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I never lived in Thailand, but my childhood was made up of regular visits to see Yaa (grandmother) in my father’s hometown, Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima), one of Isaan’s major cities. As a luk khrueng (half-child), I often found it hard to connect to my Thai heritage to what I felt was considered generically Thai. Only recently have I realised this had as much to do with being from Isaan as it did about being half-British. 


Isaan is Thailand’s largest region in the North-East of Thailand situated between the neighbouring Cambodian and Laos boarders. Its geographic position is heavily visible within its rich culture that encompasses its people and gives them a distinct identity. 

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After spending a significant portion of my life travelling through Thailand I’ve learnt a couple of things about Isaan. Firstly, the probability of meeting someone else from Isaan in your daily adventures is surprisingly high. Although it’s the largest, Isaan is also the poorest region in Thailand. Therefore a large proportion of the workforce in Thailand is made up of those native to the North-Eastern region who have migrated to the richer more opportunistic areas of the country. This explains all those times I spent shocked at the coincidence my taxi driver knew more about Korat that myself; or even bumping into a complete stranger who would be mutual friends of my family. I often found myself reciting my well rehearsed line “Paa khun Korat” (my dad is from Korat) and what usually followed was remarkable. I’d find myself welcomed with a beaming grin followed by multiple questions pinpointing which road it was he grew up on. The tone of the conversation would change completely. I’d go from feeling like a spoilt falrang (foreigner) who couldn’t speak Thai adequately enough to spark any notion of excitement in their day to suddenly being some sort of long lost family member whom they had years to catch up with. This was the second thing I realised.  The feeling of community within Isaan is extraordinary. The mutual culture and history the people of Isaan share has provided a link to each other through which strong feelings of community have been formed. 


I’m under no delusion I’m from Isaan. I was born and grew up in Nottingham. I am however proud to have a foot in the door of their culture and will always put it at the top of my list when recommending places to visit in Thailand. If you ever get the chance to go, please do. Isaan can be seen through its unique terrain, felt in its hostile climate and heard within the languages they speak. More importantly, if you got there you’ll be bombarded with new smells and tastes that make the region such a fascinating destination for anyone interested in food. 


This weeks pop-up pays homage to the North-Eastern region of Thailand where my family is rooted. Our menu highlights a few of our team’s favourite dishes. The food of Isaan has been moulded by the harsh landscape of the region as well as the neighbouring cuisines of Cambodia and Laos. In Isaan they like to describe food as “Saab” which means the flavours are strong, spicy and sour. It can also be distinguished through their heavy use of glutinous (sticky) rice. Isaan food is a great place to start if you want to learn more about the different tastes of Thailand or simply love trying new flavours.

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