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