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  1. #1
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    Isaan Food - The World's Healthiest?

    Isaan Food – The Healthiest in the World?


    My Thai wife, after 40 years of following me around the world and eating untold amounts of crappy falang food, is still in better condition than the typical 25 year old American female. I can't remember the last time she needed to see a doctor. She has developed a single cavity in her otherwise perfect teeth.
    I have to wonder why, after all these years together and eating similar diets, she is still a fine looking 115 lbs, and I am a rather typical overweight pile of blubber. My conclusion is that it must be because of her diet as a youth in the wilds of Sakon Nakhon Province.
    When I first met the wife, one of the first impressions I had was of her extremely good physical condition. She was as fit as any 18 year old I had ever met. Trim and strong, but what really stood out was her teeth. Her teeth were perfect. I was brought up on a subsistence farm in central Minnesota. We had a huge garden and lots of poultry. We ate a very healthy diet: lots of vegetables and very little sweets. But I spent much of my youth in the chair of the local dentist, Dr. Peterson (who, I suspect, received his dental training at Auschwitz doing gold reclamation).
    In 1971, the wife's village was about 50 kilometers off the nearest paved road in an area known as the Song Khram River Basin, the area where Sakon Nakhon, NKP, and Nong Khai Provinces meet. (The village is still in the same place today, but now on a good paved road.) While the villagers certainly were very poor, it was clear that they lived well and generally looked healthy and happy. The food they ate was a result of their environment and remoteness. No food was store bought. Not so much as a bottle of fish sauce. Even their salt was locally produced. Cooking was done on small clay (I think) grills burning home-made charcoal. As they were in the middle of a swamp much of the year, fish was on the menu (my guess) 80% to 90% of the time. There were over a hundred species of fish in these waters, many only available during the rainy season coming in from the flooded Mekong River. But other fish could be found year around in the small streams and ponds remaining after the flood waters receded. Poultry, primarily chickens, ran wild throughout the town. Most houses had a pig or two underneath, along with the required water buffalo. However, I don't recall ever being fed pork or beef. Those, I was told, were reserved for very special occasions. Other protein sources included anything that walked, slithered, or flew. Every animal, from snakes to rats and bats, was considered fair game. As an example, kids would literally “stake out” water buffalo dung heaps (as gold miners would stake a claim), declaring their individual right to the tasty dung beetles found within.
    (May be continued – if there is interest)

  2. #2
    splendid and tremendous
    somtamslap's Avatar
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    I read Laab Plaraa used to be a staple in the furthest corners of Issan, which would be enough to subdue the hungriest of appetites.


    Quote Originally Posted by Borey the Bald
    (May be continued – if there is interest)
    Definitely...

  3. #3
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    The wife and I just took a big avocado to Isaan but her parents didn't like it, despite our serving it on tasty rice crackers and with pesto garnishing. I then realized they are not used to eating fatty food so have never developed the taste for it.
    Strangely, the wife loves avocado .....especially in slices of capsicum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by somtamslap View Post
    I read Laab Plaraa used to be a staple in the furthest corners of Issan, which would be enough to subdue the hungriest of appetites.


    Quote Originally Posted by Borey the Bald
    (May be continued – if there is interest)
    Definitely...
    Ditto.

  5. #5
    Thailand Expat superman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Borey the Bald
    is still in better condition than the typical 25 year old American female
    Well that wouldn't be hard, would it ?

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    the teeth could be down to fluoride in the water maybe?

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    Quote Originally Posted by somtamslap View Post
    I read Laab Plaraa used to be a staple in the furthest corners of Issan, which would be enough to subdue the hungriest of appetites.


    Quote Originally Posted by Borey the Bald
    (May be continued if there is interest)
    Definitely...
    Yep. Will assuredly have interest amongst the hoardes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alwarner View Post
    the teeth could be down to fluoride in the water maybe?
    In the well water in a village 50 k from the nearest paved road.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Koojo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by alwarner View Post
    the teeth could be down to fluoride in the water maybe?
    In the well water in a village 50 k from the nearest paved road.
    gah! must read posts properly.

  10. #10
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    ^although.....

    Fluoride in Drinking Water

    Fluoride, a naturally occurring element, exists in combination with other elements as a fluoride compound and is found as a constituent of minerals in rocks and soil. When water passes through and over the soil and rock formations containing fluoride it dissolves these compounds, resulting in the small amounts of soluble fluoride present in virtually all water sources.

    not sure on levels occurring in water with regards to pimping teeth.

  11. #11
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    I have seen them use their teeth for a myriad of tools, it makes me cringe to watch it.

  12. #12
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    Minerals in the water might very well be the answer to the good teeth. Salt and potash deposits are found under 90% of the area. During the dry season there remain some muddy areas of "quick sand" that are extremely high in mineral content, including phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, plus small amounts of other minerals.

  13. #13
    Gohills flip-flops wearer
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    Quote Originally Posted by Borey the Bald
    but what really stood out was her teeth

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    Perhaps her metaboilism is better than most and I imagine she has a small frame unlike most Westerners.I have found Thais to have better teeth than say Filipinos who include copious amounts of sugar in most of their daily intake.
    Well done though as most Asians who move to our home countries become overweight by continuing their rice intake as well as consuming the rubbish we put in our bodies.

  15. #15
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    ^You photo-shopped my wife's teeth onto a horse? That wasn't very nice of you.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Borey the Bald
    ^You photo-shopped my wife's teeth onto a horse? That wasn't very nice of you.
    Pop it on the 'pay no mind' list, Borey. Our resident practioner of beastiality isn't much one for formal introdutions..

