A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.

How To Make: Kaeng hang lay

Posted date:  February 18, 2009

Kaeng hang lay, a northern-Thai style pork curry, Mae Hong Son

Khun Yay (‘Grandma’), my landlord’s mother, is originally from Ayuthaya, but moved to Mae Hong Son when she was 14 – more than 70 years ago. ‘It took us three months to walk here from Ayuthaya,’ she explained to me, adding that part of the journey was done on elephant back. After seven decades here she’s essentially a native of the city, and even used to earn extra money by selling Thai Yai/Shan sweets. She can also make the local savoury dishes, and everybody in the family agrees that she makes a mean hang lay.

Kaeng hang lay is a rich curry based around pork belly (hang lay is a corruption of the Burmese word for pork curry). The dish is found all over northern Thailand, and because it’s easy to make in large volumes, is often associated with communal eating. ‘If you come during a festival they’ll make the dish using tens of kilos of pork,’ explained Khun Yai, while pounding the curry paste in a mortar and pestle. Her version is a variant on the local version of the dish that usually forgoes the chili paste altogether (she decided to include a basic one here), and which also highlights the local obsession with tomatoes (here in the form of ketchup). She explained that if you substitute chicken for pork, and leave out the ginger, tamarind and garlic, you’ll have the recipe for kai oop, another popular local curry.

Kaeng Hang Lay

Ingredients for kaeng hang lay, a northern-Thai style pork curry, Mae Hong Son

Chili paste
Small chilies, 10
Salt, 1 tsp
Shallots, sliced, 2
Shrimp paste, 1 Tbsp
Garlic, sliced, 1 Tbsp

Bork belly, including fat and skin layer, 1kg
Bottled chili sauce, 1 Tbsp
Ketchup, 2 Tbsp
Sweet soy sauce, 1 Tbsp
Turmeric powder, 1 tsp
‘Marsala’ powder*, 2 Tbsp
Vegetable oil, 2 Tbsp
Shallots, peeled and quartered, 12
Small cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole, 20
Ginger, peeled shredded, ¼ cup
Tamarind pulp, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Salt, to taste

*Known locally as phong maksalaa, this is a spice mixture used in Mae Hong Son.

Combine chili paste ingredients and grind to a paste using a mortar and pestle:

Making kaeng hang lay, a northern-Thai style pork curry, Mae Hong Son

Set aside.

Wash pork and cut into chunks about 4cm long. Combine with chili paste, chili sauce, ketchup, soy sauce, turmeric powder and ‘Marsala’ powder:

Making kaeng hang lay, a northern-Thai style pork curry, Mae Hong Son

Heat oil over medium heat in a deep saucepan. Add pork mixture and allow to seal, stirring only once or twice, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add enough water to cover the pork:

Making kaeng hang lay, a northern-Thai style pork curry, Mae Hong Son

reduce heat and allow to simmer until almost all the water evaporates, the fat rises and pork is tender, up to two hours. If water evaporates too quickly, add more.

Add shallots, garlic and ginger:

Making kaeng hang lay, a northern-Thai style pork curry, Mae Hong Son

and allow to simmer until tender, about 10 more minutes. Season to taste with tamarind pulp, sugar and salt, and serve with hot rice and an acidic salad; Khun Yai suggested a local salad of green mango.

17 Comments for How To Make: Kaeng hang lay

These how-to entries are great! I hope you will do many more.

I fell in love with this dish at Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas. Hang Lay freezes and travels well. I agree with NC — the how-to entries are great. Your blog is a consistent treat, Austin — many thanks.

NC: I’m hoping to do a few more. There’s a kind of herb-packed meatball here that Khun Yai has promised to teach me how to make.
Dave: I agree, it’s one of those dishes that’s actually better a day later.


Hang lay is actually not a corruption as the middle Burmese pronunciation would have been the same . The Lanna Thai have simply retained the older way it’s pronounced . ( other examples below )

In modern standard Burmese any -ang sound has now become – in and any Rs have been replaced with a Y and some S sounds especially for Pali words are now lisped to become a Th sound ( as it thousand )


Hang lay is now Hin lay in standard Burmese

Thingyan in modern Burmese used to be pronounced Sangkran

The Thais still know the Burmese King Bayinnaung as Burengnong which would have been the original pronunciation

The Shan noviciation ceremony Poi Sang Long is from the Burmese Shin Laung Pwe

There are some Burmese dialects that also retain the older pronunciation eg the Intha of Inle call themselves An’sa ( In-tha )

How very interesting Aung Zeya! I’m always interested in the names of things and their from-whence-came. Nice aside.

Austin, nice to see you enjoying yourself in the north. I’m from Chiang Rai and we always used to wonder why the other parts of Thailand always got all the attention… and forget about finding ahaan nuea anywhere else. Looks like thats changing though.

Can you tell me what goes into mak salaa powder?Is it the same as the Indian Garam Masala? If it is great, no trouble getting that in London, if it isn’t then I might just have to try and make a fresh version myself….

Aung Zeya: I was going to write what you said about hin lay, but then thought to myself, Isn’t the Burmese word for pork we thaa? I assumed maybe I had remembered something incorrectly along the way and decided not to mention it. So why is it that pork is we thaa, and pork curry is hin lay (as opposed to we thaa hin)?

HedgePorker: To be honest, I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s very similar to Garam Masala. I was hoping to stop by the factory next week, and will post on it if I do.

Wet tha – pig meat ie pork
Wet tha hin – pork dish ( curry )

Wet tha hin lay chet ( jet ) – pig meat dish small cooked

^^ this is the original name of the dish .

it’s also just known as hin lay jet

Therefore wet-tha hin-lay = kaeng hang lay

similar to how in ohn no khauk swe – coconut milk fold pull ( fold pull = generic term for noodles ) it’s the khauk swe that’s retained in khao soi .

Hope that clarifies

Aung Zeya: So it’s all about abbreviation! I think I’ve got it… And I agree w/ you re. khao soi. In Thai these words can be translated as ‘sliced rice’ or something like that, and some people think this is the origin of the name, but I reckon it’s simply a borrowing from Burmese.


I’m sure Austin is right about the masala . In Burma it’s also called masala ( obviously from the Indian ) and if it helps the garam masala you get in places like the Uk tastes virtually identical – you can substitute it anyway when cooking Burmese dishes that require “masala”

[…] spices from Mae Hong Song, including the freshest turmeric powder I have ever smelled and the local Mae Hong Son “masala” powder, so we hit up Footscray for fresh ingredients. If you’re keen on making this particular curry, […]

[…] While Phil was grilling the sausage, I made two Mae Hong Son dishes: saa, a salad of pea shoots, and kaeng hang lay. I had brought with me a couple of the more obscure ingredients, but again, we were able to find everything we needed, including pork belly, at Footscray market. I marinated the meat a la Khun Yai’s recipe: […]

This dish looks absolutely delicious! What a comfort dish!

[…] And justifiably so — this was my first adobo, and I loved the combination of vinegar sourness and black pepper bite. In fact, the dish, with its use of fatty pork and copious shallots, reminded me a lot of Mae Hong Son-style kaeng hang lay. […]

Website Trackback Link…

[…]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[…]…

[…] How to make Kaeng Hang Lay @ Austin Bush Photography An awesome khun yai shares her recipe for a local Mae Hong Son version of Gaeng Hang Lay via Austin Bush’s blog. Share this:EmailPrintFacebookTumblrLinkedInTwitterRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

[…] – How To Make: Kaeng hang lay – Austin Bush Photography, February 18, 2009 – Northern Style Hang Lay Curry – Thai Food Master, June 6, 2010 – Northern Thai curry recipe […]

[…] mentioned Khun Yay before. Born in Ayuthaya, she got married at a young age, and not long afterward, she and her policeman […]

Wanna say something?