When you think of Thai cuisine, chances are it’s the ‘traffic-lights’ trio of Thai curries types that first spring to mind. But beyond the red, yellow, and green curries of Central Thailand, a wealth of authentic Thai flavour is waiting to be explored. Discover the tantalizing tastes of Northern Thailand, including the hub of Chiang Mai and the hills surrounding Chiang Rai with this guide to Northern Thai cuisine.
This idyllic region was once known as the Lanna Kingdom, meaning ‘Land of a Million Rice Fields’, so it should come as no surprise to learn that rice features in almost every meal, including breakfast, snacks, and sweets.
Sticky rice is a popular accompaniment to the typical Northern Thai meal, which traditionally features a range of soups, curries, salads, and dipping sauces, arranged on a small round table called a khantoke. Diners squish the sticky rice into a ball using their right hand, then use it to scoop up the curries and sauces. Rice is also used to make noodles, such as the fresh fermented rice noodles that star in the dish of Khanom Jeen, served with a curry sauce or sour tomato broth and a garnish of bean sprouts and aromatic herbs.
Northern Thailand is lush with evergreen forests and towering teak trees, with rarely a coconut palm in sight, and so the cuisine of this mountainous region reflects that. Instead of the coconut-laden curries of the south, Northern Thai dishes are inspired by the hilly landscape, the cooler climate and the neighbouring countries of Myanmar, Laos, and the Yunnan province of China, favouring sour notes and robust braises over creamy dishes and chilli heat.
The north’s landlocked location also means that fresh seafood was traditionally in scarce supply, so beef, pork, and chicken dominate the menu, along with freshwater fish caught in the region’s rivers. It was also isolated from the southern seasonings of palm sugar and fish sauce.
Now that we’ve whetted your appetite for Northern Thai cuisine, discover 6 incredibly delicious Northern Thai dishes.
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