If you have lived in Pattaya for any length of time will know that many of the local inhabitants come from Isaan. It is a large area in the northeast of the Kingdom. Like many other regions of Thailand, Isaan has its own particular style of food which is usually extraordinarily spicy and colourful. Some dishes aren’t for the feinted hearted and include things that we would never dream of eating in the west, including rat and raw pork. However, there may be a few dishes that you are prepared to try, and even appear on many menus in Pattaya, so here is our guide.
1.Somtam – Papaya Salad
Somtam is arguably the most popular Isaan dish, and it can be found on menus throughout the country. The base ingredient is shredded green papaya which is placed in a pestle and mortar. To this, lime juice and the remaining lime, fish sauce, and chilies are added mixed. Once perfectly blended, tomatoes and sometimes palm sugar and peanuts will be included and given one final mix. Thais tend to eat this regardless of the time of day, but it can be incredibly spicy!
2.Laab – Thai Spicy Salad
Laab is another Isaan dish that can be found on almost every menu, although in Pattaya and other areas, it tends to be slightly different from the original. The original often use raw minced pork (which carries the obvious health risks), but in Pattaya, they will use cooked meats or occasionally mushrooms or other vegetarian options. The cold meat will be mixed with fresh lime and fish sauce along with some sliced shallots. Sometimes, finely cut lemongrass is often added, and the dish is topped with fresh mint.
3.Nam Tok Moo – Grilled Pork Salad
Nam Tok Moo is an Isaan dish that can sometimes be found in Pattaya. The main ingredient is the grilled pork shoulder, which is served with a spicy salad. The salad contains sliced green onions; ground dried chili, fish sauce, lime juice, and topped with mint. In both appearance and taste, the dish is very similar to Laab Moo. The dish is popular with foreigners who enjoy spicy food but again care needs to be taken as it can be towards the top of the scale!
4.Gai Yang – Grilled Chicken
Gai Yang is probably the dish that you will have seen being barbequed all around Pattaya as forms an integral part of the diet in northeast Thailand. It is simply chicken that has been marinated in lime juice and sugar overnight and then cooked slowly on a charcoal barbeque. It does have a unique flavor, but most people love it.
5.Khao Neow – Sticky Rice
Sticky rice is a big favorite with Thais who would often prefer it to jasmine rice. It gets its name as when cooked; it turns sticky. You will no doubt have seen people tucking into it from a plastic bag, where they will pull pieces off with their fingers. It can be served with almost any meal, but for those with a sweet tooth, they should try it with ripe mango. Delicious!