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wrisley may19 platesbig SS1.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang


I came to write a feature on this cultural phenomenon. And like many places I've passed through in Thailand, I left seduced by the food.
Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
14 OF 18
wrisley may19 biker ss2.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

A biker roars into the rally.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
2 OF 18
wrisley may19 frogs ss2.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

These tiny frogs are used in curries or served deep-fried in Isaan. We found them at the morning market.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
3 OF 18
wrisley may19 pumpkins ss3.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang


Tiny watermelons for sale.
Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
4 OF 18
wrisley may19 catfish ss4.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

A plaa-raa (thick, fermented fish sauce) vendor also sold these catfish, which are fermented in a paste made with sticky rice.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
5 OF 18
wrisley may19 daughter ss5.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

A chicken vendor's daughter, in Yasothorn's morning market, around 8am.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
6 OF 18
wrisley may19 vendormother ss6.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

Her mother grills chickens, livers and hearts for breakfast.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
7 OF 18
wrisley may19 gaiyang1 ss7.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang


This was the best version of grilled chicken we found, in a region famed for it. Upon return, the vendor was gone--she had set up only for the first day of the festival, in front of her husband's garage.
Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
8 OF 18
wrisley may19 gaiyang2 ss8.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang


Here, the same chicken, as it is eaten in Issan--with a blisteringly spicy salad of green papaya and long beans, with a bouquet of raw cabbage and herbs (served here on ice, because of the withering heat).
Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
9 OF 18
wrisley may19 table ss9.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang


Men sit at a table on Yasothorn's main street, drinking whiskey, eating salads, and awaiting the parade.
Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
10 OF 18
wrisley may19 spit ss1O.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

Slicing a slab of young buffalo at the Rocket Bike Night, 2009.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
11 OF 18
wrisley may19 buffalo ss11.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang


Water buffalo is a lean, gamey meat that is transformed by this citrusy chili sauce.
Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
12 OF 18
wrisley may19 fruit ss12.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

Bitter, local fruits for sale at the morning market.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
13 OF 18
wrisley may19 larb ss13.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang


Pork laab served at Mong Saap, with baby eggplants.
Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
15 OF 18
wrisley may19 bruno ss15.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

Bruno Prasit, proprietor of Mong Saap.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
16 OF 18
wrisley may19 anu ss16.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

Anu, Bruno's wife, who heads up the excellent kitchen Mong Saap, is also a talented tattoo artist, and fed me flying ants.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
17 OF 18
wrisley may19 rocket1 ss17.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

Homemade bottle rocket being lit by your correspondent.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.
18 OF 18
wrisley may19 launch2 ss18.jpg

Photo by Jason Michael Lang

A real rocket takes flight over Yasothorn.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding
Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads
in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.