Rockets, Biker Gangs, and Exploding Salads

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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Photo by Jason Michael Lang

A biker roars into the rally.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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Photo by Jason Michael Lang


Tiny watermelons for sale.


Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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Photo by Jason Michael Lang

Her mother grills chickens, livers and hearts for breakfast.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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Photo by Jason Michael Lang


Pork laab served at Mong Saap, with baby eggplants.


Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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Photo by Jason Michael Lang

Bruno Prasit, proprietor of Mong Saap.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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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



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.

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Photo by Jason Michael Lang

A real rocket takes flight over Yasothorn.

Jarrett Wrisley visits the Issan region of Thailand, finding



in a place where the food and the people are straight-up country.