The dishes are drawn from authentic family recipes passed from generation to generation and feature popular regional favourites such as Gaeng Hang Lay (Pork & Ginger Curry) and Sai Oua (grilled pork sausage spiced with turmeric and herbs) alongside lesser known dishes such as ‘aab’ (minced meat and herbs blended and steamed in banana leaf) and ‘saa’ (northern style salads).
While Central Thai cuisine, inspired by the refined tradition of royal court cooking, is the classic Thai food that most of us have come to know and love, the food of the north has its roots in more humble origins. Less famous but no less delicious, northern Thai cooking is comfort food at its very best: down-to-earth, unpretentious and homespun, with a heady mix of ethnic influences from around the region--much like the people of the north themselves.
The contrast in cooking styles is clear from the start of the meal, with northerners preferring ‘sticky rice’ a glutinous variety, steamed in bamboo baskets and rolled into toothy balls by hand before being dipped into a variety of chilli dipping sauces and curries over the more delicate jasmine rice eaten with a spoon by their Siamese cousins to the south. The cooler climate of the region and geography has also influenced the food with cooks employing vegetables like pumpkin greens, cabbage, bamboo shoots and local spinach which grow abundantly in these parts while curries rely on a variety of local herbs rather than coconut milk for flavor due to the area’s mountainous terrain far from the coast.
Another staple of northern Thai cuisine are the dipping sauces made by mashing grilled chillis & vegetables with shallots, garlic and herbs in a mortar before serving with sticky rice and blanched vegetables on the side. Tamarind Village’s Num Prik Num (green chilli dipping sauce served with crispy pork skin) is a classic example with a spicy and sour zing to it while the Tum Ma Kuea (eggplant and chilli dip) offers a more mild combination of char-grilled eggplant and herbs and is served with hard-boiled eggs and mint leaf as an accompaniment.
Northerners have a reputation for economy and for making delicious dishes from whatever they have growing in their own back yards. The food is simple, healthy and wholesome. This explains the popularity of an ingredient such as bamboo shoots which are plentiful and grow wild throughout the region and can be transformed into nutritious soups, curries and salads as in Tamarind Village’s own ‘Nor Mai Oua’ (Bamboo Shoots Stuffed with Minced Pork) and its ‘Yum Nor Mai’ (Sliced Bamboo Shoot Salad).
For the more adventurous there is ‘Ab Plaa’ a grilled, curry-marinated fish fillet wrapped in banana leaf and ‘Jor Phak Plung’ Ceylon Spinach Soup which gets its tangy kick from fresh tamarind, lime juice and grilled young green chilis and its unique texture and aromatic flavor from the addition of Ceylon Spinach, a local green. And there is also ‘Saa Hua Plee’ (Banana Blossom Salad) with the beautiful red-pink of the blossom giving color to this dish with its fresh and crispy, thinly sliced banana flower tossed with a chilli paste dressing.
Northern Thai history also informs the food of the region with Chinese and Burmese influence clearly seen in a number of dishes such as the popular ‘Gaeng Hung Lay,’ a rich and creamy ginger and turmeric based curry that arrived with the Burmese invasions and Shan migrations of past centuries and stayed. Tamarind Village’s version boasts braised pork which is cooked until perfectly tender and freshly chopped ginger and garlic along with a dash of tamarind juice for extra depth.
The all-new ‘Kong Kin Baan Hao’ menu is available at Tamarind Village Chiang Mai’s Ruen Tamarind restaurant from November onwards (open daily for lunch and dinner). The hotel’s charming setting with plentiful trees and flower-filled courtyards and its typical northern Thai architecture and décor make it the perfect place to discover the flavors of the north; cooked in a simple and authentic way, just like grandma used to make it.
Getting there: To start your journey of gastronomic exploration book a Lanna Deluxe room January 11th - March 31st, 2013 and enjoy special savings with Tamarind Village’s special ‘Stay four, pay three’ offer which includes a tasting dinner (food only) from the Kong Gin Ban Hao’ menu.
To book your dream holiday to Tamarind Village Chiang Mai, see your local travel agent or visit firstname.lastname@example.org