The Food of Northern Thailand

The Food of Northern Thailand 2



Title: The Food of Northern Thailand

Author: Austin Bush 

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Category: International & Ethnic 

Awards: James Beard Nominee

Summary: This isn’t just a cookbook, it’s also a colorful narrative of Northern Thailand’s history, customs, and people. Like most of you I’m sure, I associate Thai food with the take-out Pad Thai I loved to eat in college. But real Thai food is so much more complex, featuring dishes that emphasize herbal, bitter, fragrant, and meaty flavors. For authentic Thai cooking, the author suggests investing in special kitchen tools like a noodle basket, steaming pot, and mortar & pestle. He also lists unusual, but essential ingredients like makwaen and fermented soy bean disks. While this cookbook beautifully captures true Thai cuisine, its recipes are very technical and involved.



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Format: This book is divided in sections by 6 out of 17 Northern Thai regions: Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Mae Hong Son, Phrae, and Nan. With each region comes a brief cultural and culinary history, laced with recipes, how-to’s, and in-depth information on specific ingredients. The introduction thoroughly explains Thai flavors, cooking methods, and kitchen equipment, and of course, the authors own personal accounts. 

Recipes: Northern Thai cooks don’t use recipes! They cook from their memory and sense acquired over years of experience. Therefore, all the recipes use weight measurements so make sure you have a kitchen scale handy. Most, if not all, recipe are require some sort of uncommon ingredient as well as advanced prep work (in some cases up to 3 days!). Dinner and side recipes prevail, with just a few desserts. A Thai-style dinner table features various dips and meats, all consumed with steamed rice balls.  

Headnotes: Full of interviews and tips from Thai home cooks and restaurant chef’s themselves, these headnotes take you right to the source. While they are pretty lengthy, taking up as much as a full page, it is helpful to get a cultural context of the recipe before delving in.  

Photography: This book is like a National Geographic Magazine, full of portraits of people, landscapes, street views, illustrations, and more. The variety of photography helps to fully understand the North Thailand culture without having to book a flight. 

Difficulty: This is most definitely meant for confident chefs and home cooks who want to experiment with a global cuisine, new ingredients, and equipment. 

Diets: Almost every recipes is meat-based, but there are a few vegetarian options. Not recommended for vegans.  



Where: Ask your local book seller if they carry it in store. The e-book is available at a lower price here. 

Online: AmazonBarns & NoblePenguin Random House Target

Other Publications: POK POK NoodlesUltimate Eatlist 



  • Northern Thai food is the least spicy compared to other regions. 
  • While pork and chicken are popular options, other proteins eaten in Northern Thailand are insects, ant eggs, and silkworm larvae. 
  • At one point in the cookbook, the author recounts his first experience eating dog!



Asian PennywortBalinese, or Javanese Long PepperBanana BlossomFermented Soybean DisksLablabsLuffaLuu, or Pig Blood SoupMakhwaenPea EggplantSantol



Khao Sen: Shan-style Noodle Soup with Pork and Tomato (pg. 239)

Muu Yaang: Northern Thai-style Grilled Pork (pg. 77)

Sai Ua: Northern Thai-style Herb Sausage (pg. 74)

The Food of Northern Thailand 3

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