Thai Food: Northern Region
are 15 provinces in the northern part of Thailand. They
are Phichit, Phetchabun, Kamphaeng Phet, Phitsanulok,
Sukhothai, Tak, Uttaradit, Phayao, Phrae, Nan, Lampang,
Lamphun, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Mae Hong Song,
The region is mountainous with large tracts of forest,
Most hilltribe people live in this region.
More about the Northern Region of Thailand
Because its climate is cooler than
the other parts of the country, vegetables, fruits and
plants are abundantly grown here, including many species
found in the temperate zone.
Most northerners are agriculturists
-- farmers and gardeners. Products of this part include
rice, soyabeans, pepper, garlic, cabbage, tomatoes,
etc. Apart from these, miang (wild tea) and
tea trees are also widely planted. Miang leaves are
usually steamed, tied into bunches and then left to
ferment. The northerner likes to keep miang leaves,
which have been thus treated and with salt added, in
the mouth after a meal to enjoy the taste and to prevent
Fruits are also widely planted in this part, including
lichees, longans, apples, strawberries, etc. There is
a kind of food processing industry which turns pigskin
into a delicacy called nang pong. It is eaten
with khanom chin (Thai vermicelli) or nom
phrik ong (northern style chilli dip). Apart from
this, naem or chin som (pork &
rice fermented in salt) is also produced and is much
in demand by tourists from Bangkok and elsewhere.
Lychee or Litchi (linchi)
The main food of the northern people
is glutinous rice. It is their staple for all the 3
daily meals. It is cooked in the morning and taken to
the field in a bamboo container for lunch, unless the
field is near the house.
Breakfast is very simple, consisting
of glutinous rice, pepper sauces such as nam phrik
ong and nam phrik num, and vegetables
-- fresh or soft-boiled.
For lunch, meat is added, for example,
roast beef, roast salty pork, or nang pong.
A special and meticulously prepared dish of the north
is khanom chin nam ngiao (Thai vermicelli in
Dinner consists of various kinds
of pepper sauces and curry, such as khae curry
(curry made from various vegetables) and nam ning
(cow skin boiled down and made into sheets and then
roasted and eaten with pepper sauce).
The taste of northern food is rather
weak. It is oily because the climate in the north is
rather cool. They don’t like to use sugar, coconut
cream or spice when cooking. However, the northern food
is so tender and well-blended.
The northern people always sit on
the floor when eating. Food is laid on the floor or
in a low table. They use their hands instead of spoons
to pick up food. The North is well known for its style
of eating called khantok. A khantok dinner
usually consists of khae curry, hang le
curry, nam phrik ong and steamed glutionous
The Khantok Dinner
When travelling to the North of Thailand,
do not miss khantok (or khantoke)
dinner. Khantok in the Northern dialect means
a wooden tray used for carrying dishes. Round in shape,
it is made of teak wood, varnished or lacquered with
5 or 6 legs to support it. A Buddhist monk in the North
is credited with the making of the first khantok.
Then its use became popular and a dinner where a khantok
is used is known as a khantok dinner.
In 1962, King Baudouin of Belgium visited Thailand as
a royal guest of King Bhumibol. During his stay at the
Royal Winter Palace (Bhubing Palace), he was entertained
with a khantok dinner accompanied by northern
At a khantok dinner, the
host and the invited guests sit on the floor around
the khantok, each of which serves 5 or 6 persons.
The tradition of wearing northern mohom costume
for a khantok dinner is no longer observed
main dishes on the khantok usually comprise
sticky rice, hang-le curry (Burmese-styled
curry), ho curry, khae
curry, om curry (spicy curry of entrails),
sai-ua (Northern Thai-styled sausage),
lap (minced meat, half cooked and highy
seasoned), man phrik ong (a sauce of
minced pork, tomatoes and chillies) which usually goes
with khaep mu (crispy pork rinds),
and khao soi (noodles in curry soup).
Eating with (the right) hand, they scoop up a handful
of sticky rice from the bamboo basket and dip it into
the curry or chilli sauce and eat it.
After the meal, a dessert called
khao taen, which is made of fried sticky
rice covered with caramel, is served. Also served are
khiyo cigars and fermented tea, which
is chewed to help digestion. The khiyo cigar is made
of shredded tobacco and ground tamarind bark, or khiyo,
which can reduce the strong odour of tobacco.
While dining, Northern classical dances are performed
to entertain guests. One of the most popular is fon
lep or fingenail dance, in which women dancers
are dressed in Northern Thai style, wearing long pointed
brass fingernails. The programme of dances and dishes
may vary from restaurant to restaurant.