The Most Popular Dishes From Northern Thailand

From spicy salads to sour curries, Northern Thailand has its own distinctive cuisine
From spicy salads to sour curries, Northern Thailand has its own distinctive cuisine | © Chisanu LIENGPAN / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Iona Proebst
3 September 2021

Some of Thailand’s most delicious food hails from the north. Northern Thai food, also known as Lanna food, is influenced by Yuannanese, Shan and Burmese cuisines and is characterized by salty and sour flavours. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular Northern Thai dishes for you to try.

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Khao Niaw (sticky rice)

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Although not technically a dish, khao niaw needed to make the cut, as in Thailand no dish is considered complete without rice. In Northern Thailand, steamed sticky rice is preferred to boiled jasmine rice and is ideal for mopping up curries and spicy local dips.

Naam Phrik Ong (chilli dip)

© Thanayu Jongwattanasilkul / Alamy Stock Photo

Northern Thailand is renowned for its chilli dips. Naam phrik ong remains one of the favourites with pork, tomatoes and Northern Thai additions of fermented shrimp and soy beans. Naam phrik ong is served with steamed vegetables and, you guessed it, sticky rice.

Khao Soi (creamy coconut curry noodle soup)

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Arguably the quintessential Northern Thai dish, khao soi is a Burmese-inspired coconut curry noodle soup. Available in chicken, beef, pork or vegetarian options, this mouthwatering dish has a rich coconut curry base and is garnished with deep-fried crispy egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime and ground chillies fried in oil. Khao soi should be on every travellers’ must-eat list in Northern Thailand.

Sai Oua (Northern Thai sausage)

© Thanapol Kuptanisakorn / Alamy Stock Photo

Sai oua, also known as Chiang Mai sausage, is a particularly famous Northern Thai speciality. This delicious spiced pork sausage is infused with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, chillies and galangal. You can find sai oua in many local street-side stalls. Warning – you may become addicted!

Laab (spicy salad)

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Laab is a northeastern-style salad with meat or mushroom and mint which originates in the northeastern province of Isan. Laab comes in a variety of styles including chicken, pork and mushroom. It is not recommended for those who can’t handle spice as it tends to come with a kick.

Miang Kham (leaf wrapped bites)

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Miang kham is the perfect way to sample the flavours of Northern Thailand. This cha plu leaf snack is customisable with sweet, sour, salty and hot flavours to suit your tastebuds. Ingredients usually consist of shallots, chillies, ginger, peanut, coconut and lime, culminating in the perfect Northern Thai taste sensation.

Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiao (northern noodles)

Fresh rice noodles mixed with spicy tomato broth form khanom jeen nam ngiao. Optional additions are minced pork balls or coagulated pigs blood. Necessary condiments include lime, bean sprouts, pickled cabbage and deep-fried pork skin (kap moo).

Kaeng Hang Lei (northern pork curry)

© Simon Reddy / Alamy Stock Photo

Kaeng hang lei is mild on the spice spectrum and is highlighted by tender pork pieces and fruity tomato. This Burmese-infused dish includes a variety of spices including turmeric, tamarind, ginger and garlic.

Kaeng Khanun (unripe jackfruit curry)

This unique spin on a tom yum is both hot and sour. The flavours of unripe jackfruit, cherry tomatoes and bits of pork make kaeng khanun well worth a try. While not as popular as khao soi or some of the other curry dishes, kaeng khanun offers a different flavour experience.

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