Lots of Spice and Everything Nice: A Taste of Isan


Have you ever tried Thai food before? If you have, you may have heard of the most popular dishes that Thailand has introduced abroad, includng pad thai, pad see ew, khao soi and coconut curry. My favorite fun fact about the Thai government is that, in 2002, it adopted a policy of “culinary diplomacy.” That’s a fancy way of saying that Thailand wanted to be liked by other countries, so the government gave people a ton of money to open Thai restaurants around the world. As a result, there are almost 5,000 Thai restaurants in the U.S. There are also at least 25 Thai restaurants in the Twin Cities, and there’s even one in Faribault. Maybe you’ve heard of Thai food or even tasted it before... but I bet you’ve never heard of Isan food! 

 Isan is the region in the northeast of Thailand where my host school is located. Each of Thailand’s five regions has its own unique foods. Isan is known for having some of the best dishes, even though it is the country’s poorest region. When I told people in Bangkok that I’d be living in rural Isan, their response was almost always, “At least you’ll have delicious food!”

I love the Isan region for a lot of different reasons, including the people, the language, the music and the environment. At the same time, the food does continue to be a huge bonus! It’s always rich in flavor and very, very spicy.