Think Thai Food – North-Eastern (Isaan) Specialities

By | May 28, 2013

Being married to an exceptionally good cook, who also originates from North-Eastern(Isaan) Thailand, allows me to sample the very best Culinery Delights that this province has to offer.

Dishes such as Som Tam(Papaya Salad) and Larb Moo(Spicy Pork Salad) are now well known throughout both Thailand and the world, but there are many other North-East(Isaan) speciality dishes!.

This is not an exhaustive list, and I will keep adding to them as I discover more over the following months.

Som Tam - Papaya Salad


Som Tam(Papaya Salad)

The Thai words “Som Tam” literally means’sour pounded’, this is a very popular spicy & sour salad, that is an exceptional addition to an Isaan BBQ Chicken & sticky rice meal !!.


1 medium dark green papaya

6 garlic cloves (kratiem)

6 green/red Thai chillies (prik khee noo)

2 ripe tomatoes – cut into wedges

1/2 cup long thin green beans – chopped into 1″(2.5cm) lengths

2 tablespoons anchovy sauce

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

2 fl oz(60ml) lime juice or tamarind juice (ma-kaam piag)

2 Tablespoons small dried shrimps

1/4 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts


* Peel the papaya and rinse with running water to remove the acid. Remove the seeds and shred the papaya with a grater & set aside.

* Place the garlic cloves and the chilies in a mortar and mash with a pestle until crushed into chunks.

* Place the papaya and the remaining ingredients in the mortar and gently combine all ingredients by mixing with the pestle and a spoon.

* Serve cold.

This dish is really simple to make, many people make different variations including adding Pla Ra(fermented fish), crab & thinly sliced carrot.

Its a dish that is easily adapted to personal tastes, go on, give it a try !

Larb Moo - Spicy Pork Salad


Larb Moo(Spicy Pork Salad)

A personal favourite of mine, eaten with sticky rice, using just your fingers !.

Ingredients(serves two)

350 grams coarsely ground pork

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons sticky rice powder – roasted

3 tablespoons spring onion – finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh coriander – coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon dried red chilli – coarsely ground

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup shallots – coarsely chopped

1 cup chicken stock

2 wedges of green cabbage

5 long thin green beans – trimmed & halved crosswise


* Heat the water in a small saucepan.

* Add ground pork and cook for 2 minutes, tossing often to breakdown the meat.

* When cooked, remove the pan from the heat and drain the water.

* Transfer the cooked pork to a medium bowl.

* Add the shallots, spring onion, coriander, and most of the mint, reserving a few leaves for a garnish.

* Add the lime juice, fish sauce, rice powder, chillie, and sugar. Then stir to combine everything well.

* Before serving, garnish the serving dish with the cabbage, green bean, and mint.

* Isaan people love to eat this dish with sticky rice and fresh vegetables.


Gai Yang - Isaan Barbecued Chicken


Gai Yaang (Barbecued Chicken)

This is not your common or garden BBQ chicken, this is chicken with attitude !!,delicious with Som Tam(Papaya Salad) & sticky rice.


1 large chicken

2 teaspoon white sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon lemon grass – minced

4 tablespoons coconut milk

1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce


* Cut chicken in half with sharp cleaver.

* Mix all ingredients except chicken in deep mixing bowl.

* Place chicken in bowl with other ingredients and turn until completely coated.

* Let chicken marinate in sauce for at least 4 hours.

* Place chicken on hot grill. Baste with remainder of sauce from bowl when cooking.

* Turn every 10 to 15 minutes. Grill until done.


Kao Pad Isaan - Isaan Style Fried Rice


Kao Pad Esan(Isaan Style Fried Rice)

Although this dish on its own is not very spicy,we would normally “pep-it up” with a sauce made from flaked dried chillies, gives it a nice bite !.

Ingredients(serves two)

200 grms Jasmine fragranced rice – cooked

30 grms Pork Mince

30 grms Chicken Mince

10 grms Fresh Coriander Leaves – chopped

10 grms Spring Onions – sliced

10 grms Fresh Mint Leaves – chopped

4 Bird Chillies – chopped into small pieces

1 Teaspoon Flaked Chillies

2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice

4 Tablespoons Fish Sauce

1 Tablespoon Pounded Toasted Rice

1 Tablespoon Oil


* Into a frying pan, mix the pork and chicken mince, add the fish sauce, bird chillies, flaked chilli, lemon juice, toasted rice and oil altogether.

* Fry the mixture in a medium heat until the meat is cooked.

* Add the Jasmine rice into the pan and stir fry it for a few minutes, mixing as you fry. The aim is to simply warm through the rice.

* Add the chopped coriander leaves, sliced spring onions, and mint and mix the ingredients together.

* Serve immediately.

Ideal fresh vegetables to accompany the dish:lettuce,lemon,cucumber,long thin green beans,tomato & egg plant(aubergine).


Soop Naw Mai


Soop Naw Mai(Bamboo Shoot Salad)

This is a traditional Isaan dish known in the west as Bamboo Shoot Salad,it’s not as popular as Som Tam(papaya salad) but still tastes great served with sticky rice !.

Ingredients(serves two)

2 tablespoons uncooked sticky rice – toasted

1/2 a lime

1 teaspoon dried chillies powder – ground

2 green onion – sliced

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1/2 bottle bamboo shoots


* The bamboo shoots for this dish are bought in a bottle or jar showing bamboo shoots in/with “bai yanang” leaves.

* The shoots are partially shredded. But you will need to shred it all the way through to produce independent strands.

* Boil the shredded bamboo shoots in water or its juice. Remove from heat after boiling.

* Add sliced green onion, fish sauce, ground dried chillie powder, lime juice and half of ground toasted rice.

* Mix well and place on a serving plate. Sprinkle the rest of the ground toasted rice on top.

* Add additional chillie powder, if you like it hot. If you find that you overseason the dish, add more ground toasted rice to tone down the seasonings.

Addendum when you add the fish sauce, the dish might develop quite a strong smell, don’t worry about it,the smell is no reflection of the taste!.