Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thong

Here's the final northern themed post in this series I'll do. I look back at what I've got and realize if I want to quickly tackle any more regional food, I'll need more recommendations, and or more contacts.

Here's something I could have used more of while I was up north. A simple restaurant review.

The place: Thong. A great northern restaurant in Chiang Mai, set in an old Thai house. It's a pretty simple looking place with great food. Here's what we ate.

We started with Gaeng Som (sour curry).

Gaeng Som is a favorite of mine, but this one was different. It was more sour and more complex than usual. It was and is the best I've ever had.

Next we had a new dish. Tamarind shoot salad.

It was comprised of tamarind shoots, onions, tomatoes, pork, and something else I'm sure. It had a rich, complex, and spicy flavor. It was one of those dishes that didn't give me an initial reaction because I had to pause and figure just what was going on in my mouth. Yes, this was something new. Just what I was looking for. But really: I'm not really sure how it was made. Maybe you can help me...

We rounded out the meal with fried silk worms.

These were a recommended dish so I thought what the hell. I'd never had them and this seemed like a good place to try them. My general impression of them is what I think of most insects. Mostly crisp, as much flavor as sauce you put on. A great drinking snack perhaps, but nothing more. I find their texture a bit like breakfast cereal, only savory. All in all, a great food source really.

Thong Restaurant
Nimanhemin Rd. Soi 13
Chiang Mai
I forgot to get a card, thus no number. Don't worry, you'll find it.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Laap Nua (Daeng Daeng!)

Somewhere on Highway 108 between Mae Sariang and Hot, lunch time arrived and we were presented with three choices: noodles, generic stir fry, or maybe som tam and grilled meat. We chose the latter. We rolled up and I asked if there was any Som Tam. No dice. I was informed there was in fact laap (a meat "salad"), which I quickly ordered with pork. All they had was beef. No problem. The next question took me by suprise. "Sook or daeng daeng?" E, may partner in crime, answered "daeng daeng" to my suprise. I concurred. At the table awaiting our food, I expressed my suprise that she would willingly order what I though would be a plate of raw and bloody beef. We were not let down.

I don't have many food aversions and I'm open to eat just about anything. Although I approached this beast with an open mind, I did have my doubts. I reminded myself that rare beef tends to be better than the cooked version, so the texture might be pleasing. One bite later I had a new least favorite dish. As I had thought, the texture wasn't bad at all, but that wasn't really the problem. Whatever they seasoned this here beauty with was overwhelmingly bitter. I think it was some kind of green, but I can't really be sure. The serving was looking bigger by the moment. Luckiily we were hungry, and we had ordered some more food.

The good news was that their nam tok moo (Namtok: waterfall. moo: pork) was excellent. Nam tok, or waterfall, refers to the dish being prepared with the drippings that are caught during the grilling process. I don't know if every establishment does this anymore. Nam Tok is seasoned with lime, chili, onions, rice, fish sauce, cilantro, and other herbs.

We rounded out the meal with sticky rice and this here generous plate of greens. Lovely.

I was in fact able to finish all of the laap nua. Here's a shot that shows just how bloody it was.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Noodles Noodles Noodles

I have long bragged to friends and family the ease at which I find varied and delicious food in this here kingdom. I rarely run into trouble finding something I want to eat. I ran into a few problems in the north of Thailand.

After leaving Samoeng, we headed further into the mountains, and further from any large population centers. We we would eventually head toward Pai, Mae Hong Son, and Mae Sariang, but we chose some long and very sparsely populated detours. It wasn't about the cities and destinations. It was all about getting out into the countryside. It was somewhere between Bo Kaew and Ban Wat Chan I realized my attempt to do some posts about food in the north was failing.

I learned a very simple lesson about the acquisition of food on this particular leg of the journey: the food is where the people are. Genius. Luckily, there are almost always noodles.


Noodles for breakfast, lunch, and if you're lucky, dinner. Don't let me fool you. We did manage to find rice meals in real towns, but many places out in the sticks could only be relied upon for noodles and water. It became amusing trying to convince a noodle seller to do something else with their noodles besides straight in the broth. We got desperate for a little variety. Here's an example conversation with a noodle seller:
"What is there?"
"I have noodles."
"Do you have any rice?"
"No. I have noodles."
"Can you fry the noodles?"
"Errr."
"Ok, never mind. Make me your finest!"
And on it went. On occasion we saw a wok present, but it was no good.

