Healthy Local Food to Try in Northern Thailand

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“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”, Hippocratis, an ancient Greek physician once said over 2,000 years ago.

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However, we have come so far in producing and processing food that it is harder and harder to be sure what we are eating is medicinal or hazardous to our health.

I believe that many types of food products today contain certain amount of chemical substance during their production. There are growing concerns of what these chemicals will do to our body. The best advice so far is to avoid processed food as much as possible. Basically, you have to know what you eat.

In Thailand, especially Bangkok, the crave for healthy food is growing steadily. Vegetables labelled as organic are popular even though the price is about 20% higher than those without the label. But…does anyone know that farmers who live in rural areas eat more organically than city dwellers? This is because many rural households grow their own vegetables around their houses or fetch the fish from a canal or a waterway in their community.

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Every time I stay at my house in Chiang Rai, I will not miss having typical northern food.  The Thai northerner like to put various kinds of herbs in their food.  The spicy curry noodle or ‘Khao Soi’  is, for example, a simple dish that you can find almost everywhere in northern Thailand. Its curry paste consists of red chili, ginger, shallot and some other herbs. It is then mixed in coconut milk with chicken or beef and egg noodles. It is usually eaten with a variety vegetables and herbs such as cabbage pickle, lime, bean sprouts, dry chilli and red onion.

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Another well known northern dish is “Khanom Chin Naam Ngiew”, which is similar to Khao Soi for the chili paste ingredient, but without the coconut milk. The dish’s significant ingredient is dried flowers from the ‘Red Cotton Tree’, called ‘Ngiew’ in Thai.

Another northern food one should try when going to northern Thailand, especially Chiang Mai, is the spicy northern style sausage called ‘Sai Auo’.  This local sausage is stuffed with mostly herbs such as chopped lemon grass, sliced kaffir lime leaves, chilli, garlic, shallots, etc. Of course, minced pork or beef is added as protein source.

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There are other kinds of northern dishes that are nutritious and delicious fascinating but the three dishes mentioned above should not be missed when you visit Thailand’s northern region.