Khanom jeen nam ngiaw: The best Thai dishes you’ve never heard of

Khanom jeen nam ngiaw: The best Thai dishes you’ve never heard of

Give the khao soi a break and try this tart and meaty Northern Thai noodle dish
Kuaytiaw nam ngiaw
Kuaytiaw nam ngiaw
Kuaytiaw nam ngiaw
Kuaytiaw nam ngiaw
kuaytiaw nam ngiaw
A dish of khanom jeen nam ngiaw at Kuaytiaw 12 Panna.

Northern Thai dishes are the most elusive regional cuisine in Bangkok. Most people are only familiar with khao soi, a curry-based noodle dish. Sure, it's incredibly tasty and deservedly popular. But we recommend switching things up once in a while to give northern Thailand's lesser known noodle export a try: khanom jeen nam ngiaw. 

A dish typically served alongside the popular khao soi at northern Thai noodle stalls, nam ngiaw most likely has its origins in the Shan communities of northern Thailand (ngiaw is a somewhat derogatory term used to refer to the Shan), where it takes the form of a watery, slightly tart broth served over the eponymous khanom jeen, a variety of freshly made rice noodle. Over time, northern Thais beefed up the spice paste and added more meat, resulting in a heartier dish that is sometimes likened to a Thai-style bolognese. 

khanom jeen nam ngiawA bowl of kuaytiaw nam ngiaw from Pa Orn, a vendor at Bangkok’s Or Tork Kor Market.The broth is made by simmering pork (or sometimes beef) in a mixture that includes a spice paste, dried herbs and halved cherry tomatoes. The meat, which can range from minced pork to chopped spareribs, combines with the spice paste to form a rich, meaty and often rather oily stew. The tomatoes provide a counterpart of acidity, and the broth is served over the noodles and supplemented with cubes of blood, topped with a generous amount of deep-fried crispy garlic and accompanied by sides of pickled mustard green, thinly sliced cabbage, bean sprouts, lime and dried chilies, deep-fried until crispy.

Some of the better places in Bangkok to get khanom jeen nam ngiaw include:

Kuaytiaw 12 Panna

Probably Bangkok’s best bowl of nam ngiaw can be had at Kuaytiaw 12 Panna, the only branch of a longstanding Chiang Rai institution. The vast servings here are rich and meaty, and are topped with loosely formed minced pork meatballs and strewn with cubes of blood and tomatoes.

Silom Road Soi 3, BTS: Saladaeng. Open Monday to Saturday, 7am-3pm. Price: 35 baht. Tel +66 (0)86 334 1489


Pa Orn Chiang Rai

Pa Orn also hails from Chiang Rai and serves a small but stellar bowl of that combines all the essentials: minced pork balls, spare ribs, and an oily and rich broth studded with tart tomatoes.

#11/35 Or Tor Kor Market, MRT: Kamphaeng Phet. Open daily, 8am-5pm. Price: 30 baht

khanom jeen nam ngiawServing up khanom jeen nam ngiaw at Kuaytiaw 12 Panna.

Yuy Lee

A less intimidating introduction to khanom jeen nam ngiaw can be found at Yuy Lee, where slightly smaller bowls combine a thin, tart broth with loose minced pork and plenty of deep-fried crispy garlic.

25 Sukhumvit Soi 31, BTS: Phrom Phong. Open Monday to Saturday, 10am-8pm. Price: 30 baht. Tel +66 (0)2 258 4600


Kuan Phochana

Kuan Phochana’s take on the dish unites meaty pork spareribs with a rich and slightly oily broth and ample dork ngiw, a dried flower traditionally added to the dish for flavor.

Sukhumvit Soi 22, BTS: Asok. Open daily, 11am-7pm. Price: 30 baht

Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham

Lam Duan, a legendary Chiang Mai khao soi institution, has a branch in the outskirts of Bangkok where the nam ngiaw is heavy on the blood and tomatoes.

Vibhavadi-Rangsit Soi 58, Open daily, 8.30am-3pm. Closed last Sunday of the month. Price: 35 baht. Tel +66 (0)2 579 6403

This is part three in an ongoing series that highlights some of Thailand's finest but underrated dishes. To read part one, on the delicious 'khao khluk kapi,' click here. In part two, we explore the adventerous 'kuaytiaw luy suan.'

Austin Bush is an American writer/photographer based in Bangkok, Thailand. His photos have been published in variety of magazines, books and newspapers including DestinAsian, Food & Travel, Olive, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, as well as numerous Lonely Planet publications. For an online portfolio and samples of his work, check out www.austinbushphotography.com.

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