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A Sampling of Savory Thai Sausages

In a shop around the corner from my house in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, the staff gathers around a table every afternoon, to stuff freshly-made sausage filling of ground pork mixed with spices and glass noodles into long opaque natural casing. The filling is pushed into the casings as deep as the first joint of the thumb and then tightly wrapped with a white string around the outside. This pushes the sausages into one-inch, bite-sized balls, formed together in a long line. The entire strand of sausage balls is grilled over hot charcoals. For each individual order, the vendor cuts a length of sausage balls from the strand and then snips the balls apart. Customers carry away a bag full of sausages drizzled with mildly spicy sweet chili sauce and a bamboo skewer to spear each delectable bite.

Thai Sausage Balls in Long Links on a Busy Bangkok Street

Chains of homemade Thai sausages in Bangkok (Click to enlarge)

Sausages are efficient – they keep meat from spoiling, use up less-desirable parts of an animal, and disguise the flavor of meat that isn’t quite fresh. Refrigeration and commercial meat production have now made these concerns outdated in most parts of Thailand, but Thai people still love sausage. Pork is the most popular filling and ingredients like garlic, chilies, red curry paste and fresh herbs make these sausages taste much more interesting than many German or European types.

Strike a Pose - Grilled Northern Thai Sausage and Chicken Wings, Chiang Mai

Strike a Pose - Spirals of Grilled Chiang Mai Sausage, Sai Ua (Click to enlarge)

Though Thai sausages are already stuffed with pungent lemongrass and chili, they are often dipped into salty, rich sauces made with fresh chilies and/or fermented fish and eaten with handfuls of slivered fresh shallots, ginger, and spicy chili peppers. Sausages might be smoked, grilled or even deep-fried until encased in a crunchy, oily shell – which definitely are not for those watching their cholesterol level!

Regional Variations

There are many regional variations in sausage recipes and traditions and what goes into a sausage in Thailand is ultimately up to the cook. Meat is often stretched with the addition of sticky rice or glass noodles and might be spiced with herbs or a prepared chili paste. Sausages can be eaten as a snack or appetizer or as part of a meal. In a meal, the sausage might be grilled and dipped into a flavorful sauce, or tossed with fresh herbs and a dressing to make a salad.

Northern Thai Sausage with Sticky Rice

Northern Thai Sausage Served with Sticky Rice

Cattle are common in Isaan, the Northeast of Thailand, and so beef often makes its way into this regions sausages. The North of Thailand’s staple meat is pork and so they have a rich sausage-making tradition. In Chiang Mai, sausages like Sai Ua are left to ferment for a few hours or an entire day before they’re cooked, making them taste distinctly sour. Sai Ua is grilled whole and displayed in a coil that might be several feet long.

Speciality Fermented Pork Sausage

Another Northern specialty is Naem Maw, a spicy, garlicky pork sausage mixed with sticky rice and then pressed into a ceramic pot and left to ferment at room temperature for two days. Naem Maw is then wrapped in banana leaves and sold on the third day for immediate consumption. Both Sai Ua and Naem Maw are often eaten wrapped in fresh cabbage leaves, along with chili peppers, ginger and cilantro.

Grilled Naem Sausages at the Bosang Umbrella Festival, Chiang Mai

Grilled Naem Sausages at a North Thai Street Fair

Check out this selection of traditional and modern recipes from Appon to make your own Thai-style sausages at home. Or take a short cut to great tasting Naem Sausages.  Temple of Thai‘s shop can help you track down any ingredients that you’re missing.

Take a minute and tell us about your favorite place to get sausage in Thailand, or your experience making them at home, on our Comments board.

Kaitlyn Moore

About the Author, Kaitlyn Moore: Kaitlyn is originally from North Carolina but moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, so that she could eat more noodles and avoid snow. She’s been abroad for over a year, with occasional stops in other parts of South and South East Asia.

All Images © 2010 Temple of Thai except ‘Northern Thai Sausage Served with Sticky Rice’ photo by Takeaway [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], Wikimedia Commons.

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