Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Public Organization)

10 Sukhothai - Kamphaeng Phet Traditional Dishes: An Original Recipe for Flavorsome Deliciousness

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          Savor traditional savory and sweet dishes from Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet. Their original tastes signify local cultures and indigenous knowledge in transforming ordinary ingredients into unique flavorful dishes that can’t be found anywhere else.

          Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet, century-long neighboring provinces, have their histories shared and connected. Kamphaeng Phet was once one of Sukhothai’s fortress towns. With attached borders, people living in Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet are like brothers and sisters. The cultures and traditions of these two adjacent towns have been molded to become similar, especially their cuisines. Local ingredients have been concocted into numerous delicious menus that impress locals and visitors alike.  Let’s get to know 10 Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet traditional dishes that you should not miss.

1. Sukhothai Noodle

          Umami soup, aromatic ingredients, and chewy noodles. These are the reasons why this Sukhothai’s local noodle dish has been praised by food connoisseurs. It is also the only noodle dish in Thailand with long beans.

          Sukhothai noodle is one kind of spicy or tom yum noodle and usually made with small rice noodles. To make Sukhothai noodle is easy. Cook noodles in hot boiling water until soft and chewy. Put the cooked noodles in a bowl followed by boiled thin sliced long beans. Then, add sugar, fish sauce, roasted peanuts, chili powder, and sliced grilled pork. In another bowl, mix some cooked minced pork, fried garlic, cilantro and spring onions with the soup and pour it on to the bowl with noodles. Last but not least, squeeze some limes for a little zest and enjoy. This noodle bowl is packed with flavors – savory, sweet, sour, and spicy. Yum!

          For the noodles without soup, it will be made slightly differently. First, cook the rice noodles and long beans and put them in a bowl. Mix in a bit of fried garlic and add dried cabbage leaves, cilantro, spring onions, roasted peanuts, palm sugar, fish sauce, chili powder, sliced grilled pork, and fried wontons. Squeeze some limes and mix well. The noodles without soup will give richer tastes and can be paper-wrapped for eating later.

2. Khao Poep or Phra Ruang Noodle (Steamed Rice Noodle with Vegetable Filling)

          Khao Poep is a traditional dish inspired by Khao Kab (sun-dried rice noodles) and Khao Griep Pak Mor (steamed rice dumplings with assorted fillings). This is an interesting local noodle dish that cannot be found in other provinces.

          Making Khao Poep is also fun. Firstly, fill a clay pot with water and cover the pot tightly with a straining cloth. Put the pot on a stove and bring water to a boil. In the meantime, mix together glutinous rice flour, rice flour and water. Once the water is boiled, pour one ladle of the flour mixture on to the straining cloth and spread the mixture out into a thin circle. Close the lid for 15 seconds and then add boiled glass noodles, water spinach, shredded cabbage, and bean sprouts. Close the lid again for 30 – 40 seconds for the vegetables to be cooked. Then, use a stick to roll up the rice noodle to keep the filling inside.

          Next, put the rice noodle rolls in a bowl and top with a steamed egg. Add fried garlic, crispy pork belly, minced pork, cilantro, and spring onions. Pour a hot pork broth over the rice noodle rolls and season it as you like. With just a few ingredients, Khao Poep can be easily made and eaten at anytime in a day. It can also turn into a joyful activity for all family members.

3. Chicken Solay
          A signature dish of Tai Khrang ethnic group in Si Satchanalai district. Chicken solay is a traditional menu made of easy-to-find ingredients which are chicken and banana midrib. Originally, the main ingredient of this menu is merely chicken and it is often made to serve during a gathering of neighbors to grow and harvest rice. Since the amount of chicken is not enough to serve a large number of people during the gathering, the banana midribs are chopped and mixed with the chicken, turning it into a unique dish with soft and crunchy textures.

          It takes some cooking skills to make delicious chicken solay. The meat comes from young rooster meat, finely chopped. If there is any offal, it will be chopped and mixed with the chicken as well. The banana midribs will have to be peeled, cleaned, and finely chopped. After that, stir-fry the chicken and banana midribs until cooked. Season with larb seasonings namely ground roasted rice, chili powder, sugar, fish sauce, monosodium glutamate, and lime juice. Mix well and then garnish with sliced shallots and chopped culantro. Chicken solay is normally served with fresh vegetables as an appetizer or a main dish and it can be eaten with either rice or sticky rice.

