I’ve mentioned Yusup, a Muslim restaurant on the northern outskirts of Bangkok, many, many times. The restaurant’s rich curries, amazing biryani, and wonderfully sour soups have made it just about my favourite all-around restaurant in Bangkok. I’d love to see more people eat there, but the restaurant is located quite far outside central Bangkok and is something of an ordeal to find. Well, gone now are the days of excuses: armed with Google Maps, you should have no problem in locating Yusup.
I stopped by Yusup for lunch today with a companion and ordered several things, including the dish pictured above, kuruma with roti. I prefer their goat kuruma, but they were out of it so we had to settle for chicken:
Regardless of the protein, the curry is almost impossibly rich and thick, chock fulla dried spices and fresh herbs, and packing a sour bite akin to a vindaloo.
My companion ordered kaeng karii kai, Muslim-style chicken curry, over rice:
The curry is lightly spiced, probably not much more than tinned curry powder, and includes thick chunks of potato, tomato and onion. It’s served with ajaat, a side of sliced cucumbers, chilies and shallots in a sweet/sour vinegar dressing.
Together we picked at mataba nuea:
A roti stuffed with beef, a few basic veggies and egg, also served with ajaat.
And for dessert? You guessed it–more roti:
this time drizzled with sweetened condensed milk and liberally sprinkled with sugar.
Yusup Phochana (Google Maps link)
05 136 2864, 09 923 8099
Open every day, 11am-2pm
How to get there:
The restaurant is located in northern Bangkok along the Kaset-Navamin highway (also known as sen tat mai). If you’re coming from Mor Chit BTS along Th Phaholyothin, turn right at the Kaset Intersection onto the Kaset-Navamin highway. Go past the first stop light and the restaurant is on the left side just after a very large sign with the Swiss flag (as well as several Thai-language signs advertising the restaurant). If you get lost, go ahead and try one of the mobile numbers above, but I’m pretty sure these people don’t speak English.
What do you eat when you’re on a Thai island with 11 former students? Food from the country’s landlocked rural northeast, of course. Last weekend on Ko Samet this meant sticky rice, grilled chicken and many, many dishes of som tam (a salad of unripe papaya):
The food is sold from mobile vendors, also from the northeast, who prepare both the som tam and grilled chicken from mobile basket kitchens:
At one point we ordered so much chicken that At had to lend a hand to the grilling process:
It wasn’t all northeastern food though. At a restaurant in Baan Phe we had a decent dish of puu phat phong karii, crab sauteed with egg and curry powder:
and at a restaurant in Rayong, a nice yam of raw scallops:
There were some culinary lowpoints, however, such as An An’s box of cream-filled Doraemon-shaped cookies:
Pics taken with my D100 (my beach camera) without any editing in Photoshop.
Yet another restaurant located way out in the wasteland of northern Bangkok, but after four recent visits, I reckon it’s worth the drive. For starters, Crokmai Thai Lao has one of the most extensive menus of any isaan/Lao restaurant I’ve been to in Thailand. It has a full page dedicated to insects:
Another page of the menu is entirely dedicated to dishes using ant eggs. Crokmai Thai Lao must also be among the few isaan/Lao restaurants anywhere with a website: www.crokmaithailao.com. Check it out; you can even see the entire menu, including many photos, scanned into the page, and of course the obligatory page of celebrities who’ve visited the restaurant. I’ve been told the guy in the red hat with the microphone always wears red hats. Very heady stuff. Rest assured though, it’s not all fancy technology and famous people–this place does some pretty good food.
Crokmai means ‘wooden mortar’, the tool used to make som tam, so naturally there was a dish of the famous papaya salad (pictured above), made here Lao-style with plaa raa and salted crabs. Sour and extremely spicy. There was kaeng poerh (I really have no idea how to transliterate this last word–it sounds a lot like someone spitting bad soup out):
This soup combines a dark broth (the result, I believe, of the addition of bai yaanaang, a leaf), thin slices of crispy bamboo, mushrooms, pumpkin and my favourite bit, a pungent herb called cha om (the green leaves seen above). I’ve had this dish at restaurants and even at peoples’ homes, and reckon this bowl is among the tastiest and most balanced I’ve had.
