I took the long way back from Chiang Mai, making a lengthy diversion into northeastern Thailand (more on that to follow). Along the way, I passed through Utaradit, one of northern Thailand’s smaller and more obscure provinces. I’d been told that the local dish there is something called mee phan (หม่ีพัน), ‘wrapped noodles’, and proceeded to investigate. Pulling into Lap Lae, a sleepy town about 15km outside of the provincial capital, I asked where one could find mee phan and was told to talk to Paa Waang.
Paa Waang, pictured above, claims to have invented the dish more than 20 years ago. It starts with sen mee, thin rice noodles that have been seasoned with fish sauce, dried chili and lime, and supplemented with pork rinds and a few slices of par-boiled long bean:
The mixture is then rolled up in a rather stiff sheet of rice paper:
“Wait a while and it gets soft,” Paa Waang explained. She added that the seasoned noodle dish existed previously, but it was her idea to wrap it in rice paper, making the dish easy to take to the field or to work.
Eating them in car a couple hours later, I wondered if Paa Wang knew that she’d also created pretty much the perfect road trip food.
Th Rat Uthit, Lap Lae, Utaradit
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