4. Kaeng Yuak (Banana Stem Curry)

          Kaeng Yuak is a Sukhothai’s local curry dish which is commonly served in a large pot during religious ceremonies or celebrations. Kaeng Yuak is well-liked by the locals due to its delicious tastes and a few ingredients which can be found in their backyards such as banana stems and free-range chicken meat or pork.

          The making of Kaeng Yuak requires some muscle strength to pound all the ingredients into a curry paste. Grab your pestle and mortar and put in some dried chilies, cloves of garlic, shallots and pound them until they become paste-like. Then, add a dash of salt followed by a shrimp paste or kapi. Pound everything together and leave it in a bowl. On a cutting board, chop the banana stems into small chunks and put them in brine water. Use chopsticks to gently stir the banana stems in order to remove all the inedible fibers.
          The next step is to put a pan on a stove over medium heat and pour some oil into the pan. Stir-fry the curry paste until fragrant and put in chopped or minced chicken and keep stir-frying until the chicken is cooked. Add some water. If you don’t like your curry dry, you can add more water. Once the water starts simmering, put in the chunks of banana stems and cover the pan with a lid for 2 – 3 minutes to let the banana stems cook and soften. After that, season with fish sauce, tamarind paste, and a bit of sugar. Bring the curry to a boil, turn off the heat, and put it in a bowl to serve. Sprinkle some cilantro and spring onions for garnish. Try making this menu for your Sukhothai friends and see how impressed they are!

5. Kaeng Nok Mor (Chicken and Banana Blossom Curry)

          Kaeng Nok Mor is an old traditional curry dish of Sawankhalok district in Sukhothai. Despite the strange name, this dish is full of flavors and nutrients from local herbs and vegetables. Unlike other curry dishes, Kaeng Nok Mor is made by only cooking chicken in coconut milk. The curry will be seasoned in a bowl one by one instead of being seasoned altogether in a cooking pot. Hence, it is called “Kaeng Nok Mor” as “Nok Mor” in Thai means “outside of the pot”.

          The key ingredients are chicken meat and offal, banana blossoms, coconut milk, Northern-style larb chili paste, and roasted chopped peanuts.  Start by putting a pan on a hot stove and stir-fry the larb chili paste with oil until it becomes aromatic. Add diluted coconut milk and bring it to a boil. Next, add chicken meat and chopped offal. Do not stir until the meat starts to cook otherwise the curry will taste and smell stinky. Once everything is perfectly cooked, remove the pan off the heat and put the curry in a bowl for serving. Season it with sugar, fish sauce, lime juice, and mix well. Finely chop the banana blossoms and put them in the curry bowl along with roasted peanuts and garnish with some spring onions, culantro, and peppermint leaves. Place some fresh leafy greens next to the curry bowl and enjoy this menu with a plate of hot steamed rice!

6. Kaeng Phan Ngoo

          One local curry dish widely known in Kamphaeng Phet is Kaeng Phan Ngoo. This curry dish is named after “Phan Ngoo” plant, the main ingredient. Phan Ngoo is a local plant which fully grows between the end of summer and the beginning of a rainy season. Phan Ngoo is a single-stem plant with around 1 meter in length and less than 1 centimeter in diameter. The plant has a snake-liked shape, hence, it is called Phan Ngoo as the word “ngoo” in Thai means snake. Since the plant usually grows around rice paddy fields and the edge of the woods, local farmers in the past would pick wild vegetables and fruits back home after finish working on the field and Phan Ngoo is, of course, one of those plants. It can be cooked in a number of ways, for example, being boiled and dipped with chili paste, or being cooked in a spicy sour soup and coconut milk-based curry, to name a few.

          Yet, the most popular way to cook Phan Ngoo plants is to put them in a coconut milk-based curry with various types of meat such as minced pork, grilled pork, grilled fish, grilled frog, etc. Similar to other coconut milk-based curries, Kang Phan Ngoo is made by pounding chilies and herbs into a chili paste. The paste consists of dried chilies, shallots, garlic, fingerroot, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, galangal, shrimp paste, and a bit of salt pounded until they become smooth paste.

