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Traditional Northern Thai cuisine is based on glutinous or sticky rice (khao niaw) which is eaten with various side dishes such as curries (gaeng), chilli sauces (nam prik), or spicy chopped meat (laab), hot and sour salads (yaam), or stir-fried (pahd). The diner dips up these various side dishes with a rolled ball of sticky rice in one hand. No meal is complete, however, without a plate of fresh vegetables, raw or boiled and of such a variety that would surprise a westerner. Diners can also use the vegetables to dip into the side dishes.

While northern Thai villagers might commonly have a small kitchen garden to provide this part of meals, the forest provides a wide variety of available vegetables which the villagers gather while hunting, herding animals, or on intentional gathering trips. The wide seasonal variations in north Thailand, starting from the cool season , to the searing heat of the hot season , through the rainy season dictates what vegetables are available in the forest. Not only are these wild vegetables nutritious, but northern Thai villagers would be quick to point out that they have beneficial medicinal qualities as well.

The Northern Thai words haa khong paa literally mean 'search in the forest' but can be translated as hunting and gathering. As can be seen, the skilled forest searcher can find a wide variety of useful wild vegetables, fruits, and gourds to enhance and add to the evening meal.

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