Isaan is known as the heartland of the Kingdom of Thailand. It is located on the borders of Cambodia and Laos, the language is different to the rest of Thailand, they speak Khmer and a dialect of Laos. Around 70 percent of the population in Thailand are from Isaan, it is probably the poorest province in Thailand, so a lot of the workers within hospitality industry around the major tourist areas are from Isaan.
One of the great things to come out of Isaan is the food, and its probably like nothing you have ever seen before.
I’ve found a fantastic little place in Chalong, in the Pla Lai area. It is known as Jao Noi, or Aroi Corner, and it used to be located on the Phuket Zoo traffic lights.
They have now moved to a much nicer venue down behind the restaurants that litter the Pla Lai boardwalk.
Take the last left before the pier and you will find Jao Noi about 50 meters along on the right hand side.
There are dishes I always order when ever I eat Isaan food
- The grilled chicken with sweet chilli sauce
- The unofficial national dish of Thailand ‘Som Tum’, which is a spicy papaya salad
- Nam Tok, which is grilled pork neck mixed with mint leaves, shallots and other herbs (similar to larb).
- Kor Moo Yang, grilled pork neck with a spicy dipping sauce
- Larb Gai, this is minced chicken in a special larb sauce.
Isaan food is generally a pretty messy affair, its lots of bone crunching and lip smacking, also a lot is eaten with your hands. The staple of most Thai dishes is rice. With Isaan food it is generally eaten with sticky rice. The idea is you grab a bit out of the bamboo serving pack, scrunch it up into a ball, and then dip it into the bowls, using your index finger to grab a few vegies and meat. Then pop it into your mouth
When it comes time to pay the bill, you will be astonished at how cheap it is. I can take 4 adults out to a huge dinner dinner including alcohol for less than 700 baht.