          After that, peel off the outer layer of Phan Ngoo plants and chop them into small chunks. Do not wash them with water because they will make your hands become itchy. Next, pour diluted coconut milk into a pan. Once the coconut milk is boiled, put in the chili paste and stir-fry until fragrant. Add meat of your choice into the pan, stir-fry it until nicely cooked, and pour in undiluted coconut milk for richness. Bring the curry to a simmer and then add a pinch of salt followed by chopped Phan Ngoo plants. Close the lid for 1 minute before adding some tamarind leaves and cha-om leaves (climbing wattle plant leaves). Take the pan off the heat and serve in a bowl. The Phan Ngoo plants are soft and go perfectly well with the rich aromatic curry soup with a little sourness from young tamarind leaves. This is undeniably pleasurable, especially when eating with rice.

7. Khanom Si Tuay (Four-Bowl Wedding Desserts)

          A wedding ceremony is one of the most important traditions for people in Sukhothai. Holding the wedding ceremony symbolizes an official announcement to parents, siblings, relatives, neighbors, including spirits of ancestors that a bride and a groom are going to become partners and spend their lives together. For an auspicious occasion like the wedding, it is deemed essential to serve traditional Thai desserts called Khanom Si Tuay to all the attending guests.
          Khanom Si Tuay is comprised of 4 different types of desserts which are Kai Gob (basil seeds in sweetened coconut milk), Nok Proy (pandan flavored rice flour droplets in sweetened coconut milk), Mali Loy (popped rice in sweetened coconut milk), and Aai Tue (black sticky rice pudding in sweetened coconut milk). In order to pay respect to the spirits of ancestors, the desserts will be arranged in 4 separate bowls. To serve the wedding guests, however, the desserts will be arranged in 5 separate bowls with the coconut milk in one bowl. Not only is Khanom Si Tuay served during auspicious celebrations, it can also be given away to neighbors or workers who come to help grow and harvest rice or offer other assistance.

          If you are asked by Sukhothai friends to “eat Khanom Si Tuay” or “Kin Si Tuay” in Thai, it means they are invited you to be part of their son’s or daughter’s marriage.

8. Khanom Khao Tok (Crushed Popped Rice)

          Khanom Khao Tok is a local snack/dessert which is commonly made in almost every household of Nakorn Chum district in Kamphaeng Phet. Khanom Khao Tok has gained more popularity among visitors so much that the snack has become a must-purchase souvenir of Nakorn Chum district, making it one of the significant sources of income for the locals. With its pleasant flavors, Khanom Khao Tok is perfect for snacking during the day on its own and can also be eaten with coffee or served as a light snack to welcome guests.

          The 3 main ingredients in Khanom Khao Tok are glutinous rice with hulls, palm sugar, and coconut milk – all of which can be locally sourced. The first step in making Khanom Khao Tok is to roast glutinous rice with hulls until all grains of rice are popped out. Once the rice hulls are removed, pound the popped rice until they are entirely crushed. Then, sift the crushed popped rice in order to separate them into 3 sizes – large, medium, and small. Each size of crushed popped rice or khao tok will be used in different parts of the snack.
          The large pieces of khao tok will be mixed with sweetened coconut milk while the medium pieces will be kept for dusting a mold and the small pieces will be used for a sprinkle on the snack. To prepare the sweetened coconut milk, put a brass pan over low heat and stir coconut milk and palm sugar until it starts to reduce and become slightly sticky. Leave the coconut milk-palm sugar mixture to cool and then fold in the large pieces of khao tok. Make sure every piece of khao tok is covered in coconut caramel mixture and sticks together.

          Next, dust the mold all over with the medium pieces of khao tok. Fill the mold with caramel covered khao tok and press it tightly. Remove it from the mold and sprinkle with the small pieces of khao tok. The final step is to smoke Khanom Khao Tok with a scented candle to achieve a wonderful aroma. Put Khanom Khao Tok and the scented candle in a steamer. Close the lid and smoke the snack for about 1 – 2 hours. Once this is done, you will get to taste a soft and chewy Khanom Khao Tok with a slight sweetness and unique smoky aroma. This is absolutely a delightful snack/dessert for everyone.

