Isaan Food A Beginners Guide

The Staples of North East Thai Cuisine

The North East of Thailand has long been famous for its unique food. An important part of the culture, food is always present at family gatherings. As you probably know there is a wide range of very distinctive tastes.

Here’s our Top Ten of Isaan Food

Number 1 : Som Tam (Papaya Salad)

– A staple lunchtime favourite, spicy or very spicy, choose from 1 to 5 raw chillies, lime, fish sauce together with shredded papaya mashed with a large pestle and mortar at the roadside.

2. Grilled Chicken

Great on its own or with Som Tam. Khai Yang is usually barbecued and tastes great – just like chicken!

Grilled Chicken Known as Gai Yang, Sticky Rice and Som Tam.

3. Sticky Rice known as Khao (rice) Niao.

Another staple, full of energy dish, eat with Som Tom Isaan, BBQ Chicken and the hands!

4. Larb Moo.

A fiery minced pork salad and a big favourite in Isaan. Laab comes as a stir-fried minced pork dish with shallots, coriander and mint leaves. Seasoned with the salty flavour of fish sauce and the sour of lime juice.


Larb Moo

5. Larb Moo Tod.

The fried version of Larb Moo – I actually prefer these patties to Larb Moo, delicious.
Larb Moo Tod

6. Jim Joom

Hot pot Thai Syle! Traditionally made with chicken or pork and fresh herbs such as galangal, sweet basil, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, cooked in a small clay pot on a charcoal stove.

7. Rice Soup with Chicken.

A breakfast dish and great hangover cure. Whilst appearing to be quite a plain dish it’s actually really tasty and makes you feel well again.

8. Moo Krob and Moo Daeng.

Crispy pork belly and Char Sui pork. Whilst served widely throughout Thailand and especially Bangkok these are a local favourite and delicious with rice or noodles.

9. Isaan Sausage

– The famous Isan sausage brings a unique distinctive sour taste by the fermenting of pork and sticky rice. Accompanied with varying raw veg, ginger and fresh chillies adding extra heat, often served with lime and peanuts.
Isaan Sausage

10. Naam Tok

Naam Tok actually means waterfall so this dish is Waterfall Beef. It is usually barbequed and the juices drip onto charcoal (hence the name waterfall) although is often fried and tends to be a bit rare – avoid if you always go for ‘well done’ beef.

This is a personal top ten and there are countless other Isaan dishes and local favourites to try out together with a huge array of fruits and vegetables.

We’ll bring some more unusual and exotic recipes in the Isaan cook’s repertoire – check back to Khon Kaen Times regularly or sign up for a subscription free ( see sidebar ).


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