Khang pong, crispy fritters made from shredded and battered green papaya, or sometimes shallots, are one of the more ubiquitous snacks in Mae Hong Son. The dish is sold at several stalls in the town’s morning market as well as from roadside stalls in the countryside. But my favourite version is sold by one particular vendor at the city’s walking street market:
I’ve been buying khang pong from this woman for years, and on my most recent visit, mentioned to her that my friend, a restaurateur in the US, was so taken with the dish that he decided to make a version of it at his restaurant (for a description of this, go here). ‘Tell him he can come by and ask for the recipe,’ she said without hesitation. ‘I won’t charge anything!’
She went on to describe that khang is Shan/Thai Yai for pan, and pong means golden:
While most khang pong are served as a crispy side to noodle dishes, hers are excellent on their own as a snack. Also unlike the version sold around town, hers are somewhat spicy, and come liberally seasoned with citrusy bits of lemongrass, turmeric and dried chili. Another difference is that unlike most vendors, who deep-fry khang pong, she pan fries hers, making them dense and somewhat heavy — almost like a savoury cookie.
If you’re interested in making the dish, the below is the translation of a recipe from สูตรอาหารและขนมไต, Tai Recipes and Sweets, a cookbook assembled by a Mae Hong Son community group. I’ve made a few dishes from the book, including this one, and the proportions aren’t always exact, so if you’re going to have a go, be sure to employ a bit of cooking experience and intuition.
Khang Pong/ข่างปอง (Thai Yai-Style Battered and Deep-Fried Papaya)
Green papaya, 1kg
Lemongrass, 5 stalks
Shrimp paste, 1 Tbsp
Garlic, 3 heads
Salt, 1 Tbsp
Turmeric, 1 tsp
MSG, 1 tsp
Rice flour, 1 bag [an average bag contains 450g]
Sticky rice flour, 1/4 bag
Oil for frying
Peel papaya, rinse with water. Cut into bite-sized strips.
In a mortar and pestle, combine lemongrass, shrimp paste, shallots, garlic, salt and MSG. Grind until you have a fine paste.
Combine papaya, spice mixture, flours and add water until you have a thick batter.
Shaping mixture into small rounds, fry until crispy and golden.
Or, if you live in Portland, Oregon, head to Whiskey Soda Lounge, where they might still be on the menu.
Mae Hong Son’s night market
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