9. Mieng Mapraw Kua (Wild Betel Leaf Wrap with Roasted Coconut Shreds)

          Mieng Mapraw Kua is a local appetizer of Sawankhalok district in Sukhothai which is hard to find these days. The origin of Mieng Mapraw Kua can be traced back to Lanna era when it was a common household snack and was also served after a meal for guests to enjoy. Later on, Lanna people emigrated from Tern district in Lampang province to Sawankhalok and Thung Saliam districts in Sukhothai and they had brought with them a culture of eating Mieng or wild betel leaf wrap. Therefore, this type of appetizer has been introduced to Sukhothai people since then. In present days, nevertheless, the original Lanna-style Mieng has been adapted by adding more sweetness to make it more appetizing and easier to eat.

          Wild betel leaves, roasted coconut shreds, peanuts, and palm sugar are the 4 key ingredients to make Mieng Mapraw Kua. The steps are simple yet take time. If you rush the process, this menu will not turn out well. First, constantly stir palm sugar in a pot over low heat until it thickens. You have to keep stirring or the sugar at the bottom of the pot will burn. Once the palm sugar is perfectly thickened and the smell of it permeates the air, remove the pot off the heat and leave it to cool. For the coconut, strip off the outer husk of the coconut, crack the coconut shell open, scrape off all the coconut meat and cut it to small shreds. Roast the coconut shreds in a pan until crispy and dry. After that, use low heat to roast the peanuts in the pan. Keep roasting and watching in order not to burn the peanuts.
          Next step is to put all the ingredients on a wild betel leaf for wrapping. Put some roasted peanuts and crispy coconut shreds on the leaf. For more flavors, add diced shallots, gingers, limes, chilies, and others. Then, drizzle with the sticky palm sugar, wrap it, and put it straight into your mouth. All the flavors and textures will burst – sweet, sour, spicy, and crunchy. This leaf wrap may not look special but it has been loved by a lot of people and become one of the most favorite traditional snacks which can be served in both households and expensive restaurants.

10. Khao Neaw Daeng (Sweetened Glutinous Rice)

          Glutinous rice is considered to be one of the most important agricultural products of Sawankhalok. The glutinous rice left after selling will be used for cooking and making desserts. One of the most well-known glutinous rice desserts is Khao Neaw Daeng which is often made as a portable snack while the locals are going out to work in a farm or on a rice paddy field. Since it is energy-packed, it can keep a stomach full for a whole day.

          Khao Neaw Daeng is simply made of glutinous rice mixed with palm sugar and coconut milk. A delicious Khao Neaw Daeng is the one that is sweet, coconut milky, and aromatic in one bite. The dessert is easy to make and requires only 5 ingredients, however, it takes quite amount of physical effort. First of all, leave the glutinous rice in a bowl of water for 3 – 4 hours and drain completely. Then, put the glutinous rice in a steamer and steam it for about 5 – 10 minutes for it to be partially cooked and still has a crunch. Spread the half-cooked glutinous rice throughout a tray and let it dry.

          While waiting for the glutinous rice to dry, stir palm sugar, coconut milk, and salt in a brass pan over low heat. Keep stirring until it reduces and thickens. Next, pour the glutinous rice into the sugar mixture and continue stirring until the glutinous rice absorbs all the sugar mixture. Spoon the cooked Khao Neaw Daeng into a mold and leave it to cool off. For decoration, sprinkle roasted white sesame seeds all over and cut the Khao Neaw Daeng into bite-sized squares. It is such a perfect snack to pair with a cup of hot coffee, tea, or Thai herbal drink.
          Apart from the 10 abovementioned dishes, “Ya Dong” or Thai herbal liquor is also another famous drink from Sukhothai. The herbal liquor is a result of a local knowledge passed through from generations to generations. It is made by mixing various Thai herbs with fermented rice. Some types of Ya Dong have medicinal properties in nourishing a body and relieving pain. There are just a few Thai herbal liquor experts left nowadays but Dream Café in Sukhothai is one of the not-so-many places that still offers Ya Dong on the menu for curious customers to try.

          Looking at all these savory and sweet dishes, it is clear that the local people of Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet are excellent at developing their own unique recipes and culinary techniques. Locally sourced ingredients are being used to cook several delicious local dishes that put a smile on a visitor’s face. Moreover, these rare dishes have been helping to generate sustainable incomes to the locals and their communities. This is truly a flavorsome happiness found from the surroundings.

Dream Cafe at Sukhothai, Thailand