  17. #17
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    The first time I drove out to the village was, I believe (senility is a bitch) in 1972. During the rainy season this area becomes the second largest lake in South East Asia. This trip was not during the rainy season, but it had rained anyway, making the last 50 km of the trip down dirt roads (after turning North off highway 22) a 3 hour long fiasco. The last 10 km of water buffalo cart track was especially interesting. About a km from the village, I finally got seriously stuck. Luckily, I was pulled out by a Land Rover full of that rarest of Thai females - Roman Catholic Nuns.
    My first impression of the village is that it was a five star shit hole. Having just finished a two-year-long camping trip to Vietnam, I felt qualified to give it that rating. The village was made up of a couple dozen traditional wooden houses and a small Catholic Church on a low hill completely surrounded by the floodplain. Much of the year it was guaranteed to be mosquito and snake infested. However, after a friendly meeting with the in-laws, the eating and drinking began, and the place started to look habitable. As is normal when visiting country people, guests are treated like royalty. They would fry up their last bowl of silk worms just to make you feel welcome. In all the subsequent trips back there I have never felt like I was imposing on them.
    As diverse as their protein sources were, they did not compare to the variety of vegetables eaten. During the dry season they cultivated the usual garden vegetables, such as peppers, cucumbers, and pole beans. But the vast majority of the vegetables consumed were found in the wild. While the most common and widely eaten were bamboo shoots, there were more than 200 other wild plants eaten. The variety was so large that an outsider like myself usually had no idea what he was eating. Most jungle plants have some edible parts, but knowing which are edible and which are toxic and which are neither requires years of experience. It has been estimated that almost a hundred of the plant species here have medicinal value.
    The only rice eaten was glutinous rice (also known as sticky or sweet rice). Because of the fluctuating water levels around the village, they were only able to grow one crop of rice a year. But this appeared to be adequate for their needs but not enough to sell. To eat, this rice is steamed, formed into small balls, and eaten with the fingers of the right hand. One of the village elders (or some old drunk that wondered in) once complained to me (in jest, I think) that he had visited the big city of Udon once, but couldn't stay because their rice kept getting stuck under his fingernails.

    The in-laws about 1974.
    Last edited by Borey the Bald; 19-10-2011 at 02:32 AM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by somtamslap
    I read Laab Plaraa used to be a staple in the furthest corners of Issan, which would be enough to subdue the hungriest of appetites.
    Jeeeeeeeeeeeeeeez Somtum can you believe I actually eat that shite in the UK , the only reason I do so I cannot smell that dead rat under the bedroom floor boards stink allnight ,, its a bit like the garlic scenario ,, that really is disgusting allthough I find joining in with the experience , better than opting out and breathing the fumes in allnight .


    What subdues my appetite back in the Issan farm is when the raw fat lean pork cubes are offered around dipped in the fermented black crap,, I usually make my excuses and go for a walkabout before I wretch up
    I'm proud of my 38" waist , also proud I have never done drugs

  19. #19
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    STS - Before I could answer your question about laab plaraa, I needed the Old Lady to translate that into Northern Isaan. It's what I know as lap ba dek (or at least that's what it sounds like). It was not commonly served in her village, because to chop up that most precious of Isaan commodities (rotten fish) and serve it as a main dish, is considered extravagant. Anyway, no one wants to spend the next two hours picking fish bones out of his mouth.
    Last edited by Borey the Bald; 19-10-2011 at 05:56 AM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie Tigger
    copious amounts of sugar in most of their daily intake.
    Sadly, that is something that has changed in Isaan too. We have a tiny shop, and sweet things for the kids (usually) are our biggest 'line', besides lao khao and beer.

    The traditional isaan style of eating is basically very healthy- a meal comes with a selection of veges, usually raw. As far as meat goes, it's anything and everything- an isaanite is just as happy munching on offal or fat as what we would term prime steak, just as happy with paddy rat as pork. They like the seasonal variety too- early rainy season is mushroom time, after the rice harvest paddy rat, insects are one of the healthiest sources of protein- "Meng gi noon' a particularly relished beetle, as dry season approaches ponds are drained, and are a rich source of fish and frogs. I doubt that vile fermented plah raa is healthy though.
    probes Aliens

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    The dogs they eat up there speeds up their metabolism

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    Quote Originally Posted by Borey the Bald
    I have to wonder why, after all these years together and eating similar diets, she is still a fine looking 115 lbs, and I am a rather typical overweight pile of blubber.
    How much beer do you drink? I've lost 10 kilos since I cut it out.

  23. #23
    Gohills flip-flops wearer
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugginOut
    I've lost 10 kilos since I cut it out.
    Surgery is too easy.
    Try to reduce intake.

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    Quote Originally Posted by alwarner View Post
    the teeth could be down to fluoride in the water maybe?
    Maybe she was lucky enough to have had NO fluoride in water?

    "Is the water your drinking killing you? It is if it's fluoridated! Drink Natural spring water instead. You can usually buy a gallon for under a dollar. Make sure there is no fluoride in it! Also, don't use regular toothpaste (it contains around 1,000 ppm of fluoride). They even tell you on the side of the toothpaste tube to "contact a poison control center immediately" if you swallow your toothpaste."

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by BugginOut View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Borey the Bald
    I have to wonder why, after all these years together and eating similar diets, she is still a fine looking 115 lbs, and I am a rather typical overweight pile of blubber.
    How much beer do you drink? I've lost 10 kilos since I cut it out.
    Better known as a meal in a bottle

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