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Thai Isan Food and Spice Dishes

The traditional food for the Isan area is Spicy. Very Spicy! So spicy that some of us have tears when we eat it. But most Thai people like it!

What are the Different Types of Isan Food?

We do not use coconut milk which gives less spicy dishes.

Thais like spice, and use many different Thai herbs to get the different flavours.

But believe me, they are all spicy.

Two things are very different with Isan cooking.

They use ‘sticky’ rice, which we can pick up with finger and thumb, and something very different – Slatternly (Pla ra). This is used with every kind of food, and is not used anywhere else in Thailand.

Isan food is not cooked with coconut milk, and it is not cooked too much. This means that the vegetables are ‘crunchy’ and full of original taste.

Most people, who talk about Isan food, will know that Papaya Salad (Som Tum), Grilled Chicken (Kai Yang) and Sticky Rice (Khao Niao) are the most popular and widely used foods of Isan.

There are many other foods used, such as Bamboo Shoots Curry (Gang Nor Mai), Minced Beef (Lab Nuea), and Isan Sausage (Sai Crok Isan).

Grilled Sticky Rice from Isan FoodBut, some dishes are only available in the summer, such as ant eggs and Meliantha sauvis.

It is a Thai vegetable gathered from the young shoots of the ‘Pak Wan’ tree in the summer months. This is used in cooking some dishes in the summer only.

Thai Isan Seasonal Foods

For the winter, we use Sticky rice a lot, but as a pressed pattie cake, which we use with a fried egg on top.

The Rice Cake Pattie is made by grilling the sticky rice a little bit, then an egg is put on top, then the whole thing is grilled again until the egg is right.

Isan food is available in all parts of Thailand, and is sold as street food, or at local markets and supermarkets, because Isan people work and live all over Thailand, where they have had to move to find work.

In Bangkok for instance, you will find many street food vendors that only sell Isan style food.

In Isan villages, many families cook three times each day, because they live at home and do not normally go out for food. If they don’t cook, they can easily buy food from street and market vendors in the village.

Isan food is everywhere and easy to get. Farm workers will take cooked food to their place of work, and re-heat it at the farm before eating. Most of the basic Isan food is the same all the year round.

Isan food is for everyone, not just for the people of the North East. Thais from all over the country like Isan food. Family cooking for friends and visitors is ok, because they will cook different dishes not too spicy – but still Isan!

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