Thai “Underwater Chicken” — Gai Tai Nam

There is a subset of Thai food that exists well beyond the reach of most people. For lack of a better term, but certainly not to demean how amazing it is, the only thing I can really call it is “poor people food.” Food that you can’t order in Thai restaurants because, not only is it unpopular with foreigners, but it’s considered low-class food that Thai peasants and farmers eat. Essentially, if you tried to order it, they’d laugh at you.

I’ve previously posted a “poor people food” recipe, Nam Prik, which isn’t all that unpopular among Thais, but the way I eat and serve it is definitely a laughably “poor people” way of eating it. I know this by being laughed at by Thai people for asking for this from various restaurants. Anyway, on the same trip, in the same village as I learned how to make and eat nam prik, I learned a very peculiar way of cooking chicken. When we had it, it was the juiciest, most tender chicken I’d ever eaten. It was served with some stir fried greens, which I later learned were Morning Glory (aka water spinach), and a huge spread of leftover salads from the festival that took place the day before. Of course, the salads were all made from raw pig intestine, ears, offals, and even some fresh BILE, but the chicken dish was the star, if not for the sole reason that it was the only thing that didn’t scare the shit out of me.

I found out it was “Gai Tai Nam”. That translates literally to “underwater chicken”. The chicken and spices aren’t all that exotic. It’s the method that stands out as something totally unique. I loved it, and I’m sure you’ll love it too, and you don’t even have to eat raw pig intestine salad to get a true Thai experience!


Originally published at The Burning Butt.

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