Isaan sausages or sausages as they’re called in Isaan, (Saigrok Isaan ไส้กรอกอีสาน in Thai) are easily one of my most munched street foods of all time. This is partly due to their deliciousness, but also because they are found all over Bangkok and Thailand, and they are just so easy to eat on the go. However Isaan sausages do vary throughout, although the typical Isaan sausage, or at least the most common at Bangkok street food, would be the plump oblong sausages found in puffs of smoke at mobile barbecues and grills along Bangkok’s roadsides.
What is an Isaan Sausage?
Sausage-wise they will almost always be the same processed meat sausage, made from a mix of fermented pork, garlic and sticky rice, which give them a sour flavour. More than not they will be laced with strings of vermicelli (glass) noodles. They are then stuffed in their skins to near bursting, and a common and rather mean insult for chubby girls in Isaan, is ‘Saigrok Isaan’. So the Isaan sausage alone would be savoury, sour, and a little bit sweet, before the accompaniment of whole fresh green chillies for heat, and thin cuts of ginger, and galam (white cabbage), served alongside in a small bag. Wrap them all together and pop in the mouth, for an explosion of extreme Thai flavours. Anyway, this would be the typical Isaan sausage, common to Bangkok, but there are variations found throughout Thailand, where some are almost impossible to track down outside of their origins in Isaan.
The Small Round Ones
These chubby ball-like sausages are pretty much identical to the common oblong Isaan sausage, only they’re smaller and more round. They will typically be cooked while still strung together over charcoals, before they are snipped and separated, and served in a bag to go. However, while these sausages are pretty much identical to the traditional Isaan sausages above, the accompanying bites and condiments will often differ, where they often come sold with a chilli sauce squeezed into the bag, as well as with pickled ginger at times. Otherwise this is more to highlight the potential variations of traditional Isaan sausages.
Naem Sausage (แหนม)
Naem is a minced pork and sticky rice sausage, again with a unique sour taste from a two-day fermentation process, which is a bit like a deconstructed Isaan sausage, or the underlying ingredient to the common staples above. However it does vary, where it is more often served as an uncooked meat, and it would often be found in specific Thai dishes, such as ‘Yum Naem Khao Thot’, or ‘Pork and Crispy Fried Rice” in English (below right), where Naem is mixed with crumbled crispy fried rice balls, and served in a hot and sour ‘Yum’ salad. But it does occasionally come served as street food as well, where chubby lollypop like portions are skewered, and grilled over hot charcoals at street food vendors. It’s a relatively versatile sausage meat that is probably better known in northern Lanna Food.
Mum Sausages (หม่ำ)
The illusive ‘mum’ sausage can be tricky to track down even in Isaan, where they can only really be found in certain provinces, and tend to be strung up and sold from stalls along rural roads outside of town. However they are becoming more common, and I passed many on the road out towards Nang Rong and Buriram recently (Route 42 near Nong Bun Maak), as they are otherwise almost only found in-and-around the roads between Khon Kaen and Chaiyaphum. ‘Mum’ sausage can be made from various meats, including pork and liver, although beef would be the most common and sought after, which again is similarly sour like the usual Isaan Sausages, only I find them to be sourer even and more garlicy. But they are not so much bursting with juice, like typical Isaan sausages, and are more dry and crumbly with a similar texture to the spiced Sai Oua sausages of Northern Thailand. Also, fun fact, Mum Jokmok , who is one of Thailand’s most famous actors and comedians, was named after this sausage.
Moo Yor Steamed Pork (ยำหมูยอ)
Moo Yor is more common to northern Thai food, although Vietnam will be adamant that Thailand stole their Chả lụa, because it is more or less identical to the Vietnamese sausage. And while Moo Yor is common throughout Isaan, the province of Ubon Ratchathani is particularly famous for this common pork snack, which can more or less be eaten straight like a giant meat sausage. The pork itself, which has a white complexion, and a somewhat rubbery texture, is prepared by steaming or boiling, and while it’s not overly exciting flavourwise, even in its variations where it occasionally comes flavoured with black pepper for example, but it really goes well with Thai salads. This includes som tam papaya salad, and more commonly a ‘yum’ salad (Yum Moo Yor, ยำหมูยอ) which mixes the steamed pork with a fiery salad of chillies, fish sauce, lime and coriander (below right).