Experience Nan Province through 5 Amazing Local Dishes
Get to know Nan province and taste local unique dishes made with original recipes and ingredients only found in the region.
It is often said that “local dishes” are able to extensively display local ways of life of people in a particular region. Cultures and traditions can be seen through the ingredients and cooking methods used to make each dish. The Designated Areas for Sustainable Tourism Administration (Public Organization) or DASTA has realized that Nan province has blended its identities into several local menus. Therefore, the organization has arranged a gastronomic tourism program for visitors to taste and learn about Nan’s traditional dishes. These dishes are as follows:
1. Fried Chicken with Indian Prickly Ash
The tempting smell of the chicken being fried, the crispiness of the chicken skin, the tenderness of the chicken wing meat, and the steamy hot sticky rice, all of these will absolutely make you salivate. What makes this fried chicken different from its counterparts is the spiciness of an “Indian prickly ash”. This kind of spice indigenous to the northern region is similar to a black pepper. The locals frequently use it to season the food or eliminate fishy odor. In addition, the “Indian prickly ash” also has a number of medicinal conditions, for instance, treating iron-deficiency anemia, relieving flatulence, acting as an antidote, and reducing bruises and swellings. “Indian prickly ash” is a perennial plant with 5 – 10 meters in height. Its trunk and branches are armed with thick, cone-shaped prickles. The leaves are pinnately compound with elliptical leaflets. The flowers are white, small, and arranged in clusters on the ends of branchlets. Its fruits are round with rough and dry skin. When fully grown, the skin will break open unveiling a black seed inside which is the part that is used for cooking and seasoning.
2. Kaeng Som Mueang or Thai-Style Sour Soup with Turmeric
This is one of the menus that should not be missed when visiting Nan province. Kaeng Som is a widely-known soup commonly eaten in the middle part of the country. It is called Kaeng Som due to its distinct orange colored soup (Som in Thai means orange). What differentiates Kaeng Som Mueang from normal Kaeng Som is that turmeric is added, making the soup of Kaeng Som Mueang yellow instead of orange. Local vegetables are put into the soup, namely local Mueang water spinach, paco fern, and tomato. For protein, Asian redtail catfish is used to cook in the soup since this type of fish is meaty and doesn’t have many small bones. The best way to eat Kaeng Som Mueang is to pair it with a plate of hot steamed rice. Delicious!
3. Kaeng Sanat or Nan Traditional Vegetable Soup
Don’t be surprised if you are not familiar with or have never heard of the name of this menu before. Kaeng Sanat is a very hard-to-find traditional dish of Nan province. Currently, it is only served at “Koom Chao Mekwadee” or “Chao Mekwadee’s Palace” which is located in Nai Wiang community, Mueang Nan district. Chao Chutima, a 4th generation heiress of the last Nan Governor, has conserved and continued an original recipe of Kaeng Sanat for younger generations. In the early days, this is one of the menus that was made and served in the palace. Kaeng Sanat is a traditional soup which is made by combining various types of vegetables such as round eggplants, yardlong beans among others and bringing them to a boil. This is how the name “Kaeng Sanat” was originated from since it means to “put in a lot of ingredients”. Also, the vegetable soup is usually seasoned with shrimp paste or Kapi, boiled fermented fish sauce and garnished with shikakai or som poi leaves and fried shallots.
4. Kaeng Ayi Ayor or Nan Traditional Mixed Vegetable Soup
“Ayi Ayor” is a local word which means “a little bit of this, a little of that”. Hence, Kaeng Ayi Ayor refers to a soup with a little bit of many vegetables. If you would like to try this menu, you have to visit Don Moon community, Du Tai subdistrict in Mueang district. Not only will you get to taste this local dish, you can also learn how to cook the dish from the amiable community members. The vegetables used in Kaeng Ayi Ayor are seasonal and locally found e.g. pumpkin, sweet leaf, Chinese okra, straw mushroom, etc. To add flavors to the soup, a chili paste will be made by pounding shallots, garlic, green spur chilies, shrimp paste, and salt until they become a smooth paste. Sun-dried fish are also added for a delightful aroma.
5. Kai Ngarm Ngorn or Deep Fried Chili Paste Mixed with Boiled Egg
This signature menu of “Hong Chao Fong Kham” house has now become a must-try dish of Nan province. The name “Kai Ngarm Ngorn” comes from the exquisite finished look of the dish as “Ngarm” in Thai means “beautiful”. Nevertheless, the making of this menu is time-consuming and requires so many meticulous cooking steps that persons making the dish would get tired and displeased as being suggested in the Thai word “Ngorn”.
Reading about these 5 local menus certainly makes our mouths water. If you have a chance to travel to Nan province, please spare some time to taste all of these abovementioned dishes to truly experience and understand the local ways of life of Nan people.
อพท.สำนักงานพื้นที่พิเศษ ๖ DASTA - Nan Old City