For me, breakfast in northern Thailand was all about comfort food. And laughing grannies.
Pa Tong Go and soy milk in Chiang Mai
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge fan of the doughnut as breakfast food and it doesn’t take long before I dive headfirst into the Chiang Mai doughnut fray.
I know exactly where the Pa Tong Go stall is, having been stalking it in my mind for a good week now. The vendor swipes up three of the crisp doughnuts in some white paper and ladles some warm soy milk into a plastic bag. All takeaway food in Chiang Mai ends up bagged up in plastic (Thailand’s plastic addiction knows no bounds), and makes me recall the bags of goldfish waiting to be won at a school fetes.
Pa Tong Go are small fried doughnuts that I can best describe as looking like X-chromosomes, they’re softer than a churro but crisper than a ring doughnut.
Back at the apartment I unpack my stash and pour the soy milk into a bowl before dunking in the the still-warm doughnut. It’s such a simple breakfast and the taste is pure, uncomplicated and soothing.
I try the Pa Tong Go for breakfast at some other stalls and the results are not so good. Vendors often use baking ammonia in the doughnut mix and if they don’t cook them for long enough then the ammonia doesn’t burn off. An intoxicating scent that ruins the doughnutty goodness.
Jok in Chiang Mai
Most mornings in Chiang Mai involve a 25 metre stroll to the corner of our street for Jok. It’s a pretty standard breakfast here, essentially – Thai rice porridge. It comes laced with a few salty chunks of pork mince, ginger, crispy onions and an egg dropped in for good measure.
Scooters rush past as I sit down at one of the wobbly tables to eat the now familiar bowl of Jok and my first task is to survey the jars and pots in front of me, deciding which additional toppings I want to adorn the bowl of rice with.
Dried chillis (of course), black pepper (always) and a few splashes of Maggi sauce (well, we are in Thailand). I slice my spoon through the egg that’s being lovingly coddled by the rice and scoop up a mouthful of rice and all the toppings. Salty, savoury, meaty richness make it a flavoursome and smooth spoonful.
The mix of tastes are so addictive that I find it impossible to eat slowly and the shape of duck spoon lends itself to scoop after scoop after scoop. I would have to get into the bowl to get any closer to it. I don’t though. I do have some restraint.
I can’t possibly talk about breakfasts in Chiang Mai without mentioning the smiling and cackling brigade of grannies that run one of the stalls along our street. This motley crew always have smiles on their faces and enjoy chuckling at our poor attempts at ordering food.
You pick from regular or sticky rice and then select from the bowls of cooked meats, fish, eggs and vegetables to create a breakfast package of dreams.