Khao sen and...

IMG_0739 The quintessential Mae Hong Son dish - or perhaps simply the most popular dish in Mae Hong Son - is a bowl of khao sen. Literally ‘rice threads,’ it’s the local name for a dish combining the thin rice noodles known elsewhere in Thailand as khanom jeen and a thin, pork- and tomato-based broth -- a dish known in northern Thailand as khanom jeen nam ngiaw.

Sold alternatively early in the morning and late in the afternoon, khao sen is regarded as more of a snack than a meal. Vendors who sell the dish always tend to sell it with one other snack-like item such as khang pong, a type of local deep-fried vegetable fritter; deep-fried pork rinds or buffalo skin; or khao kan jin, rice and pork blood steamed in a banana leaf package.

I’ve touched on all of these dishes previously, but I suppose it wasn’t until this visit that I understood just how much the people in Mae Hong Son love them. Khao sen is pretty much the go-to snack here, and there are several places to get it in town, so I thought I’d try to corroborate the vendors I’m familiar with all in one post.

If you’re looking for a khao sen breakfast, you’ll have to go to Talaat Say Yut, Mae Hong Son’s morning market. There, three vendors sell the dish at the northern edge of the market:


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My personal favourite bowl, and my breakfast at least three or four days a week when I’m here, is served by the two ladies who also do a delicious shallot-based khang pong. In the Thai Yai style, the broth is thin, with only bits of meat, and the dish is topped with deep-fried crispy noodles, garlic oil and some coriander leaves. The vendor across from them, Yay Jang, sells a similar bowl plus a few banana leaf packages of khao kan jin.

During the day, the options are limited to one vendor at the Chao Pho Kho Mue Lek Shrine:

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The khao sen here includes chunks of blood (normal for the northern-style khanom jeen nam ngiaw, but unusual for the local style) and is served with a somewhat oily papaya-based khang pong (both pictured at the top of this post).

Mid-afternoon is, in my opinion, the best time for khao sen. A pair of friendly vendors operating from a rickety stall along Th Khunlumpraphas serve the dish with my favourite khao kan jin:


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The meaty rice is drizzled with garlic oil and served with sprigs of fresh coriander or, if they can get it, a type of aromatic root. The khao sen is also good, and is served with optional sides of deep-fried pork rind.

Around the corner, Yay Jang, the same vendor who serves the dish at the morning market, does the same two dishes, with a ‘raw’ version of khao kan jin, in which, I assume, raw blood is mixed with cooked rice:


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This one’s popular, and you can expect a line here.