Gai dtai naam, which means “under water chicken” in Thai, consists of braised chicken in a coarse, aromatic paste made from lemongrass, galangal, garlic, chilies, kaffir lime leaves, holy basil, coriander and spring onions. In the home-cooked dish popular among the Thai working class, the entire chicken – including the bones – is chopped into bite-size pieces, and served with a bottle of rice wine accompanied by local country-style music (luktung) at high volume.
Northeastern Cuisine (Issan)
A marvelous Luang Prabang style fish salad recipe (Koi Pla), which is very easy to prepare and even though it looks simple, its flavors are complex and clever.
Fresh fish fillet is sliced into thin strips which are quick blanched in lemongrass infused boiling water – a cooking method that presenting it’s natural flavors with an uplifting citrusy notes. The white fish slices are then mixed with, deep golden brown caramelized mix of fried garlic, shallots and lemongrass, which are not just visually pleasing but also add a unique sweetness and richness to the dish.
In 1833 Prince Mongkut, who later became King Rama IV, found a square stone inscription, known today as “The Ramkhamheang’s Inscription”, believed to be written 541 years earlier, in 1292, by King Ramkhamheang – the third king of The Sukhothai Dynasty (1279-1298).
In this inscription King Ramkhamheang tells the story of the Sukhothai regime; He includes details of the systems of law and describes how he ruled the people wisely, in a kind and personal, like father and son manner. King Ramkhamheang – (who was an outstanding warrior, statesman, scholar and diplomat who expanded his control from the Khmer kingdom of Angkor in the east, through much of what is today central and southern Thailand, to northern parts of Laos and Burma) – gives a picture of his kingdom as idyllic and free of constrains.
Dtom Jeaw Pla is a rustic and spicy fish soup that is far from being unsophisticated. There is something humble, genuine, and unpretentious about it, which makes you fall in love with it.
Its humble countryside charm and surfeit of tastes quickly placed it high on my personal list of favorite dishes.
The fresh essence of fish cooked to perfection melds with the earthy tones of the grilled ingredients, the eggplants, shallots, chilies and garlic. It has a heavenly silky broth with a scent of lemongrass, which is generously lifted up by a handful of fresh herbs, lemon basil, saw coriander and spring onions.
The dish was introduced to me by a street vendor in forsaken part of town some twenty years ago. Auntie Yai was a true character. She was wearing intensive makeup and I still remember her talkative hilarious manner. I and other customers waiting in line were regularly subjected to nonstop “interrogations” or “interviews”. I must admit I enjoyed the peek into other people lives while waiting over an hour for her mouth watering curried rice croquettes. I loved how the pungent, vibrant swirl of ginger was setting off the fermented pork sourness just perfectly, how the nutty crunch of those peanuts was balanced by the vivid tone of fresh herbs.
Bangkok’s markets are busy from dawn until dusk, sometime even stay open when most of the city is asleep. Normally, the traffic of shoppers and crowds of office workers hurrying their way masks the busy stretch of shops and food stalls, making it difficult to pay close attention to details.
Earlier this year, however, a strange silence had fallen on the city, civil unrest brought life in the city of angels to an eerie standstill, Bangkokians elected to stay home, and shops closed their doors.
Catfish are not too fussy about the waters in which they swim. They can even flourish in stagnant waters and flooded rice fields. Farmed widely, Catfish is an inexpensive, accessible, nutritional and delicious food source.
Grilled catfish is a delicacy, the yellowish mildly fatty flesh goes well with sticky rice and chili-limejuice-fish-sauce sauce, or sweet fish-sauce dip and fresh vegetables.