One of the great things about Thai street food is the constant reinvention that occurs, naturally, as vendors try to stand out in a crowded field. This is what happened with Yai Krieng, a Sukhothai noodle vendor who hit upon the idea of khao perb, a type of pork broth-based dumpling that can’t be found anywhere outside of the region. The dumplings are made in a style reminiscent of khao kriab pak mor, a type of rice dumpling made by steaming the batter over a pot of water with cheesecloth stretched over it. The filling inside is fresh cabbage and aromatic basil. To make it even more interesting, the batter is made of fermented rice, in the manner of kanom jeen. Then to finish it off, the dumpling is placed in a bowl of pork broth and crowned with a steamed egg and red pork.
The khao perb is the namesake dish here, but it’s not the dish that’s most at risk of running out if you arrive too late in the afternoon. That honor probably goes to the mee pun, crepes made, once again, out of fermented rice batter flavored with your choice of either pork broth, chilies, or original herb seasonings. My personal favorite is the pork broth. Once again, these items are steamed. Yai Krieng is big on steaming.
But while mee pun is popular, it’s not my total favorite dish at this noodle shop. That honor would go to guaythiew bear, made of thin rice noodles that are absolutely smothered in a tangy tamarind sauce and blanketed in a square of red pork and fried pork cracklings. Like pad Thai, it’s a bit of a take on Sukhothai noodles, what with the tamarind, fish sauce, peanuts, lime and pork. I’m not sure if the noodles in this dish are made from fermented rice, but yes, once again, they are steamed.
I’ve been to this place a few times now, but one of my favorite things about my latest trip was meeting Yai Krieng herself, and realizing that, like Jay Fai and me, Yai Krieng has her own groupie too. In fact, this woman took me on a little tour of the premises, showing me the containers with the fermenting rice batter and telling me about Yai Krieng’s whole history as a single mother of five (!) Apparently, there are now other stalls selling khao perb in Sukhothai, but none of them hold a candle to the original. Seeing how exponentially Yai Krieng’s business has grown since my first visit to this spot years ago, I am happy that she has found such success.
But hey, why take my word for it? Why not see for yourselves, in this video painstakingly put together by my friend @christao408? Catch it below: