Top 10 Delicious Isan Foods That You Will Definitely Love


The Isan, the northeastern region of Thailand, is possibly the most underrated region in the country in terms of tourism. However, its delicious cuisine dominates the Thai culinary scene. Most of the region’s dishes can be found across the country, whether in restaurants or street food stalls. On the border with Laos, the food in Isan has strong Laotian influences. The dishes consist of many herbs and spices and are therefore rather hot and tasty.

Below we’ve rounded up 10 delicious Isan dishes that you must try during your stay in Thailand.

1.Som Tum (papaya salad)

Somtum, or papaya salad, is perhaps the first food that comes to mind when one thinks of isan food. There are many versions of this papaya salad, but the dish generally features fresh green papaya slices, lime, fish sauce, peanuts, garlic, palm sugar, and chilli. The dish has a perfect mix of sweet, salty, hot and spicy. As a rule, you can choose the heat according to your taste, from not hot to extra hot. Thais eat Som Tum at any time of the day, be it for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even as a snack. It is usually enjoyed with sticky rice or rice noodles.

PHOTO: Som Tum Metha Rattanasampan from Pixabay.

2. Gai Yang (grilled chicken)

Grilled chicken may be a simple and common dish, but it’s an isan staple that you must try. What makes this dish unique is the marinating process and style of cooking. The meat is usually marinated in a simple sauce made with lemon juice, sugar, garlic, coriander root, black pepper, fish sauce, and gravy. Then the chicken is slowly cooked over a charcoal grill. Thanks to the marinade, Gai Yang is bursting with flavor. In addition, the charcoal grill exudes an appetizing smoky taste. The dish is often eaten with sweet and sour tamarind sauce, which makes it even more delicious and makes you want to come back again. Finding this grilled chicken in northeast Thailand is easy as almost every Isan street vendor and shop has the dish on their menu.

Isan food to try

PHOTO: Gai Yang from by Freepik.

3.Laab (minced meat salad)

Although Thais consider laab (or larb) a salad, it is actually more seasoned meat than a salad. The meat (pork, beef, chicken or duck) is minced and then cooked in its own juices. Vegans and vegetarians can replace minced meat with mushrooms. Then the minced meat is mixed with lime juice, fish sauce, roasted rice powder, chilli flakes and mint leaves. The result is a salty and smoky taste that is perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are also uncooked versions of laab, but it’s not for the faint of heart!

Isan food to try

PHOTO: Laab von bns09 from Pixabay.

4.Nam Tok (Grilled Meat Salad)

Nam Tok is very similar to Laab. However, instead of minced meat, grilled meat is used as the main ingredient. There are two flavors of Nam Tok: Nam to Moo (grilled pork salad) and Nam Tok Neua (grilled beef salad). Like Larb, Nam Tok’s sauce consists of lime juice, fish sauce, mint leaves, fresh spring onions, and ground dried chilies. Fun fact, Nam Tok means waterfall in Thai. Legend has it that it is named Nam tok from the sound of meat juices hitting the hot coals, which resembles the rushing water of a waterfall.

Isan food to try

PHOTO: Nam Tok by ieang from iStock.

5. Tom Saap (spicy soup)

Tom Saap is the northeast version of the world famous Tom Yum soup. The soup on broth is very easy. It consists of pork bones (usually the ribs), galangal, fish sauce, fresh lime juice, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and lots of fresh chillies. Wild mushrooms can also be used in place of pork bones to make the vegetarian version of this hearty dish. Tom Saap has all the components of Thai taste – sour, spicy, salty and aromatic. Plus, it’s light, hearty, and filling.

Isan food to try

PHOTO: Tom Saap of Nattawat from iStock.

6. Sai Krok Isan (Isan sausage)

Sai Krok Isan is possibly one of the most common street foods you can find in Thailand. This delicious fermented sausage is made from pork and rice. It is prepared in small balls, seasoned with garlic and salt, and cooked on a grill. Due to the fermentation and cooking process of the sausage, it tastes smoky and spicy. Street vendors usually serve Sai Krok Isan with fresh chili, sliced ​​ginger, and raw cabbage as a side dish. One of the most delicious ways to enjoy the sausages is to roll them in a cabbage leaf along with fresh chillies and sliced ​​ginger.

Isan food to try

PHOTO: Sai Krok Isan by Vee Satayamas on Wikimedia Commons.

7. Jim Jum (Thai Hot Pot)

Jim Jum is the Thai version of the Chinese hot pot. It consists of Thai broth, herbs, local vegetables, meat of your choice and glass noodles. A couple of cups of different sauces are also served as a side dish. The aromatic and tasty broth is served in a small clay pot in which you can dip the other ingredients and cook them. Slowly cook your own food while enjoying a few beers with friends – it’s awesome!

Delicious Isan Food You Will Love |  News from Thaiger

PHOTO: Jim Jum from bonchan from iStock.

8.Kor Moo Yang (grilled pork neck)

If you like pork then Kor Moo Yang, or grilled pork neck, is definitely a must. The main ingredient of this delicious dish is pork neck marinated in fish sauce, palm sugar and oyster sauce. The pork neck slices are then grilled to perfection on hot charcoal. The result is the softest pork neck slices that melt in your mouth. Enjoy the delicious grilled pork neck with sticky rice and dip for a delicious and incredibly filling meal.

Delicious Isan Food You Will Love |  News from Thaiger

PHOTO: Kor Moo Yang from Stockfood.

9.Gaeng Om (Isan Curry)

Gaeng om, or simply called om, is a kind of Isan curry. Although it’s considered a curry, don’t expect a thick and creamy soup as the soup is usually made of freshly cracked paste with no coconut cream. The base paste consists of lemongrass, shallots, chilli, lemon basil and coriander. There are several meat dishes to choose from, including pork, chicken, catfish, frog, and pond snail. The choice of vegetables used usually differs for each meat used.

Delicious Isan Food You Will Love |  News from Thaiger

PHOTO: Gaeng Om from

10.Gaeng Naw Mai (bamboo shoot curry)

Gaeng naw mai is actually a Lao curry, but it has found its way into the Isan and steals hearts with its funky taste. The main ingredient of this dish is bamboo shoots, cooked beforehand to reduce the bitter taste. In some cases, mushrooms and orange pumpkins are added to the dish. As with gaeng om, the curry part of gaeng naw mai is thin and soupy as it doesn’t contain coconut cream. The curry is distinctly greenish-brown in color because it is made from yanang juice, a medicinal green leaf that is pounded in water that doesn’t really add flavor to the dish. In addition to bamboo shoots and yanang juice, Gaeng Naw can also contain fermented fish sauce and fresh Thai chilies. This makes it taste a bit sour, earthy and hot.

Delicious Isan Food You Will Love |  News from Thaiger

PHOTO: Bamboo Shot Curry by

These dishes are just some of the incredible dishes that come from the Isan. While there are other delicious Isan dishes to try, we think the dishes we’ve listed are a great starting point to familiarize yourself with the local cuisine. So which dish are you looking forward to the most?

If you are looking for more delicious Thai food, be sure to check out our articles on the Most Popular Northern Thai Foods and Must-Try Thai Foods.

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