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Eastern Culinary Skills & Knowledge: Unveil the Secrets behind Delightful Local Dishes

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          Let’s get to know local dishes from the eastern part of Thailand – detailed cooking procedures, delicious tips and tricks, and local ingredient selections for a perfect concoction of savory and sweet menus.

          There is no denying that local cuisine is able to fully reflect an identity of each region. Dishes and menus specific to a region are often made of locally sourced ingredients, making the dishes unique and solely belong to a particular community. Take the eastern part of Thailand as an example. Eastern provinces like Chonburi, Rayong, Chanthaburi, and Trat have a number of famous dishes of their own. Continue reading below to find out what they are.

1. Pork and Cowa Fruit Curry

          Kaeng Moo Chamuang is a local curry dish of Rayong, Chanthaburi, and Trat. It is usually made and served during celebration events and gatherings. Chamuang or cowa fruit is a regional plant and can be found throughout these provinces. Its leaves and fruits have a sour taste. Making Kaeng Moo Chamuang is pretty simple. Put dried chilies, shallots, galangals, and shrimp paste or kapi on a grill. Keep flipping them on the grill until they are fragrant. Pound these grilled spices and herbs with salt and pepper until they are paste-like smooth. On a pan, stir-fry the chili paste with pork or pork belly or both. Once the pork is nicely cooked, put in roughly chopped Chamuang leaves, add water, and then season with palm sugar, salt, and a dash of tamarind paste. Give the curry a nice and continuous stir until the pork becomes tender. Serve in a bowl and eat with a plate of hot steamed rice. With a combination of tartness, sweetness, and saltiness, it is no surprise why Kaeng Moo Chamuang is very popular among the locals and visitors.


2. Kaeng Som Pak Krachap (Sour Soup with Rough Cocklebur Plant)

          Rough cocklebur plant (pak krachap in Thai) is an indigenous plant mostly found in Rayong province. Its sprouts can be eaten fresh or used as an ingredient in a variety of menus such as Thai-style sour soup, tom yum soup, or stir-fry with oyster sauce. However, the most popular menu using pak krachap is the sour soup which can be easily made. Boil the water in a pot and put in a sour soup curry paste. Give it a nice stir and then add any meat of your choice (fish, shrimp, or pork). Once the meat starts to cook, put in pak krachap and stir again. Season the soup with fish sauce, sugar, and tamarind paste for sourness. Tasting the soup, you will get both sweetness and sourness in one spoonful and you probably finish the whole bowl before you know it!

3. Poo Kai Takaidao (Crab with Roe Mixed in Spicy Seafood Sauce)

          Poo Kai Takaidao is a local dish of Trat province. Freshly-caught crabs with roe will be washed and cleaned with water. Remove the crab shell, scoop out the crab roe, and put it on a plate. After that, finely chop the fresh crab meat and whip up a spicy seafood sauce or Nam Prik Kleua as being called by the locals. Last but not least, mix the crab meat with the crab roe and pour the spicy seafood sauce all over. This mouthwatering menu goes perfectly well with fresh vegetables. Grab your spoon and dig in!

4. Kaeng Ped Nor Sapparod (Pineapple Crown Curry)

          Kaeng Ped Nor Sapparod is Rayong’s local dish which uses a significant farm-produced fruit as a key ingredient. As Rayong is the largest pineapple producer on the east side of the country, the local people here will not let any part of a pineapple go to waste, even a pineapple crown or Nor Sapparod in Thai. Nor Sapparod is a top part of the pineapple fruit. To make Kaeng Ped Nor Sapparod, the outer part of the pineapple crowns will be peeled until they are left with only white inner core. Thinly slice these white pineapple crowns and leave them in a plate. The next step is to stir-fry a curry paste until fragrant and add any meat of your choice (chicken, pork, or beef). Keep stir-frying until the meat is nearly cooked. Add a little water and season it as you like. Finally, pour the sliced pineapple crowns into a pan and continue to stir-fry for a few seconds until everything is cooked and mixed well.

5. Stir Fried Chan Rice Noodle with Crab Meat

          Chan noodle is one kind of small rice noodle that is widely known for its unique softness and chewiness. Aside from being used in several noodle dishes, one of the famous local menus with Chan noodles is a stir fried Chan rice noodle with crab meat. On a hot pan, stir-fry Chan noodles with a sweet and sour sauce. Put small sea crabs or small blue crabs in the pan. Add chopped Chinese chives, bean sprouts, and stir-fry until everything is cooked and mixed well. Serve hot to experience a wonderful chewy, sweet and sour noodles.

6. Rice Mixed with Spicy Seafood Sauce

          Gently mix hot steamed rice with Nam Prik Kleua or Chanthaburi-style spicy seafood sauce. Nam Prik Kleua is made by roughly pounding bird’s eye chilies and cloves of garlic. Season it with fish sauce, lime juice, and a dash of sugar. This aromatic seafood sauce has all the flavors – spicy, salty, and tangy. It is simply palatable when paired with hard-boiled eggs, boiled pork, and all kinds of seafood.

