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Thai Food : Northern Region

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Thai Food: Northern Region

Northern Style FoodThere 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.

Northern Style Food

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 bad breath.

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 Thai Fruit
Lychee or Litchi (linchi)
Longan Thai Fruit
Longan (lamyai)

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 spicy soup).

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 rice.

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 folk dances.

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 today.

The 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.

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