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.
Northern Thailand is renowned for its chili 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 on is served with steamed vegetables and, you guessed it, sticky rice.
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, boiled egg noodles and is garnished with deep-fried crispy egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime and ground chilies fried in oil. Khao soi should be on every travellers’ ‘must eat’ list in northern Thailand.
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, chilies and galangal. You can find Sai oua in many local street side stalls. Warning – you may become addicted!
Laab is a northeastern-style salad with meat or mushroom and mint which originates in the northeastern province of Isaan. 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 is the perfect way to sample the flavours of northern Thailand. This Cha Plu leaf snack is customizable with sweet, sour, salty and hot flavours to suit your tastebuds. Ingredients usually consist of shallot onion, chilies, ginger, peanut, coconut and lime bits, culminating in the perfect northern Thai taste sensation.
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 is mild on the spicy 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.
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.