I’m up north again, this time doing the footwork for Lonely Planet’s Thailand guide.
Often in the course of doing this type of work, people ask me if I ever choose not to reveal some of my favourite places. The answer to that is a pretty straightforward no. On a practical level, if I didn’t include places I like, I’d have a pretty hard time reaching my word counts (not to mention updating this blog). And anyways, I like sharing good things with people — both for people’s enjoyment, and for the benefit of the people doing the good things.
With this in mind, why would I not share Bismillah Halal food, a Muslim restaurant in the northern Thai city of Mae Sai?
After all, the biryani at Bismillah is excellent. “It’s Pakistani style,” said the friendly owner, as she brought the plate to my table. “Thai biryani is just yellow; this one has lots of spices,” she added, as she nearly jammed her finger in my plate of rice, pointing out cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves. And right she was: unlike most Thai-style biryani, which often seem to be flavoured only with turmeric, this version had relatively little of the dried orange root, but compensated with the aforementioned spices, not to mention carrots and peas.
The rice was coupled with beef curry; mild and meaty, it reminded me of the version of the dish one gets in Myanmar — not surprising that Bismillah is a five-minute walk from the Burmese border. The owner asked if I could eat spicy, and before I could reply, she had given me a tiny bowl of balachaung, a spicy, crunchy mixture of dried chili, fish and peanuts that is served with just about every meal in Myanmar. The biryani also came with homemade pickles and a light broth that was flavoured with the type earthy of dried spices one encounters in Chinese-Muslim cooking.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I noticed that the restaurant had a tandoor oven:
So naturally I had the very Burmese-Muslim breakfast of freshly-baked nan served with a slightly sweet dip made from pigeon peas:
Why would I keep this to myself? It’s going in the book (and here).
Bismillah Halal Food
Soi 4, Th Phahonyothin, Mae Sai
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