Visiting Thai people’s villages, tourists have opportunities to enjoy various traditional dishes such as khau lam (bamboo-tube rice), nhua mu khua (steamed pork) and nhua giang (smoked buffalo meat), pa pinh top (grilled fish), cay ping (grilled chicken), bamboo shoots and sticky rice.

To make delicious and healthy dishes, they skillfully and delicately choose distinctive spices such as mac khen (a kind of native pepper), hat doi (Michelia tonkinensis seeds), chili pepper, ginger, citronella, herbs, etc.

A Thai woman in Mai Chau (Hoa Binh) is making ‘com lam.’

Beside growing spices at home, the Thai people go into the forests to look for more spices, dry them and put them in tubes or jars to store throughout the year.

Mac khen and hat doi are the hardest to find because the tall trees grow on very craggy mountains. People need to wait for hat doi to be ripe and fall to the ground before picking them up, whereas mac khen bunches can be collected when they’re still green, then dried and ground them for later use.

The Thai people believe that seasoning is an important step in food processing since it makes dishes deeply spiced, and leaves a unique aftertaste.

Smoked buffalo meat looks quite tasty when covered with spices outside. Grilled fish is more subtle when soaked in mac khen, hat doi, and other herbs, then folded in half on a bamboo stick to grill on charcoals. Stir-fried chicken served with sour bamboo shoots is more delicious when sprinkled with crushed roasted hat doi and herbs. Pork from piglets seasoned with clausena indica leaves and seeds and grilled over charcoal is both crispy and sweet.

“Spices are indispensable in the culinary culture of the Thai ethnic people. Apart from seasoning, Thai people create unique sauces that help to improve the dish flavor,” said Lo Thi Hoa from Tu Le commune, Van Chan district, Yen Bai province.

Steamed fish is a traditional deeply-flavored dish.

Cham cheo is a typical kind of salt with a combination of various types of herbs including mac khen, hat doi, chili, ginger, salt, spearmint, culantro, and coriander. Cham cheo is used for a lot of dishes such as boiled pork, grilled fish, vegetables, boiled bamboo shoots and sticky rice.

“Among ethnic minorities in the Northwestern region, the Thai people have made a great impression on tourists thanks to their creativity and subtle combination of spices in dishes, which has become the distinctive feature of their culinary culture,” said Nguyen Quang Dai from Man Lan commune of Thanh Ba district, Phu Tho province.

Translated by Minh Hieu - Khanh Linh - Ha My - Truc Linh