Northern Thai Cuisine with the Kantok Diner
When planning a trip to Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand, one must see all of the cultural aspects that Northern Thai culture or Lanna culture has to offer. That is why I took my tour members to the Old Chiangmai Cultural Center. It is my favorite place for eating Northern Thai cuisine, listening to Thai music, and watching the dances. This may seem like a tourist trap, but for a short visit to Chang Mail, I recommend this experience before returning home. My visits with tour members in February 2007 and 2008 were memorable. We sat under the moonlight in a courtyard surrounded by old Thai teak buildings, ate, and watched the dance show. And of course the visitors had a chance to dance at the end.
A typical Kontok dinner menu consists of Pork-Tomato Chili Dip (Nam Prik Ong), Green Chili Pepper Dip (Nam Prik Num), Fried Chicken (Gai Tod ), Chaingmai Curry Pork (Geang Hungley), Fried Banana (Kleuy Tod) and all of the vegetable condiments that go with chili dip, plus steamed sticky rice and steamed jasmine rice. All of these dishes were placed in bowls (kan) and set on a small round teak or rattan table (tok) that was only about 10 inches tall. We sat around the table and ate the food with our fingers, or with forks and spoons.
Inspired Recipe from Our Chiang Mai Kantok Dinner
Tomato-Pork Chili Dip
Nam Prk Ong
This dish is easy to make, and among Thai chili dips, pork-tomato chili dip is easy to love. It has a tomato base and is spicy hot with chili pepper, but does not have too strong a taste of shrimp paste. The secret is to use the ripest, reddest and sweetest tomatoes you can find. I recommend multiplying the recipe so you will have enough to keep some in the freezer. In Seattle I keep some Nam Prik Ong in the fridge to use as a condiment when I serve a meal with one main protein dish. I also love to use it as a condiment with steamed jasmine rice or to accompany other savory dishes or an array of fresh vegetables.
Yield: 1 cup2 cilantro roots, or 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro stems 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and sliced, about 3 tablespoons 3 Chile Guajillo, or New Mexico chili pods, sliced and soaked in warm water for 30 minutes 5 whole dried Thai chilies, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes 10 cloves garlic, peeled 5 shallots, peeled and sliced 1 to 2 teaspoons shrimp paste placed on a piece of parchment paper and roasted in a 350BF oven for 10 minutes, (or substitute 1 tablespoon Napoleon anchovy paste) 1 teaspoon salt, or more as needed 3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil ¼ cup ground pork 1 cup sweet cherry tomatoes or any sweet tomato variety, chopped 1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar 1 tablespoon fish sauce ¼ cup chopped cilantro to garnish
Make a curry paste by placing the cilantro roots, lemongrass, chili Guajillo, Thai chilies, garlic, shallots, shrimp paste and salt in the food processor. Turn on the machine and while it runs, pour cooking oil into the spout in a stream (like making pesto). Let the processor run for 3 minutes, stopping it occasionally to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the machine.
Place the curry paste in a frying pan with the pork and cook over medium heat until the pork is no longer pink. Stir in tomato, palm sugar, and fish sauce and let it simmer until the tomato is softened. Nam Prik Ong should have the consistency of tomato sauce (not watery). When it is done, stir in chopped cilantro and serve with jasmine rice and vegetable condiments, or serve it Kantok Dinner Style with sticky rice and other traditional dishes.
Vegetable Condiments: Sliced cucumbers, long beans, wing beans, Thai eggplants, banana blossoms, steamed Kabocha pumpkin.© 2010 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen I Love Thai cooking Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .