After several days on Ko Samui, I officially have no more reason to bitch about the lack of local eats. While staying on Lamai beach I discovered a stall at nearby Talat Dao that sells a variety of khanom jeen, curries served over fresh rice noodles. This is possibly the most common dish in southern Thailand, and is served at all times of day or night. Khanom jeen can also be got in other parts of Thailand, but what makes it different down here are the types of curries served and the toppings. Southern Thais like their chili heat, and the innocent looking, typically yellowish curries you’ll see here are some of the spiciest in the country. The one pictured above is called naam yaa plaa (pictured above), and is a fish and coconut milk-based curry particular to the south. As with all types of khanom jeen, when you order you’ll simply get a shallow bowl with a handful of noodles and a ladleful of curry. It’s your job to top it with the fresh herbs and veggies held in vast trays on the tables. These herbs typically include a couple kinds of basil, young cashew nut leaves, phak chee lawm (an herb almost identical to flat leaf parsley, pictured above) cucumbers, long beans and a couple types of pickled veggies. It’s all for free and you simply take what you like, rip it all up and mix it into your noodles.
Another very southern type of khanom jeen is kaeng tai plaa, literally ‘fish kidney curry’:
I think this curry, which also includes crispy bamboo, grilled fish, long beans, and a type of sweet potato-like local tuber, is about the spiciest thing humans were meant to consume. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also extremely salty. After eating it I was still feeling the burn a good 20 minutes later. Honestly though, it wasn’t all that unpleasant. Have you ever eaten anything so spicy you actually felt a bit… well, high?