Every day I shop in my local fresh foods market in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It has literally changed my life as well as way I think about food. Its as far removed from the soulless weekly supermarket shop as Land Crab Caviar is from the huge deep frozen Turkey Twizlers. At this time there is a range of unusual food within Thailand, such as plump and delightful grilled frogs, the terrifying Snake Head Fruit as well as the delicious Land Crab Caviar. Let me tell you what uncommon things to look out for in any fresh food marketplace in Thailand.
For the more adventurous amongst you. These tiny plump beauties are gathered up in big wicker baskets at the side of hemp fields when the rice harvests occur. With the development of fast growing almond, combined with perfect weather, this can be up to 3 times a year. They are also farmed up in the mountains as part of the Royal Food Project which encourages hill tribe maqui berry farmers to turn to sustainable and legal seeds rather than Opium Poppies. It is fantastically successful with Royal Project retailers springing up all over the place selling things like local Buffalo Milk Mozzarella Parmesan cheese and Wood Smoked Trout Fillets. In fact Thailand is rapidly learning to be a modern foodie nation.
The frogs are cooked here in numerous approaches; in curries, roasted, grilled, melted and deep fried. The most common method that you will come across in most markets is grilled. The frogs are boned and even splayed on a bamboo fork which can be then slow roasted in situ in the market. 20 Baht a put and very tasty too.
Slow Beef roasts Duck
This is a classic. The whole joker is slowly roasted at a reduced heat in an enclosed glass case which keeps the juices in together with stops it drying out. In effect it is a classic American barbecue. It is delivered sliced in little containers around 50 Baht a potion. You may buy freshly steamed jasmine rice from your stall next door and eat all of them together there and then in the market and even taste a little bit of heaven.
Pork Hemp Porridge
Locally this is called Write, although you don’t really pronounce typically the “t”, it just gives us a little something to aim for. It is the poor guys staple food and available at the market nearly all the time every day of the year. It is nothing more than a creamy porridge produced from milled rice and flavoured along with chopped coriander, spring onions together with whatever ground meat you have to hands.
I like the pork version. Oahu is the local special.
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As the porridge is relatively bland for Thai tastes the traditional to flavour it to yours liking from a choice of about 13 little condiment dishes. These include; dried out chilli powder, crushed fried garlic clove, lemon juice, palm sugar, fish gravy, chopped fresh chilli in grain vinegar, chopped fresh coriander, chopped spring onions, chopped fried hemp noodle, bean sprouts and pickled cabbage. For a little bag associated with Jot to take away you shell out a measly 10 Baht.
When you fancy making it yourself at one of the numerous Cooking Schools in Thailand it is usually on the menu along with Green Curry together with Green Papaya Salad. The numerous grilling schools are a great introduction to Thai as well as affordable even if you are on the tightest of budgets.
Steamed Ground Nuts
Therefore simple and so good. I had only possibly seen ground nuts in their shells at the zoo where they were named Peanuts which, when we were little ones could feed to the monkeys. Possibly that or ready shelled in addition to salted and sold in every 7 Eleven on the planet. At the market you acquire them in their shell having been lightly steamed. They must be one of several healthiest snack in the world. You see these individuals for sale everywhere and cost no greater than 20 Baht for a big bundle. You often see them available for sale, along with baked eggs, from seashore vendors down at Hua Hin or on the islands.
Land Crab Caviar
You don’t get fresh water area crabs in most parts of the world and therefore don’t get the wonderful crab substance which is made from them. It’s not a true caviar but has the same intensive rich flavour. After it has rained you get an explosion of these crabs which live in and around grain fields, ditches. The caviar is a marvellous dark orange colour, described I do believe by arty types as Burned Ochre, a favourite colour of Rembrandt, apparently. It has a strong, dark and earthy sea food flavor. It’s a touch like a cross between crab meat and anchovy. It’s certainly a robust and unusual taste.