Khao som

DSC_3154-Edit Khao som means 'sour rice', and is a snack beloved by the Shan people, particularly by those living in Myanmar's Shan State. There, the dish is made from rice that has mixed with turmeric (and sometimes potatoes), kneaded into thin disks, drizzled with fried garlic and garlic oil, and served with a side of crunchy, pungent leek roots:


In Mae Hong Son, home to a significant Shan population, the dish takes a slightly different form. There, the rice is mixed with tomatoes and tamarind and/or turmeric, and is shaped into balls or small disks. It's typically served with a type of salad made from green beans, young jackfruit or both, garnished with deep-fried crispy garlic and dried chilies fried in oil, and drizzled with garlic oil. Regardless of where it's made, khao som is generally not as sour as the name suggests, and instead emphasises savoury, garlicky and earthy flavours.

I'd been taught how to make khao som on a previous visit to Mae Hong Son, but until this trip, I'd never really noticed much of it for sale. My favourite version was probably that available at the covered area next to the Jao Phor Khor Meu Lek shrine in central Mae Hong Son city:


An elderly vendor here sells the yellow, turmeric-heavy version, and the balls of rice come with a dollop of bean salad, a sprig of cilantro and half a disk of grilled thua nao, a condiment made from fermented and dried soybeans. It's a tasty one-dish meal that set me back a total of 15B (about US$0.50).

Khao Som Vendor San Jao Phor Khor Meu Lek, Th Singhanat Bamrung, Mae Hong Son 8-11am Mon-Fri

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Another good version of khao som can be found at the tiny lakeside market that pops up during Mae Hong Son's tourist season, from approximately November to January. Most of the food for sale at this market isn't that great, but during these months, Paa Add, one of my favourite vendors, sells a small variety of local dishes, including a good version of khao som:


Tomato heavy and almost meaty, her version of the dish has a lot of savoury flavour, and depending on what day you come by, it will be accompanied by green beans, tiny young fava beans (my personal favourite) or jackfruit.

Paa Add Th Pradit Chong Kham, Mae Hong Son 4-8pm November-January

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If you find yourself in Mae Sariang, in southern Mae Hong Son province, on a Sunday afternoon, you can get khao som at the tiny town's Kaat Tit (Sunday Market):


A vendor here sells a version that appears to include both tomato and turmeric. The dish is drizzled with lots of garlicky oil, and unusually, the accompanying salad includes both green beans and jackfruit. The same vendor also sells the dish at the town's morning market (pictured at the top of this post).

Kaat Tit (Mae Sariang's Sunday Market) Th Wiang Mai, Mae Sariang 4-9pm Sunday

Mae Sariang's Morning Market 6-9am

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Khao som is also available at Mae Hong Son's rotating market and at Pai's afternoon market.