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If Jitlada, despite its massive, unknowable menu and maddeningly languorous pace during peak hours, remains the standard by which other Southern Thai establishments are judged, our pick for Northern Thai is Spicy BBQ. Her hair bound in a kerchief, Nong, the proprietor of this endearingly ramshackle closet will make cheery recommendations if you ask, and our advice, which we're pretty sure aligns with hers, is to stick to the Northern Thai specials occupying a few smudged pages in the middle of the menu.
You've heard about khao soi, a creamy egg noodle soup with lemon, chicken, and pickles. You ought to get that. And don't neglect the grilled pork either. Since you'll want some roughage, have a go at the nam prik ong, half a head's worth of green cabbage shards and cucumber wedges accompanied by a small bowl of ground pork swimming in an oily liquid in hue uncomfortably reminiscent of fresh blood.
While crafting a less attractive dish would be an achievement, do not be daunted. This piggy ragu-esque concoction enlivened with shrimp paste and garlic is the best excuse for a salad we've ever seen. You dip the vegetables in the beautiful mush and crunch away. The chiles in the ruddy pond pooling beneath the dip won't turn your tongue numb and give you palpatations à la Jitlada's most incendiary options, but it creeps up all the same, becoming more potent as the vegetables disappear and you're down to globs of sticky rice, dabbing away like Lady Macbeth trying to get every last damn spot.