex, and delicious soup made with more ingredients than I can probably name. The broth is made with fresh stock, lemon grass, kaffir lime, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, chili peppers, and whole shrimp – heads and all. In its finality, the soup a dark, beautiful, steaming bowl of red wonderfulness.
Kaeng khiao wan or green curry is traditionally made with fish, coconut milk, green curry paste, fish sauce, Thai eggplant (aubergine) and palm sugar. The thickness of its sauce depends on the amount of coconut milk used. I wasn’t used to Thai eggplant and it can taste bitter at times, but I love me a piping hot bowl of green curry.
Moo kata literally translates to “pork pan.” Thai moo kata is a buffet style restaurant where groups of people gather to cook their own food, sit, relax, drink and enjoy. It is a family affair that is meant to last for hours. No hurry, no chicken curry! Moo kata is best described as a barbeque buffet. You pick out your raw, fresh ingredients, grab a chunk of pork fat to slab on the top of your table’s metal charcoal cooker and throw your ingredients in for a group cooking experience. There are many things to choose from – pork, fish, clams, shrimp, squid, beef, chicken, stomach, crab, fish balls, mushrooms, cabbage, cilantro, morning glory, baby corn, glass noodles, and a variety of spicy sauces. You throw your meat on the top of the cooker and let the fat sizzle it with flavor. You throw your veg and noodles in the broth. It is delicious and fun! If you’re not a vegan, that is. There is also a Thai dessert section featuring various gelatinous sugary things that I’m not a fan of so I stick to the ice cream. There is also a fruit buffet. And speaking of fruit…stayed tuned for a post that showcases just the fruit which is just as diverse and amazing as the cuisine!