The North (including the city of Chiangmai)
Until the late 1800’s, this region of Thailand existed almost as a separate kingdom, with a fortress composed of rivers, mountains, and trees. Within this isolation, the northern Thai people developed a distinct dialect as well as their own unique style of cooking.
Unlike the south, here there are no coconut trees—hence no coconut milk. Unless it is brought in or comes from a river, fish is not usually eaten int his landscape of hills, valleys, and farmland. Red meat of all kinds is more common here, along with various vegetable dishes (both raw and cooked). Sticky rice is eaten daily, not necessarily as a dessert (like in other regions), but to accompany these spicy meat dishes.
For Vegetarians/Vegans: Although the cuisine of this region used to be based primarily on red meats, today there is an abundance of vegetarian and vegan restaurants. This recent influx stems from the spiritual atmosphere of the city and its focus of peace and wellbeing. Organic produce - and restaurants that use them - is also becoming popular and readily available.
An example of a northern curry is Thai Jungle Curry.
Other dishes from northern Thailand include various types of spicy dips used to add flavor to raw vegetables, or used as a “wrap” as in Lettuce Wraps.
The Northeast is perhaps the poorest region of Thailand, also known as Issaan. Droughts are common, and the heat during the day can be oppressive. Like the north, fish and coconut milk are not readily available for everyday home cooking. When animals are eaten, no part is left to waste. Beef (including tongue, stomach, intestines, heart, and liver) is common, as are chicken, pork, and even boar. Cooking methods here include much roasting or broiling. Clear curries are popular, while the most famous dish of the region is Green Papaya Salad, often eaten with Sticky Rice.