7. Pla Khok (Pickled Shortnose Gizzard Shad)

          Pla Khok is a local fish menu of Chonburi province. A shortnose gizzard shad or Pla Khok as being called by the locals is braised with pickled cabbage, lemongrass, garlic, dried chilies, and salt. In a pot, place the fish atop all these ingredients and add water until it almost covers the whole fish. Pour Chinese five-spice brown gravy into the pot and season the broth with soy sauce, salt, and sugar. Stew everything slowly over low heat until the fish bones become so softened that you can eat them all.

8. Kaeng Gai Kala (Chicken and Young Coconut Shell Curry)

          This is a local curry dish of Ta Kian Tia community in Chonburi province that is made of various ingredients found locally. The steps in making Kaeng Gai Kala are as follows. First, use a pestle to grind all of these spices and herbs in a mortar - bird’s eye chilies, dried chilies, garlic, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, galangals, coriander flowers, holy basil flowers, peppercorns, salt, and shrimp paste or kapi. Next, put a pan on a stove and stir-fry the ground curry paste with cooking oil until fragrant. Add chicken and stir-fry until the meat is cooked. The star ingredient of this curry dish is a young coconut shell. Add chopped young coconut shells into the pan and continue to stir-fry until softened. Season the curry a little bit and garnish with holy basil leaves before serving. With a slightly crunchy texture provided by the young coconut shells, this menu is totally worth traveling to Chonburi for.

9. Rice Flour Dumplings with Spicy Sauce

          If you go to Chanthaburi province, you will find a local snack called Khao Griep Aon Nam Jim or rice flour dumplings dipped with spicy sauce. The making of Khao Griep Aon Nam Jim is similar to that of Khao Griep Pak Mor or rice flour dumplings with assorted fillings. However, the rice flour sheets of Khao Griep Aon Nam Jim are bigger and thicker and formed into rolls. To get all the salty, sweet, and sour tastes, dip the dumplings in the spicy sauce mixed with ground dried shrimp. Delicious!

10. Khao Griep Ya Na (Crispy Rice Flour Chip with Assorted Toppings)

          Baan Nam Cheio community in Laem Ngop district in Chonburi province has its own local snack which is originated from Muslim residents (Jarm Malay Muslim ethnic group) living in the area. A rice flour sheet of Khao Griep Ya Na resembles that of Khao Griep Pak Mor, except that it is crispy. The main ingredients of Khao Griep Ya Na include cane sugar, coconut, shrimp, and rice flour sheets which are grilled on a charcoal stove for crispiness. Put the crispy rice sheets on a plate and serve them together with sweet chili paste or sweet and sour dipping sauce.

11. Khanom Kuay Ling (Shredded Coconut Covered Glutinous Rice Dumplings)

          Khanom Kuay Ling is a hard-to-find local dessert which has been around for more than 100 years. There are just a few ingredients on the list. The first step is to mix black and white glutinous rice flour together and shape the dough into small rolls. Then, boil the glutinous rice rolls in the boiling water. Once they are cooked, they will float to the surface. Cover the glutinous rice rolls in a mixture of shredded coconut, sugar, and sesame seeds. The chewiness of the rolled glutinous rice dumplings and the nice sesame seed aroma are the reasons why people fall in love with this dessert.

12. Khanom Ob Bab or Khanom Nim Nuan (Sweet Shredded Coconut Filled Glutinous Rice Dumplings)

          Khanom Ob Bab or Khanom Nim Nuan is a local dessert of Rayong province and nowadays has become a rare dessert menu. On the outside, a glutinous rice dumpling of Khanom Ob Bab look similar to that of Khanom Tua Pap (mung bean filled glutinous rice dumplings) but a filling is different. Khanom Ob Bab is filled with sweetened coconut shreds which are delightfully sweet and smell really nice. The rice dumplings are lightly dusted with white flour to prevent them from sticking together, making them snowy white. The texture of the rice dumplings is chewy and melt-in-your-mouth soft as the name suggests (Nim Nuan in Thai means soft).

13. Khanom Bun Dook or Khanom Piak Poon Kao (Rice Flour Pudding with Syrup)

          Looking similar to Khanom Piak Poon (rice flour pudding with shredded coconut), Khanom Bun Dook or Khanom Piak Poon Kao is a local sweet dish of Trat province. It is made of rice flour which is stirred over heat until smooth and sticky. When served, cut the rice flour pudding into square pieces and put them on a plate. Drizzle with syrup and sprinkle all over with roasted peanuts. Taste and texture wise, this dessert has everything in one bite – sweet, chewy and crunchy.

          These are just some of the local savory and sweet dishes from the eastern region of Thailand. In fact, there are still a number of local and traditional deliciousness waiting for us to discover. These dishes incredibly help preserve and pass down traditional culinary techniques to future generations. Furthermore, welcoming visitors and tourists to see natural sources of all the local ingredients is like a road leading them to learn more about communities and local ways of life as well as being a source of sustainable incomes for the local people.