A TWO NIGHT/THREE DAY TOUR OF THE BEAUTIFUL NAN PROVINCE – DAY TWO
Have you ever heard of Nan in Northern Thailand? If not, don’t worry, not many tourists have. Nan isn’t top of many people’s list of destinations when planning a trip to Thailand. This may be about to change, however, with the Thailand Tourism Authority making it one of their new ‘Creative Tourism Districts’
The idea behind the Creative Tourism Districts is to attract more visitors to lesser travelled regions of Thailand and help local communities support themselves through sustainable tourism.
We teamed up with thaiguide.com for a two night/three day tour of this beautiful part of Thailand.
You can read about day one here.
Day 2: Living Like a Farmer in Nam Muap
Today’s tour was the one I was most looking forward to as we would be learning to cook local Thai dishes using ingredients sourced from the jungle. As a cook that likes to travel to find new recipes (hence the name The Roaming Cook), I was excited by the prospect of coming back with some new recipes for the website!
We met our local guide, Nim, and headed up to the Village of Nam Muap which is about an hour south of Nan town, by the border of Laos. We started by going to meet a local farmer to learn how to prepare a jungle fruit known locally as look chit.
Look chit, or palm seed, grow in large clusters on trees and have a similar appearance to Thai Mangosteen. Unlike Mangosteen, however, look chit must be boiled and peeled before the fruit it is eaten. Our new farmer friend was using a traditional an iron press to separate the pips from the flesh of the fruit inside. There seemed to be a lot of work going into preparing the fruit to be sold at just 25 baht a kilo!
We purchased a bag of the look chit fruit for the bargain price to take to Nim’s mother’s house, where we were going to be making a traditional dessert with it.
In the same village square as the look chit, a group of women weave bamboo baskets by hand to sell at the markets. The patterns they can create are incredible, and we couldn’t leave without grabbing a few for the house.
On the way back to the house, we stopped off to see how a local treat called khao lam is prepared. Khao lam is a sweet of sticky rice and coconut milk studded into a piece of bamboo and grilled over a fire so that it steams itself from the inside. We wouldn’t be making any here, though, we were saving that for Nim’s house, as apparently, her mum whips up the best khao lam in town!
Once back at the house, Nim let us know what we would be cooking today:
Luk Tarn Buat – Palm seed in coconut milk.
Gaeng no mai – Bamboo shoot soup.
Gaeng Bon – Pork and jungle herb curry.
Khao Lum – sweet sticky rice steamed in bamboo.
This class was unlike any cooking lesson I’ve seen in Thailand before; I found myself sitting on the floor of the kitchen helping to prepare the bamboo for the curry. I felt like a member of the family!
Nim led us through the curry, and the look chit dessert and showed me how to mix the rice and stuff the bamboo for the khao lam. When we’d finished up, we all sat down at her table, overlooking the rice fields below to eat the feast we’d created.
My favourite thing we cooked was the khao lam. The rice mixture was the same as the rice for mango sticky rice, but with added coconut flesh. Once it’s steamed in the bamboo cylinders, it takes on a real sweet, smokey flavour. Delicious!
The palm fruit wasn’t as sweet as I imagined it would be. Once it was in a bowl of sugary, salty coconut milk with pandan, it was delicious enough!
The bamboo curry, which was more of a soup, was delicious. It was packed with bundles of fresh bamboo shoots and veg from the local area, shrimp paste and local jungle herbs.
It was refreshing to do a cooking lesson in Thailand that didn’t involve pad Thai or green curry; here, it was like being invited to your friend’s grandma’s house to cook!
I especially enjoyed making the Gaeng Bon as it uses a herb, bon, which sourced from the local forest. Apparently, if you touch the uncooked herb it makes you itchy!
After lunch, we headed to the village temple, the beautiful Daen Thong Pagoda to have a special ceremony. There, we sat with the local villagers to blessed by the local priest. There was nothing touristy about this; it just seemed like they wanted to welcome us to the village!
Before heading back to Nan, we were treated to some local dancing at the top of the temple, a tradition that the locals are incredibly proud of. It was a beautiful end to a fantastic day learning about a different culture.
Our guide Nim lives in the village with her husband and two children so is hugely knowledgeable about the area. Nam Muap is a small community where everyone knows everyone, so you get a feeling you are seeing real village life going on around you, not like a lot of set up ‘Tribe’ tours that have popped up around Northern Thailand in recent years.
You can check out day two video below:
If you’d like to know more about the trip and how you can book a tour, you can head over to thaiguide.com