Food Porn: Gaeng Hed

Gaeng Hed

This is the food of the sadomasochists. I challenge you to find a spicier, more defeating and yet more satisfying and enjoyable dish in Thai cuisine. This Laotian-inspired mushroom soup, prevalent in the cuisine of northeastern Thailand’s Isaan region but equally common in Bangkok, is packed with aromatic herbs and spices that given it an unmistakable citrus scent. It packs the punch with its chilli content – this is one you really might want to order ‘mai phet’, no matter how tough you think you are – but also delivers a sublime and complex twist of flavours that I’ve yet to see recreated in any other Thai dish.

Lemongrass, galangal, pumpkin and the Isaan staple of pla rah fermented (read rotten) fish condiment all go into the mix. This soup has an unforgettable favour and, perhaps expectedly with that amount of chilli and fresh herbs, is great at curing colds. I get mine at a stall on Sukhumvit soi 101/1 (between Punnawithi and Udomsuk stations on the Skytrain), just short of my favourite spot for guay deow nam tok pig blood noodles. But it’s on sale around the city – just look for stalls with glass cabinets stuffed with three or four different varieties of mushrooms amid a heap of other vegetables.

There is a great post on gaeng hed here by Robyn and David at EatingAsia, and another one on pla rah rotten fish condiment from way back in 2006.

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