1. Beetle chile relish
Naam phrik num is a fiery green-chile relish popular in Northern Thailand that serves as a dip for things like sticky rice, pork cracklings, and steamed vegetables. Many versions are seasoned with maengda, an uncomfortably large cockroach-looking beetle that lends a surprisingly welcome floral, almost blue cheese-like character.
2. Slow-grilled pig boob
Not even the Fergus Henderson & Co.’s snout-to-tail movement has embraced slow-grilled pig boob. Chewy and fatty, even faintly milky, the teat picks up a ton of smoky charcoal flavor as it cooks.
3. Deep-fried frog skin
Speaking of snout to tail (or bug-eyes to webbed feet?), frog ends up in many dishes in Northern Thailand and cooks make use of virtually every bit. Instead of serving just the legs, like those picky French, Thai cooks often hack up the whole skinned amphibian for soups and stews. Sometimes the leftover skin gets dried out then deep-fried for a crunchy snack, as in this photo.
4. “Pork” chops
You can find them at a market stall devoted to vegetarian approximations of meat in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Pork, the other pink meat?
5. Artisanal rotten fish
Cooks in the North and Northeast of Thailand do use the sanitized bottled fish sauce we’re used to in the States. But they reserve their most ardent affection for this other stuff, on offer at a market in Chiang Mai: Fish mixed with salt and rice and left to ferment into a fragrant sludge called plaa raa. It’s especially funky, but eat it in enough dishes, from papaya salads to chile relishes to curries, and you begin to crave its pungency.
6. Skin and organ tartare
The Northern Thai version of laap (often spelled “larb” in our neck of the woods) is extremely delicious and very different from the tart, spicy Northeastern version popular in the U.S. Essentially, it’s finely minced meat (pork, chicken, fish, water buffalo, barking deer—whatever!) mixed with cooked organs and skin, fresh herbs, fried garlic and shallots, and a dried spice–heavy seasoning paste.
7. Denatured pig brain
Brain is one of those foods that sounds horrible but is actually amazing. For this dish, it had been mushed up with curry paste, wrapped in a banana leaf.
8. Raw blood soup
Pork blood enriches many Thai dishes, and some do contain a little blood that never gets cooked.