A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.


Monthly Archives: February 2011



Khao sen and…

Posted at 5pm on 2/2/11 | read on
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The quintessential Mae Hong Son dish – or perhaps simply the most popular dish in Mae Hong Son – is a bowl of khao sen. Literally ‘rice threads,’ it’s the local name for a dish combining the thin rice noodles known elsewhere in Thailand as khanom jeen and a thin, pork- and tomato-based broth — a dish known in northern Thailand as khanom jeen nam ngiaw.

Sold alternatively early in the morning and late in the afternoon, khao sen is regarded as more of a snack than a meal. Vendors who sell the dish always tend to sell it with one other snack-like item such as khang pong, a type of local deep-fried vegetable fritter; deep-fried pork rinds or buffalo skin; or khao kan jin, rice and pork blood steamed in a banana leaf package.

I’ve touched on all of these dishes previously, but I suppose it wasn’t until this visit that I understood just how much the people in Mae Hong Son love them. Khao sen is pretty much the go-to snack here, and there are several places to get it in town, so I thought I’d try to corroborate the vendors I’m familiar with all in one post.

If you’re looking for a khao sen breakfast, you’ll have to go to Talaat Say Yut, Mae Hong Son’s morning market. There, three vendors sell the dish at the northern edge of the market:

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My personal favourite bowl, and my breakfast at least three or four days a week when I’m here, is served by the two ladies who also do a delicious shallot-based khang pong. In the Thai Yai style, the broth is thin, with only bits of meat, and the dish is topped with deep-fried crispy noodles, garlic oil and some coriander leaves. The vendor across from them, Yay Jang, sells a similar bowl plus a few banana leaf packages of khao kan jin.

During the day, the options are limited to one vendor at the Chao Pho Kho Mue Lek Shrine:


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The khao sen here includes chunks of blood (normal for the northern-style khanom jeen nam ngiaw, but unusual for the local style) and is served with a somewhat oily papaya-based khang pong (both pictured at the top of this post).

Mid-afternoon is, in my opinion, the best time for khao sen. A pair of friendly vendors operating from a rickety stall along Th Khunlumpraphas serve the dish with my favourite khao kan jin:

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The meaty rice is drizzled with garlic oil and served with sprigs of fresh coriander or, if they can get it, a type of aromatic root. The khao sen is also good, and is served with optional sides of deep-fried pork rind.

Around the corner, Yay Jang, the same vendor who serves the dish at the morning market, does the same two dishes, with a ‘raw’ version of khao kan jin, in which, I assume, raw blood is mixed with cooked rice:

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This one’s popular, and you can expect a line here.

No comment;


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Hilarious piece from Not the Nation:

You cannot look upon such a monstrosity and even think it resembles pizza,” Lugano said. “To do so is to spit in the faces of my Neapolitan ancestors.

How to make: Khao sen ko

Posted at 7am on 2/8/11 | read on
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A little-known but delicious snack from Mae Hong Son. Take a handful of the fresh rice noodles known as khanom jeen and combine with a bit of salt, garlic oil, dried chili, a squeeze of lime and chopped green onion and cilantro.

That’s it.

Keepin’ it local

Posted at 9pm on 2/10/11 | read on
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Thai Yai dishes for sale at Mae Hong Son’s morning market

I’m finally back home in Bangkok, but felt compelled to do one final post on Mae Hong Son.

One of the things that impressed me the most about the food up there was its locality. The Thai Yai or Shan food in Mae Hong Son is based around a unique repertoire of ingredients, many of which are virtually unknown in Bangkok or even Chiang Mai. Items such as as sesame oil (used as a condiment, not simply as a frying fat) and chickpea flour, and as mentioned in this post, even some of the cooking methods, are things I’ve never encountered elsewhere in Thailand. Obviously this is due to the province’s, well, location, but the twist is that in the case of a border province like Mae Hong Son, these items and techniques stem from a variety of sometimes distant sources and as a result, the cuisine resembles that of nowhere in particular.

Not only are these ingredients and cooking methods specific to the region, but in the case of the former, their origin is also very local. I reckon that of a nam phrik ong (a dip-like dish made from ground pork and tomatoes) I made one afternoon, every single ingredient, except for perhaps the salt, came from the fields around Mae Hong Song.

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A rice field in Mae Hong Son

Perhaps this is not surprising for such a remote, mountainous province. But I found it interesting and suspect that it’s probably the only time in my life that I’ve eaten truly, genuinely locally. It’s also worth mentioning that eating and cooking this way never felt contrived or like any sort of compromise — the ingredients from Mae Hong Son, in particular the garlic, shallots, turmeric and fruit, are very good — but rather, made the experience that much more special.

The downside — and this is the case with much regional cooking in Thailand — is that even if you’re are in Mae Hong Son, much of this food is relegated to the home. There are a handful of restaurants in town that serve local dishes, but they’re hit and miss, and the only one that really comes close to home cooking is Pa Sri Bua. Unless you know some local folks, you’re only other opportunity to taste authentic, homestyle local food is at one of the city’s markets. A particularly good place to go is the town’s evening market, where Paa Add sells some pretty amazing eats. Another option is the morning market, where vendors like the one pictured at the top of this post prepare a huge variety of local dishes on regular basis, while others seem to take more of a hobby-like approach and sell a couple dishes from medium-sized pots whenever they feel like it.

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A vendor at Mae Hong Son’s morning market

These places are to-go only, and you might miss them if you blinked, but unless you have the chance to eat at somebody’s home, it’s your only opportunity to eat a dish that really has no counterpart anywhere else in the world.

Phat Thai Soi 2

Posted at 6pm on 2/13/11 | read on
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I’m back home in Bangkok and after months away, am getting into the swing of things by eating Bangkok-style food. Lunch a few days ago was yen ta fo and more recently, phat Thai.

For many people outside of Thailand, particularly those in the US, phat Thai is synonymous with Thai food. And in what must be some Americans’ fantasy perception of Thailand, I live literally next door to a phat Thai restaurant. Unfortunately this isn’t my own fantasy scenario — I’d much rather live next door to a khao khluk kapi restaurant — but the phat Thai at this no-name shop near Th Silom is better than most.

The noodles are slightly undercooked, as they should be, the dish is relatively well-seasoned with lots of egg and tofu, and comes served with good quality sides. My only gripe would be with the immense serving size, which if you ask me, is practically American.

Phat Thai Soi 2
Off Soi 2, Thanon Sala Daeng, Bangkok
10am-2pm Mon-Fri


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