Thailand is a popular travel destination, famous for its beaches and temples. The cuisine is also a highlight of this southeast Asian country. While many travelers are familiar with Pad Thai and Mango Sticky Rice, the northern region of Thailand has unique dishes that should be on your list to try when visiting.
Travelers heading to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, or Pai will have an enriching experience when taking a cooking class or food tour and sampling one (or all) of these local recipes.
9 Miang Kham
Miang Kham is a snack food from Laos and Northern Thailand. It essentially means “one bite wrap” and is a salad wrap, made from wrapping ingredients inside a wild piper leaf. Ingredients inside the leaf include lime, chilies, peanuts, dried shrimp, and coconut. The lime is tart while the peanuts and coconut offset this tang with some sweet flavors.
Rather than a main course dish, Miang Kham is more of an hors d’oeuvre, thanks to its compact size. It’s a popular choice for sharing among friends when out to dinner or at a party.
8 Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiao
Nam Ngiao is a noodle soup or curry dish that is local to Northern Thailand, China’s Yunnan province, and the Tai Yai people of Myanmar. It’s a hearty, warm meal that consists of thin vermicelli noodles in spicy and sour pork bone broth. The salty curry sauce has a tomato flavor. The dish also typically contains minced pork, vegetables, and pickled mustard.
Krabong is an appetizer or snack food dish that’s great for sharing in a social setting. It’s local to the Northern Thai region battered, fried pumpkin with a dipping sauce. The pumpkin can be swapped for other foods like squash, banana flowers, or green papayas, depending on the chef’s preference.
Other ingredients include red curry paste, coconut (grated), roasted peanuts, vinegar, and rice flour.
6 Gaeng Hor
Gaeng Hor is Northern mixed curry (Hor means combination). Although it has curry in the name, Gaeng Hor is actually a stir fry dish made from leftovers. Traditionally, the meal was made from leftovers at religious ceremonies, but there are versions of the recipe that don’t require leftovers to replicate. The beauty of Gaeng Hor is you can make the meal by mixing several leftover dishes you have sitting in your fridge.
The dish traditionally should include vermicelli, lime leaf galanga, lemongrass, lemon leaves, and red eggplant.
5 Kaeng Haeng Le
Kaeng Haeng Le (sometimes spelled Lay or Lai) is a Northern Thai and Burmese curry dish. The curry consists of pork belly and various spices that are commonly used in the food in this region. Some of these include chilies, shallots, peanuts, tamarind, and ginger.
This is one of the most well-known dishes in Northern Thailand and is a must-try when visiting this region! Balance the spiciness of the dish with a refreshing Thai iced tea.
4 Yum Jin Gai
Yum Jin Gai is a delicious lemongrass soup dish specific to the Northern region of Thailand. Most travelers are familiar with Tom Yum soup, a signature meal in Thailand. When traveling to Chiang Mai or other northern cities in the country, branch out and give Yum Jin Gai a taste instead!
The spicy soup contains toast dried chile, coriander, star anise, cinnamon, black pepper, long pepper, and cloves. It’s like a steamy hot chicken soup with the nuanced flavors of Thai dishes, such as lemongrass.
3 Larb Muang Moo
Larb is a type of Northern Thai and Lao meat salad. The salad is seasoned with fresh herbs, fish sauce, and chili paste. Larb Muang Moo has a complex flavor profile thanks to the mix of dried spices, including cardamom and cloves. The spices are toasted in a skillet and then added to the stir-fried meat to create a delicious blend that will make your taste buds dance.
The minced meat in this salad is pork combined with fat, some chewy pieces of the intestine, liver, and kidneys.
2 Sai Ua
Sai Ua can be described as a northern Thai sausage. This sausage offers a burst of flavor because the pork is mixed with curry paste. It’s then grilled and served with vegetables and sticky rice.
Other ingredients that contribute to the incredible scent of the Sai Ua dish include soy sauce, fresh turmeric, kaffir lime leaves, chopped lemongrass, dried chilies, shrimp paste, coriander, and green onions.
1 Khao Soi
Perhaps Northern Thailand’s most well-known and famous dish is Khao Soi, or Khao Soi Gai. When translated, the term means “cut rice”, however, the dish contains no rice at all. It’s possible the name comes from the Burmese version of the dish, called Khao Swè. Khao Soi is popular in Northern Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.
The dish is a rich, coconut curry soup with noodles and either chicken or beef. It’s a hearty meal with plenty of flavors and various textures. Khao Soi is topped with crispy egg noodles for a delightful crunch that offsets the creamy broth and soft noodles.