Sai Ua: Northern Thai-style Herb Sausage

Thai-style Sausage 2

Northern Thai-style Herb Sausage from The Food of Northern Thailand


Why I picked this recipe: Has a short ingredient list, doesn’t take long to make, and of course, sounds delicious! My mom always buys boxed breakfast sausage, so I thought this would be a great project to stock our fridge with homemade ones. I skipped the sausage casing in the recipe and formed the mixture into patties. 

What worked: Even though pork sausages are meaty as is, the addition of shrimp paste gave it an extra layer of umami. The lemongrass also adds a lovely subtle citrusy aroma you wouldn’t expect in regular sausage. 

What didn’t: To my chagrin, I couldn’t find kaffir leaves, not even at my local Asian Market. I found some online, but didn’t feel like going through the extra step of ordering them. I wanted to stay true the ingredient list, but I made due with what I had. So, I substituted the kaffir leaves with lime and lemon zest. And because I forgot to buy dried chilies, I just used cayenne powder. Because of this (plus not using a motor & pestle) I’m sure the flavors are not as pronounced and developed as they should be, but for a cheat version it was delicious. 

Suggested tweaks: If you don’t like the occasional hunk of fat in your sausage, skip the course grind and buy regular ground pork. I also strongly suggest frying a small piece of the sausage mixture to taste, mine needed more salt (doesn’t it always?). Lastly, if you go camping bring some frozen ones and grilled them on an open fire as suggested in the book!


Thai-style Breakfast Sausage 3

~*~ Northern Thai-style Breakfast Sandwich ~*~


These Thai sausage patties are adapted from Austin Bush’s The Food of Northern Thailand. Whether topped on pizza, mixed into soups or served in a sandwich, you’ll love its umami-packed, citrus-scented flavor thanks to two essential Thai ingredients—shrimp paste and lemon grass. For more depth of flavor, use a mortar & pastel to make the curry paste. Northern Thai cooking is often grilled over coals, so this summer I suggest  grilling the sausages over an open fire.  

Mise En Place

For the sausage:

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne or red pepper flakes 

2 stalks lemongrass, outer layers and green sections removed, pale section thinly sliced 

1 medium shallot, peeled and minced 

5 small garlic cloves, peeled and minced 

1 teaspoon shrimp paste 

1/2 pound ground pork 

1/2 pound ground pork belly, or thick-cut bacon (minced) 

1 tablespoon soy sauce 

zest of 3 limes

zest of 1 lemon 

1/2 teaspoon turmeric  


For the tomato relish: 

15 cherry tomatoes 

3 or more Thai chilies, depending on spice preference 

5 green onions, white and pale green sections chopped  

1/2 teaspoon salt 


For the sandwiches: 

4 bagels or english muffins 

4 large eggs 





Thai-style Sausage Dip 1

Akha-style Grilled Tomato and Chili Dip from The Food of Northern Thailand



In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Fry or microwave a tablespoon of the mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Form into 2 – 4 ounce patties and place on a plate or baking sheet.

PLAN AHEAD: At this point, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for 3 months, individually wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn. Thaw before pan frying or grilling. 



Place tomatoes and chilies on a baking sheet and place under the oven broiler. Broil, occasionally shaking the pan, until the tomatoes are soft, wilted, and charred. Remove from the oven and cool. Remove charred skin, if desired. Mince chilies and green onions then transfer to a bowl. Add the tomatoes and mash into a coarse, watery dip. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 



Toast bagels or English muffins in the toaster. Place each on a piece of aluminum foil and spread with butter. 



Cook sausage patties in a skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Transfer sausage to lower bagel halves.



In a bowl, whisk the eggs together with salt and pepper. Lower heat to medium. Add butter and swirl around the pan. Once melted, pour the eggs into the skillet. Cook and stir occasionally, breaking up the curds as they form. For creamier eggs, remove pan from the heat when the eggs are almost cooked but still runny. For drier eggs, continue to stir the eggs to desired doneness. Divide them among the bagel bottoms. 

ALTERNATIVE: Everyone likes their eggs a certain way. If you like them over-easy then DO IT! 



Top with tomato relish and fresh cilantro. Enclose with bagel top. Wrap in aluminum foil to keep warm until serving. 



Replace pork with tempeh, and shrimp paste with double fermented soy sauce. In Step 1, finely chop the tempeh. Add to a mixing bowl or food processor. Mix or pulse until thoroughly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. When ready to cook, form into disks, squeezing and firmly pressing together until compact. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and fry on both sides until browned. 


Thai-style Breakfast Sausage 4


Reprinted from The Food of Northern Thailand by Austin Bush. Copyright © 2018. Published by Clarkson Potter New York. All rights reserved.

Food for Thought

%d bloggers like this: