For decades Lanna cuisine was known across Thailand the same way Thai cuisine used to be represented in the west – a standard template of khao soy, sai-ua, laab, nam prik ong, nam prik num, hung-le and nam ngiew were just about all that was featured on most menus and known to most palates.
Thanks to some northern chefs who have spread their love of northern food far and wide, some Thai and even foreign chefs who have made a career of exploring northern cuisine as well as a population which has returned to appreciating homegrown offerings, there has been a renaissance, of sorts, of Lanna cuisine.
One restaurant which is pushing this renaissance to new levels, is Euang Kam Sai Northern Thai Restaurant, located at Old Chiang Mai, the renamed Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre which had, until this year, been one of the city’s main tourist draws for its promotion and showcase of northern culture.
Old Chiang Mai is owned by the Chutima-Nimmanhaeminda family, and currently run by the fifth generation of the family which traces back to Luang Anusarn Soonthornkit, a renown traveller in his day whose love of food saw him bring home all sorts of recipes from various locations and ethnic backgrounds across the north. It is said that he used to spend time in the kitchen tinkering with recipes he had come across and perfecting dishes which his descendants have enjoyed for well over a century.
Today, for the first time, Luang Anusarn Soonthornkit’s beloved recipes will be shared with the public, at the family’s newly opened Euang Kam Sai Northern Thai Restaurant. What sets this restaurant apart from other northern Thai restaurants is in its variety of lesser known dishes which showcase a far greater representation of the region than other restaurants.
Here are some dishes to try when you first visit the restaurant:
Sticky Rice Roll – A simple recipe combining Chinese and Lanna techniques, sticky rice is rolled flat and then stuffed with the family’s chili paste recipe along with salted eggs, shredded meat (fish, beef or pork) and picked vegetables, before being wrapped in banana leaf and served.
Shan Style Tomato Salad – This is a well-known Shan dish from Myanmar and is a mild salad using fresh tomatoes mixed with nuts and crispy fried garlic. A vegetarian dish, it is a light and bright accompaniment to any meal.
Muu Hum Simmered Pork with Herbs – Tender pork bites are steamed with herbs and flavoured so that the delicious meat simply melts in the mouth. This dish is served with chili dips.
Kai-Kwam Duck Egg Croque Deep Fried Minced Duck Egg and Pork – Duck’s eggs used to be so ubiquitous half a century ago, it was rare to find a chicken’s egg. This traditional Lanna dish cuts boiled duck’s eggs in half and then mixes it with minced pork, seasoning and coriander before frying it face down.
Original Recipe Northern Herbs Sausage – This home made recipe of the famous sai-ua sausage uses freshly ground pork mixed with fresh herbs and is grilled on coconut husks, giving it a special aroma.
Khao Soy – The well-known khao soy is perfected here in a rich aromatic broth served with high grade pork and beef, so tasty you really don’t have to flavor the dish at all.
Kaeng Khae Kai, Northern Style Chicken Spicy Soup with Vegetables – This is a super healthy dish which is a local favourite. Traditionally, fresh vegetables plucked from around the garden are used to make a broth which delicately balances the heat, salt and sweet of various herbs. Served with jasmine rice or hot sticky rice.
Northern Style Hung-le Curry – Pork is marinated in an assortment of herbs and spices until the hung-le has perfectly balanced its sour and sweet flavours. The pork simply melts in the mouth.
Turmeric Yellow Rice – Aromatic rice is enhanced with fried sliced shallots and seasoned before being rolled into balls for servings. Fresh vegetables, crispy pork rind and hung-le make for a perfect combo.
Euang Kam Sai Northern Thai Restaurant
Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre
Open: 11am – 8pm Tuesday – Sunday (closed on Monday)