Another great dish was mok nor mai:
bamboo stuffed (or combined?) with ground pork and a very coconutty curry paste mixture, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. Almost creamy in texture, and despite the disparate ingredients, a wonderful combination.
Naam phrik plaa raa:
Good, but not outstanding. The naam phrik, a ‘dip’ of Lao-style fish sauce was tasty, but watery. I liked the combination of veggies though, including steamed pumpkin and some edible flowers.
And every time I eat here I have to order plaa som thot:
Freshwater fish that has been fermented via some rice and deep-fried. Sour, cripsy and meaty.
I recommend a visit, be it physically or virtually.
Crokmai Thai Lao (Google Maps link)
6/257 Muu 1
Soi Ladplakhao 24 (off Kaset-Navamin Highway)
02 570 6234
Buddha figures for sale at a market in Mae Hong Son, Thailand.
Have been on the road in northern Thailand and along Thailand’s length of the Mekong River. Am finally home now and will post pics on both of these destinations very soon…
I’ve spent the last couple weeks upcountry, first in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, then on a long drive along the west bank of the Mekong River all the back to Bangkok. While in Chiang Mai I really wanted to stop by a place that I’d eaten at years before, a late-night joint selling a variety of deep-fried meats and northern-style naam phrik or chili-based ‘dips’.
The place, which doesn’t even open until about 11pm, is known among some as midnight naam phrik num, although I don’t think it officially has a name. The image above doesn’t even begin to describe it. The oil used to deep-fry virtually everything they serve is black and sludgelike–I reckon it hadn’t been changed in several days, at least. The dining section of the restaurant alters between dark and intensely florescent-lit, and is the favourite haunt of a family selling flower garlands. Despite all this, the place is something of a Chiang Mai legend, and if you can temporarily put aside fears of carcinogens, avoid eye contact the horribly messy, oil-splattered ‘kitchen’, and prepare yourself for the gloomy atmosphere, the food here is actually pretty tasty.
Although the emphasis appears to be on deep-frying, the real deal here are the dips, of which there are two kinds: nam phrik num, made from grilled green chilies pounded up with grilled garlic and shallots:
and another called nam phrik taa daeng (‘red-eye chili paste), made from dried red chilies. The former, pictured above, is one of the better versions I’ve had of this dish, and was spicy but balanced, with delicious tiny cloves of tender garlic. The latter employed a strong shrimp paste and had a sweet flavour, resulting in a flavour not unlike the dressing used to top the Malay/Indonesian dish rojak. Both dips are served with a small plate of par-boiled and pickled veggies for dipping, and your choice of meats. These range from sai ua, the famous northern Thai herb-filled sausage (grilled, mercifully), to vast chunks of deep-fried pork fat. No, that’s not a typo. And yes, it’s actually pretty good, especially with the nam phrik num. All the meats are deep-fried once, presumably in the previously-mentioned vat of sludge. When you order something, they deep-fry it again in a smaller and slightly less black pot of oil until hot and crispy. I also had an interesting dish of naaem, raw fermented pork sausage, combined with an egg, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled.
The restaurant is located approximately two blocks south of the Imperial Mae Ping Hotel. If you ask about for the midnight naam phrik num you’ll inevitably be pointed in the right direction.
This market, located behind Chiang Mai University, is probably the first Thai market I ever became familiar with. I was studying Thai at the university, and the market was a short walk from my apartment, also located lang mor (‘behind the university’). I’d walk there to buy prepared food, and my first attempts at cooking Thai food were made with ingredients bought here. I still use the wok I bought there back in 1999. At the time I assumed Talaat Ton Phayom was like any typical market anywhere in Thailand. It wasn’t until I learned more about Thai food and came back to the market later that I realized how local this market is. The vast majority of food sold there is specific to northern Thailand, and even as far as Chiang Mai markets go, this one is defiantly northern.
The northerners’ love of pork is very evident at Talaat Ton Phayom. There’s heaps of sai ua, the famous herb-packed northern Thai sausage:
as well as several vendors selling deep-fried pork rinds:
and of course, naam phrik num to dip them in:
There’s also less traditional protein, such as rot duan:
literally ‘express train’, worms that have been deep-fried.
The food in northern Thailand is more seasonal than elsewhere in the country, and during the rainy season you’ll find lots of mushrooms:
For a slide show of the entire set of images, go here.
