Thailand is world-famous for its delicious and exotic cuisine – but many don’t realise just how exotic it can get. In this article, you’ll learn about some truly weird Thai dishes, and how to make them.
Spicy Dancing Shrimp Salad (Yum Goong Ten)
Spicy dancing shrimp salad is popular in the north-eastern province of Isaan. The ingredients include a mixture of glass shrimp, seasoning, and vegetables. As soon as you take a bite, you will feel the crunchy texture of the shrimp, while the spicy and sour flavours begin to take effect.
- Fresh glass shrimp (400 grams)
- Coriander (3 pieces)
- Spring onion (2 pieces)
- Onion (3 pieces)
- Lemon juice: 2 tablespoons
- Fish sauce: 3 tablespoons
- Ground chilli: 1 tablespoon (can be increased depending on preferred spice level)
- Ground roasted rice: 2 tablespoons
- Clean glass shrimp with fresh water
- Add the seasoning to a bowl and stir
- Add the vegetables and stir
- Add the glass shrimp and gently stir
Tips: The glass shrimp are eaten fresh – i.e., alive. They should be jumping around in the dish, hence the name ‘dancing shrimp’.
Developing tadpoles with spice and fermented fish sauce (Mok Huak)
Also from Isaan, Mok Huak combines developing tadpoles, seasoning, and vegetables. The texture of the tadpoles is crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and delicious all the way through.
- Developing tadpoles (500 grams)
- Lemongrass (5 plants)
- Onion (6 pieces)
- Red chili (3 pieces)
- Fermented fish sauce (6 tablespoons)
- Fish sauce (3 tablespoons)
- Onion (3 pieces)
- Coriander (2 pieces)
- Clean tadpoles with fresh water
- Put ground red chilli, onion, fermented fish sauce, and fish sauce in a bowl
- Add lemongrass, coriander, and the developing tadpoles, then stir
- Apply low heat until everything is cooked
Grilled Pig Brain with Curry Paste (Ab Ong Or)
Ab ong or is a very odd dish – and definitely an acquired taste. Coming from northern Thailand, its ingredients consist of pig’s brain, seasoning, and vegetables, wrapped in a banana leaf. The texture is similar to a pudding, with the seasoning there to spice things up.
- Pig brain (300 grams)
- Kaffir lime leaves (3 tablespoons)
- Coriander (2 tablespoons)
- Banana leaf
- Chilli (7 grams)
- Garlic (2 tablespoons)
- Onion (3 tablespoons)
- Lemongrass (4 tablespoons)
- Turmeric (1 teaspoon)
- Salt (1 teaspoon)
- Grind the chilli, garlic, onion, lemongrass, turmeric, and salt, and mix them together
- Add the pig’s brain to the mixture of ingredients and stir
- Add kaffir lime leaves and coriander, then stir
- Pour the contents onto a banana leaf
- Wrap the leaf closed, and use a toothpick to pierce one section of the banana leaf to the other to create a small box-like space
- Grill until fully cooked
Bullfrog Soup (Tom Eung)
When the rainy season hits northern Thailand, bullfrogs flock to the paddy fields by the thousands. The people of Isaan take full advantage of their abundance, and make them the chief ingredient in Tom Eung.
- A bunch of young tamarind leaves
- Red onion
- Spring onion
- Fresh water
- Fish sauce
- Wash bullfrogs thoroughly
- Sprinkle a pinch of salt onto the bullfrogs
- Add water into the pot and bring to a boil
- Add lemongrass
- Pound galangal, garlic, red onion and chili. Grill the mixture for a bit.
- Add a tablespoon of salt and grilled spices
- Wait for the water to boil, then add bullfrogs
- Cover the pot and let it stew until the bullfrogs are soft
- Add tamarind leaves and fish sauce
- Top with grinded coriander and spring onion.
Spicy raw ant eggs salad (Koi kai mod daeng)
Yet another common Isaan dish, Koi kai mod daeng uses ant eggs as the main ingredient. Ant eggs are found in many northern dishes, but spicy salad seems to be the most popular way to enjoy these delicacies.
- Ant eggs (150 grams)
- Cut red onion (30 grams)
- Chopped cilantro (15 grams)
- Thai mint leaves (10 grams)
- Chili powder (3 tablespoons)
- Lime juice (3 tablespoons)
- Fermented fish sauce (3 tablespoons)
- Ground roasted rice (1 tablespoon)
- Put ant eggs into a mixing bowl
- Add cut red onion, chopped cilantro and chili powder
- Add lime juice and fermented fish sauce, then mix them well
- Add ground roasted rice, mix again
- Top with mint leaves
Knowledge comes from experience
Trying out different foods is a wonderful way to learn about other cultures. If you’re an adventurous foodie looking to experience some seriously authentic cooking, be sure to try one of these weird Thai dishes if you get the chance. Now that you also know how to cook them, you can easily have the most talked-about dish at your next dinner party.