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Traditional Isan Food
ISAN COOKING: A JOURNEY IN FOOD, CULTURE & HISTORY
The Thai saying “There are fish in the water and rice in the fields” is used to describe the wealth, abundance of food and happiness of living in Thailand (In Thai: ในน้ำมีปลา ในนามีข้าว ; nai naam mee plaa nai naa mee khaao ).
Isan was historically Thailand's poorest region (though now Thailand's biggest boom region) with low profit rice growing as almost the exclusive industry. 60% of the land was used to grow 'sticky rice' which was the main crop as well as the staple diet.
Rural and poor, the people of Isan learnt to take basic ingredients, simple cooking methods but create stunning dishes full of flavour and richness. Blend into that influences from Laos as well as French Vietnamese and you suddenly have a cuisine totally unique in its character and taste.
Isan food for many years was a secret only to those few who ventured to the North East. Now as transportation has become easier and economic opportunities have given the motivation, Isan food is popular all over Thailand, as is central and southern dishes popular in Isan.
Isan food is yet to really travel abroad, though it has started, so do come and experience the wonderful Isan food while it still remains a little bit of a secret.
BUY FRESH, COOK FRESH, SERVE FRESH
When ever we are asked the secret to the delicious meals we server we are always happy to give up the secret: Use the same traditional recepies that we learnt from our mothers, and their mothers before them, using ingredients that we buy fresh, cook fresh and serve fresh.
It is also probably one of the most honest cuisines. Unlike central and southern Thai food, there is no overpowering curry sauces that have simmered for hours or rich coconut sauces that kill the subtly of the other ingredients.
Instead Isan food food preparation is often quite simple, quick and easy. Whilst freshness of ingredients is important (most meals served at Nakara will use ingredients plucked from the farms only hours earlier) what Isan cooking does so well is take some basic ingredients, chili peppers, lime, peanuts, dried shrimp, fresh fruits and vegetables, sticky rice, cilantro, mint and other fresh herbs and blends them into complex flavor layers that allows the taste of each ingredient to stand out in its own right within the overall dish. Fresh, brightly-flavored savory salads form the backbone of Isan cuisine as we know it. Simple marinated grilled or fried meats and sticky rice are often accompanied by one of the region's many "tams," or salads.
Add to that the cooking influence form Laos as well as French Vietnamese and you have food that is simple, quick, easy but has a highly effective use of ingredients and flavors to create food experiences that are both delicious and highly healthy.