Say sawadee to the famous Chiang Mai Sausage, otherwise known locally as Sai Ua!
Sai Ua (otherwise known as Chiang Mai Sausage) is a grilled pork sausage from northern Thailand. In Thailand it is one of the typical foods of Mae Hong Son and Chiang Mai, and it has become very popular in the rest of Thailand. Its name in Thai comes from “sai” (intestine) and from “ua” (to stuff). So, yep, you guessed it: it’s like a stuffed intestine! I can remember seeing something similar to this in Taipei (it was simply called a “Taiwanese Sausage”). Sai Ua contains minced pork meat, herbs, spices, and red curry paste. It is usually eaten grilled along with sticky rice and other dishes, and served as a snack or starter.
The first few times I had been travelling in Thailand I hadn’t even heard of sai ua, let alone tasted it. However, on my most recent trip to Thailand, I visited Chiang Mai for the first time, and this is where I discovered the delicacy! I heard they also eat sai ua in Myanmar, but I’ve never seen it there, either. I guess I just don’t look in the right places! A nice European comparison to sai ua would have to be bratwurst from Germany. The bratwurst is a thick grilled sausage but unlike sai ua it doesn’t [typically] contain spices. It would be interesting to know what the local Chiang Mai people would think of a good brat. Somehow I suspect they would stick to what they know and eat the local variety instead…
With a stuffed sausage containing a lot of red curry paste, you can be sure that your bite will be somewhat fiery, but that’s all part and parcel of Thai cuisine. There’s no point eating local food in Thailand if you aren’t prepared to experience the spiciness of the dishes! I can remember once walking through a street market in Chiang Mai, I saw sai ua hanging from what seemed to be a washing line. I wish I had taken a photo, as I have never since seen it presented in that way. The usual way of displaying these famous Chiang Mai sausages is to just roll them up like a coiled snake, and then leave them to simmer gently on a grill until a hungry mouth comes along.
Of all the Thai food I have encountered on my travels, I just have a soft spot for sai ua. It puts your typical European bratwurst to shame!