Communication became difficult at times as often many people's Thai wasn't much better than ours. On the bright side, there was always something to fill our stomachs. For that I was grateful. Also, I always do appreciate how at the less generic noodle stands (often outside of Bangkok) there are often a lot of veggies added to the bowl or you are given a bowl of veggies to add at your discretion. It makes it more of meal that way.

More to come.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On the Way

While riding along the country roads in Thailand, I take great pleasure in finding snacks and meals along the way. From my experience, there is always something to eat. It may not always be what you want, but it is usually what you need.

Cycling can be hard work. It burns a lot of calories. It is rather easy to eat several meals in a day. Then again, it all depends what you happen across. An hour or so out of Chiang Mai we stopped for another lunch of Khao Soi. This wasn't enough for me so I ordered a yam naem, which is fermented pork salad (if you can call a dish made almost entirely of meat a salad!). Very salty, very spicy, very tasty. I was too hungry to take photos. A little while later, it was time to eat again. This time there was a lovely little market selling all kinds of things. I quickly gravitated toward a meat heavy sausage stand.

It looked like the whole thing could fall over at any minute.

I've talked about this style of sausage before. It's really got more rice in it than meat.

This wasn't going to be enough, so next we set our sights on a lovely dessert stand.

This here woman sold many flavors of jello like cubes. At a baht a piece, it was hard not to buy too many.

Many hours later we coasted into Samoeng where I spotted avocados for sale. As the woman sold it to me she cut it open. I dug right in. About a minute later to my embarrassment she procured a plastic spoon. Oh well. Not a bad way to end a ride.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Day of Eating in Chiang Mai

This here is the first of several posts I'm going to do about a just completed bicycle trip in Northern Thailand. As I didn't have any contacts up there and was travelling by bicycle, I was limited by the limited information I had, the distances I could travel, and the information I could get from people, blogs and publications along the way. I tried to follow my nose. Here are some of the results:

Immediately after arriving at our guesthouse in Chiang Mai, I informed the owner that I wanted to eat, and before I could describe for him my food interests, he told me that I had to eat at Khao Soi Lam Duan for their famous Khao Soi. So we did.

The Khao Soi was a rich and satisfying.

The clever waiter could see our near delirious state and convinced us to order more food. We ended up with a plate of Satay that was responsible for putting us over the edge. We waddled out bursting at the seams.


The day was young so after we recovered from brunch we decided to cycle to Huay Teung Thao Reservoir. It's an excellent place to pass an afternoon with friends, food, and maybe a few drinks. Their culinary offerings are of a standard variety except for one little peculiarity. Kung Ten: Live freshwater shrimp.

Before you think that there is something off putting about all of this, just think of it as sushi, but a little earlier along the preparation process. Or: it certainly isn't rotten or unfresh. It's alive for god sakes! Do be careful, as they will bite your tongue! Whatever your take on this, mine is that they are delicious. This little delicacy is seasoned with lime, lemongrass, shallots, and chili. If this little description isn't enough for you, here's a little video of the affair. A first for this here blog. enjoy!


After returning from a relaxing afternoon at the reservoir it was getting on near dinner time and we had a problem: where to eat. As I had mentioned above, we lacked a good source of information about where to eat. I checked the always informative Realthai and Eatingasia, and the latter provided us with a good suggestion, but when your only transportation is a bicycle, searching the distant, dark sois, and quiet roads after dark seems like less than a brilliant idea. Instead we played it safe and ventured into the moat to the often recommended Heuan Phen, a restaurant serving northern Thai food to nary a thai person.

It's a really an attractive place serving northern specialties at very very reasonable prices. But how's the food? I read in a local publication that they serve two versions of their food: the mild version for the tourists, and the real version for Thai people. I'm sure they had leftovers of the latter on this night. We certainly had the former.

This here crab naam phrik was tasty, but rather bland. This is unfortunate because I could tell that the food itself was made with fresh and good ingredients. It simply lacked the intense flavor I was hoping for. We also ordered some other dishes that suffered a similar fate.