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Isan Food Travel on Buddhist Lent Holiday

Nem Neung: The clash of Thai & Vietnamese flavour in this all-time favourite dish

rain 27 °C

Ubon Ratchathani is a unique province located on the north eastern of Thailand, which being well referred to as the Isaan Region of this Land of Unseen. Well, why would I tagged Ubon as a province which was distinct from its other counterparts? It is one that was different not only for it being a province which speaks the Isaan language (a language with different tones from other parts of Thailand but with mostly similar vocabulary) but also because the food here was very much influenced by the mixture of Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese taste and flavour. In Lao, you would see that much of what Thais enjoy very much today of the "somtam" (papaya salad) was indeed very highly and closely linked to the Lao food culture. In fact, there are 2 types of "somtam" in Thailand, one which is "tam Lao" (somtam Lao style) and another "tam Thai" (Thai style). What differentiates the 2 salad dish was that the Lao style adds the additional ingredients which is the fermented fish of which the taste may not be of preference to those who were unused to the "unpleasant" smell. This papaya salad dish is very much special on its own and also to Thailand and Laos because this dish is very much like a national dish to both countries. Of course this is not only available in Ubon Ratchathani but also all across of Thailand as well as in Laos. As the saying goes, the best available dish comes from where it originated from. Because "somtam" is a dish which is a mixture between Laos and Thailand and that geographically Ubon province was just next to Laos's province of Champasak, the best "somtam" would be surely from provinces in Thailand that border Laos. There is also the Chinese style sausages available in Ubon that the province could proudly claimed as one of its best OTOP (One Tambon One Product) which also existed thanks to the Chinese people who migrated to Ubon Ratchathani from southern China during the war period. Along with them, they brought along the secret recipes in preparing the sausages and today, Ubon was able to prospered with the trading of these sausages. Many locals be it tourists or residents or even outsiders would never missed in getting these sausages and also other pork specialties when they travel to Ubon Ratchathani for vacation or just to be home over the long holiday for themselves as well as for friends and colleagues or acquaintances. The Vietnamese food culture influence in Thailand's north eastern region in particular Ubon Ratchathani province would be the "nem neung" dish. This is a dish that was very well known as a Vietnamese food but widely available in north eastern provinces of Thailand such as Ubon. "Nem neung" is a very simple dish yet it is very tasty, flavourful, addictive and most of all, healthy. So what is "nem neung" actually? I have shared about this unique food in the past but forgive me that it never bored me to get into the details again after some time so that I could refreshed those who had came across it previously and now I shared it again to those who may not have knowledge about this food. I couldn't remember much about "nem neung" or was it "nem nuong" in Vietnamese though I knew I had try this before when I travelled to Vietnam perhaps in Hue or Danang or maybe Hanoi. But what I could recalled clearly was the "nem neung" experience when I travelled to Ubon Ratchathani. I would never want to miss this one when I am in Ubon because though it is available in Bangkok and other province within Thailand, it is always good to have it at the place where it was famous or well known of to taste it there and then. Also, Ubon Ratchathani not just neighbouring Laos but also a province in Thailand where travellers can get to Vietnam via Laos quite conveniently due to the various border crossing options via Laos such as Chong Mek/Vangtao, Mukdahan/Savannakhet and Nakhon Phanom/Thakhek which one can then get to Vietnam through Bo Y, Dansavanh/Lao Bao and Lakxao/Vinh. Of the 3 crossings between Laos and Vietnam, I had cross over between 2 countries and ended in Ubon (Bo Y crossings) and Mukdahan (Lao Bao/Dansavanh crossings). This is also why such clash of food culture between the 3 countries of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand is so much of my interests and very close to my mind and heart. Other than "nem neung" my other Isaan-Vietnamese favourite cuisines would be definitely the "khai gata" a type of pan fried eggs served with "khun chiang" (Chinese style pork sausages) together with specially prepared pork wrapped in banana leaves with seasoned pepper known as "moo yor", also widely popular in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, where it is mostly stuffed in a french baguette or served in bowl of hot soup noodles. Eat the eggs nicely mix with the "moo yor" and "khun chiang" or stuffed them into piece of bread for better enjoyment of "khai gata". Another dish would be the "kway chap" a kind of hot soup noodles served with rice noodles with combination of its tasty soup, pork ribs and also "moo yor". This "kway chap" of Isaan flavour was different from the one available in Bangkok or other parts of South East Asia such as Singapore or Malaysia.

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"Khai gata" (pan fried eggs served with "moo yor" (specially prepared seasoned pepper pork)

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"Kway chap" (hot soup rice noodles served with pork ribs and "moo yor")

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"Khai gata" and "kway chap" topped it off with Lao coffee in Isaan Ubon Ratchathani

"Nem neung" dish consist of combinations of various food items of which the key item would be the skewered grilled pork or alternatively combination or single serving with "popia thord" (deep fried spring roll), wrapped under the fresh lettuce added into it with cut red chillies, raw mango, cut garlics, onion leaves, mint leaves then its time to fill in with all of them the special sweet sauce and finally with all the ingredients wrapped inside the lettuce, you shall place the rice paper wrap in the water bowl to softened it and the lettuce with the grilled pork and all of the other ingredients would then be wrapped under the rice paper roll, ready to be put into your mouth for a great "nem neung experience".

Below are the steps on how you could enjoy "nem neung":

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The fresh lettuce and mint leaves in a serving of "nem neung" at a typical Thai Isaan-Vietnamese restaurant in Ubon Ratchathani

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Skewered grilled pork readily cut into small cubes in a "nem neung" dish

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Rice paper wrap in a "nem neung" dish

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Cut chillies, cut garlics, raw papaya, onion leaves in a "nem neung" dish

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Sweet sauce in a "nem neung" dish

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"Popia thord" (deep fried spring roll) in a "nem neung" dish

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A bowl of water to softened the rice paper roll wrap in "nem neung" dish

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The rice paper roll wrap dipped into water to softened them in a "nem neung" dish

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After readily softened, the rice roll wrap be placed on the plate. Lettuce being topped on the wrap followed by other items ie grilled pork, deep fried spring roll, cut chillies, cut garlics, raw papaya, mint leaves as desired

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Put some of the sweet sauce to top it all

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Roll the rice paper wrap over all the items above and there you go, a deliciously tasty "nem neung" ready to crunch in the mouth

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Staff of a "nem neung" restaurant in Ubon busy preparing the "nem neung" servings

Posted by kidd27 18:44 Archived in Thailand

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