Tucked into the far northwestern corner of Thailand, remote Mae Hong Son is known more for its windy roads and Burmese-style temples than its food, but there's actually some pretty interesting stuff to eat here. One of my favourite places in the city is Baan Phleng.
Baan Phleng does excellent northern Thai and local Shan (an ethnic group related to the Thais that largely live in neighbourning Burma) food, including several dishes you'd probably be hard-pressed to find just about anywhere else in Thailand. During the day, you simply walk up to the glass under the zinc fretwork and point to whatever looks tasty of the 15+ prepared dishes. In the evenings, seating moves across the street to a garden and dishes are available a la carte from an expansive menu that also includes helpful descriptions of the dishes (unfortunately only in Thai).
We started with a very northern Thai (and oft-mentioned on these pages) dish of naam phrik num (pictured above), probably the only truly Thai dish of the meal. The grilled chili paste was served with fresh and steamed veggies and two types of pork rinds. This was accompanied by baskets of sticky rice and several other sides, including a delicious yam or Thai-style salad of phak koot, tender fern shoots:
The shoots had been par-boiled but remained crispy, and the salad was held together with a simple Burmese-style curry paste and topped with heaps of crispy fried garlic, as well as roasted sesame seeds, a specialty of the Mae Hong Son area which is often made into oil.
There was lung jin, Shan for meatballs:
Although they were made from fish, they're chock fulla fresh herbs and taste a lot like sai ua, the well known northern Thai sausage. Another local dish was a tasty Shan-style yam or salad made from tofu:
And to round off our almost entirely Burmese meal, we also had a bowl of kaeng hang ley:
This curry dish is found all over northern Thailand, but is probably Burmese in origin (hang is almost certainly a corruption of hin, the Burmese word for curry). Hang ley usually uses thick cuts of muu saam chan ('three levels of pork'--ie a belly cut including skin, fat and meat), but they forgot the other two levels and the dish was mostly fat. It was still pretty good though, with a thick curry broth that was a lot like a rich American-style barbecue sauce mixed with slivers of fresh ginger.
Baan Phleng (sign says ‘Local Northern Thaifood’; Google Maps link) 108 Th Khunlum Praphat, Mae Hong Son 053 612 522 8am-8pm