Laap, minced meat mixed with roasted rice, lime juice, fresh herbs and fresh chili, has its origins in northeast Thailand and Laos, and is a dish known well outside the region. Laap as it’s served in northern Thailand is an entirely dish altogether and is virtually unknown outside of the region. The most popular type among locals, laap khom, literally ‘bitter laap’ combines minced raw meat, typically beef, mixed with a curry paste and bitter bile from the stomach of a cow. It’s easy to see why laap khom isn’t going to be the next molten chocolate cake. I tend to stick with the ‘safe’ version, laap khua, ‘fried laap’. This version takes basically the same ingredients, but with the addition of some very unique dried spices and bit of offal, and sees them fried and topped with crispy deep-fried garlic and green onion. Both kinds of northern-style laap are served with a small dish of tiny cloves of garlic and fresh chilies, and a plate of fresh veggies and herbs, many of which are unknown outside of northern Thailand, and which possess bitter flavours.
The laap khua pictured above is from Laap Khom Huay Puu, a tiny restaurant just outside Pai, Mae Hong Son, that specialises in the dish. Theirs is my personal favourite version. The pork laap, shown above, is rich with the flavour of two local dried herbs, makwaen and diiplii, which add a bitter/hot flavour not unlike Szechuan pepper. Karen at Rambling Spoon goes into more detail on these unique spices here. The pork version of the dish uses a somewhat dry chili paste containing a slightly different spectrum of herbs and spices than the more paste-like one used for the beef version. I’m not sure if the cow bile, dii wua, is added to the pork version as it is to the beef version. Served with a big basket of warm sticky rice and a plate of herbs, it’s one of my favourite meals in Thailand.
Laap Khom Huay Puu makes a total of about four, all meat-based dishes, including a pretty good beef soup:
The restaurant is located about two kilometres outside Pai along the way to Mae Hong Son.
Laap Khua Huay Puu (Google Maps link)
Huay Puu, Pai, Mae Hong Son
053 699 126
Tucked into the far northwestern corner of Thailand, remote Mae Hong Son is known more for its windy roads and Burmese-style temples than its food, but there’s actually some pretty interesting stuff to eat here. One of my favourite places in the city is Baan Phleng.
Baan Phleng does excellent northern Thai and local Shan (an ethnic group related to the Thais that largely live in neighbourning Burma) food, including several dishes you’d probably be hard-pressed to find just about anywhere else in Thailand. During the day, you simply walk up to the glass under the zinc fretwork and point to whatever looks tasty of the 15+ prepared dishes. In the evenings, seating moves across the street to a garden and dishes are available a la carte from an expansive menu that also includes helpful descriptions of the dishes (unfortunately only in Thai).
We started with a very northern Thai (and oft-mentioned on these pages) dish of naam phrik num (pictured above), probably the only truly Thai dish of the meal. The grilled chili paste was served with fresh and steamed veggies and two types of pork rinds. This was accompanied by baskets of sticky rice and several other sides, including a delicious yam or Thai-style salad of phak koot, tender fern shoots:
The shoots had been par-boiled but remained crispy, and the salad was held together with a simple Burmese-style curry paste and topped with heaps of crispy fried garlic, as well as roasted sesame seeds, a specialty of the Mae Hong Son area which is often made into oil.
There was lung jin, Shan for meatballs:
Although they were made from fish, they’re chock fulla fresh herbs and taste a lot like sai ua, the well known northern Thai sausage. Another local dish was a tasty Shan-style yam or salad made from tofu:
And to round off our almost entirely Burmese meal, we also had a bowl of kaeng hang ley:
This curry dish is found all over northern Thailand, but is probably Burmese in origin (hang is almost certainly a corruption of hin, the Burmese word for curry). Hang ley usually uses thick cuts of muu saam chan (‘three levels of pork’–ie a belly cut including skin, fat and meat), but they forgot the other two levels and the dish was mostly fat. It was still pretty good though, with a thick curry broth that was a lot like a rich American-style barbecue sauce mixed with slivers of fresh ginger.
Baan Phleng (sign says ‘Local Northern Thaifood’; Google Maps link)
108 Th Khunlum Praphat, Mae Hong Son
053 612 522
Wat Jong Kham, Mae Hong Son
Just a pretty picture, but still, well, a pretty picture…