Unless you’re invited into someone’s home, or buy take-away from the town’s morning market, it’s actually somewhat difficult to find local food in Kengtung. One of the only restaurants serving Shan/Tai dishes is Paa Laeng (in Thai, ป่าแดง, meaning deep forest), named after the nearby temple. The selection of local eats is pretty good, but it’s equally grotty, and is probably only best recommended for adventurous eaters.
If you’re not deterred, in terms of form and flavour, the dishes here have a lot in common with northern Thai food.
There was a dip nearly identical to nam phrik num, the northern Thai dish of long green chillies, garlic and shallots grilled and mashed into a stringy, spicy paste.
This was coupled with neua sa, a dish I later learned to make in Wan Naung Gon. As was the case there, it took the form of minced meat with lots of herbs and makhwaen (prickly ash), resulting in a dish somewhere between northern- and northeastern-style laap.
We ordered a simple broth with tofu, tofu skin and the flowers of the Indian cork tree (called dork peep, ดอกปีบ, in Thai).
And nearly all customers were ordering hoy khom, tiny freshwater snails, which had been boiled with herbs and were served up from plastic buckets. The backdrop of sucking and slurping made Paa Laeng sound like a Japanese ramen bar.
Near Wat Paa Laeng, Kengtung, Shan State
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