Everyone has a dish that reminds them of their childhood. It’s the one dish that people usually think of as their “comfort food”, the one that people think of when they think of their families and where they grew up. It’s also the dish that tells you the most about someone.
Since I grew up in the United States with a father from Chiang Rai and a mother from Chiang Mai, it’s no surprise that the dish that figures most prominently in my childhood is a Northern Thai one. No, not khao soy – the curried egg noodles so popular among visitors to the region and said by some to have originated in Chiang Mai.
Instead, kanom jeen nam ngiew is the dish that smacks most of home: fermented rice noodles, minced pork and/or beef, fermented beans, stewed tomatoes and, typical for the meat-loving North, cubes of congealed pig’s blood. Most importantly, a real version of this dish must include dok ngiew, dried flower blossoms that resemble sawed-off brooms. Any dish without this ingredient is likely to fall short.