Chiang Mai Thai

Ever wanted to learn Thai, in Chiang Mai? I did just that from November 2010, returning home in October 2011. If you don't want a headache, start HERE, it will explain the preceding posts. I'm Snap, Stray's other half. COOEE is our (other) travel blog.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sleeping corn - Northern Thai

So, we’re sitting around talking to a few Thai friends (in 5% bad Thai and the rest, in English) and one says, something? something? "saleeping".

‘Sleeping?’ we ask, thinking she’s trying to pronounce an English word, you know, with all the extra invisible vowels.

“No, saleeping, sa-lee-ping,” she replies, “corn.” as she motions grilling over a barbeque.

‘Corn’ is not a word I’ve retained, because it’s everywhere, cooked and bagged, so I just pick one up and say “I’ll have this one please” or ask for “one ‘an’”...the slackers classifier for everything.
A few days later I thought I’d better revisit ‘saleeping’ (just to sate my curiosity) and found it nowhere in my regular dictionary resources. But, then I remember where I Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, the old Kingdom of Lanna.

ข้าวโพด (kâo-pôht) means corn in standard Thai and ข้าวสาลี (kâo-sǎh-lee) means wheat. I have this inane method of checking Thai that I can't find anywhere else and that's by searching Google Images...ข้าวสาลี. Yep, looks like wheat wins hands down.

However, in northern Thai corn is spelt/said in two ways: ข้าวโด, which sounds almost exactly like kâo-pôht and kâo-sǎh-lee, just like wheat in standard Thai. In the latter, if we throw away the kâo (rice, cereal or grain) part of the word, we’re left with สาลี (sǎh-lee). Add the ‘pbîng/ปิ้ง’ (roasted, grilled or barbequed) and we have สาลีปิ้ง (sǎh-lee pbîng), corn grilled or grilled corn.

....Strike me down if I don’t delay hitting the ‘publish’ button on this post and opt for a walk around the block (with Stray) to buy *him* some rotti. Next to the rotti stall is a young lady selling ข้าวโพดหวาน (kâo-pôht wǎhn), sweet corn. It said so on her sign. I asked her if kâo-sǎh-lee was Chiang Mai Thai and her first response was “No.” But, then she back stepped and charaded that it was ‘small’ corn.

When I’m at the market next time, I’ll give my kâo-sǎh-lees and kâo-pôhts a run for their money. In the mean time, I do know for sure that grilled corn (up here) is ลำแต้ๆ (lam dtâe dtâe / very delicious) and costs less than ซาวบาท ( saao bàat / 20 baht) per bag ;)

It’s so much fun learning a new language...or two!

Below is some further reading and resources for Northern Thai...I'd love to hear about more if you know of any. Like I'm not confused enough!

Learning Thai - Lanna
Northern-Central Thai Dictionary. Revised Edition this is really old and some of the pages aren't very legible.
Speak Real Thai not much, but worth a look.

For now I'll say sawadee jao and cheers!

See what else we're up to at Cooee!


  1. Awesome resources and great linguistics investigation. I like your style!

  2. hi Snap,

    in Khonkaen province, we were grilling sticky rice patties dipped in egg, and the locals called it "kao gee." i don't know enough Thai to distinguish standard Thai from the Lao-influenced Isaan dialect, however.

  3. @colin Thanks Colin, if being bewildered, is style...then I guess I have it ;)

  4. @MJ Klein farout, I have something else to investigate ;)....and then what? After you dip in egg, does it get cooked or is that it?

    kài-jeeo is an omelet and kâo-jâo is non glutinouse rice and gee is a 'loom' or 'how many'...the mind boggles in standard Thai ;) I'd love to see it written in script.

  5. @MJ Klein

    "Rice is so ingrained in the Lao mind that the Lao call the baguette "Khao Gee" which means grilled rice. When baguettes were first introduced, the poorer Lao fed the bread to their pigs, so adding the baguette to the Lao diet as a staple was no easy task. Eventually, as the social status improved, they adopted bread, butter, and cheese."...yay!

    Article Source:

    Still doesn't answer my egg question ;)

  6. @Snap If I am nothing else, I am obsessive! "Khao Gee Pan(Lao Pizza) lol. You know the one where you take Sticky Rice and roll it up like a Pizza dough and mix it with the eggs and fry it."

    It sounds interesting, I imagine you dip it in various sauces?...but, for now...let's get back to my corn ;)

  7. hi Snap.

    once in Lao, we saw some bread being delivered to a restaurant. the writing on the box said "baguette farang" lol!

    once the rice patty is dipped in the egg it gets grilled. there is a Youtube video of us with our Thai friends doing that at my friend's resort in Muang Phon (80km south of Khonkaen city): for some reason, the audio cuts out 2 times but the video shows the grilling.

  8. @MJ Klein Thanks MJ, couldn't get the whole way through the video, but certainly could see enough. I've never seen this before. I imagine, like anything made from sticky rice, it'd keep you feeling full for hours.

    I heard a westerner refer to Beer as 'nam farang' the other day ;)

    PS. I put you on Cooee's blogroll, because I keep this blog for learning Thai (ha, ha) and Chiang Mai.

  9. @Snap, yes the video is painful with the audio mishap - i should probably redo the entire thing. some of the dialog is funny, especially when Auntie tries to mimic what we're saying in Chinese! lol

    nam farang is a great joke! i'm going to use that myself!

    thanks for the blogroll Snap. we'll reciprocate of course.

  10. I've actually seen two types of bagette sold, regular and "falang" which looked similar but the inside was worse kind of similar to American air bread. In the afternoon up by the Kaysone museum on the way to the Southern bus station there are a lot of guys out on the road flagging down traffic trying to sell fresh bagette of all varieties.

    Fun Blog

    Sok Dee

  11. @Anonymous I'm not sure where Kaysone Museum/Southern bus station is?...I'd probably enjoy the air bread baguettes ;)

    Thanks for dropping by :)


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