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Traveling to Nan city to taste seaweed, The taste of abundance of the Nan River.
In the past, human beings lived by cultivation. Wherever people are, they are bound to the waters there. Likewise, the people of Nan are still strongly attached to the Nan River as the lifeblood of a whole city.
From November to February every year, The water level in Nan will decrease from the rainy season. but clear, cold, lazily flowing In addition to the comfort of the ears and eyes. It is also an ideal environment for growing a type of freshwater algae called ‘Kai’.
Kai, known scientifically as Cladophora glomerata Kutzing., is a freshwater algae with high protein content comparable to fish and chicken meat. High in fiber, vitamins B1, B2, and B12, and vegetarian, it's becoming increasingly popular as the health food trend grows. As for the villagers, it is believed that Kai is a special food that helps nourish the hair to be thick and not easy to gray. It is comparable to the fluffy, dark green streaks of seaweed spreading in the water.
Still, Kai is a food that can only be seen locally because there are a lot of conditions for growth, for example, it grows only where the water is flowing but it must be a slow flow of water because water that is too stagnant is dirty, incomplete water and water that is turbulent will cause the trigger to break does not grow into long lines so Kai came in early winter and left at the beginning of the rainy season when the water began to flow turbulently.
In addition to the strength that is just right. Kai only rises in water so clean and clear that sunlight can reach the bottom of the water because it is a green algae that depends on the sun for photosynthesis and for this reason that the water must be extremely clean. The important thing is that clean water must have rocks for Kai to cling to as well. Kai can only be found in the upstream area where there are large rocks at the bottom of the river such as the Nan River and the Mekong River. Therefore, apart from the people of Nan, the people of Chiang Rai and their neighbors from the Lao PDR, who rely on the Mekong River, also like to collect Kai for cooking as well.
Even in the area of Nan Province itself. Kai is still not seen in every district. In the past, Ban Nong Bua villagers in Tha Wang Pha District were 'made to find Kai' solidly, but nowadays, Tha Wang Pha people still accept that they have decreased dramatically.
Heard the old people say that now the trigger is clearly less. It is said that it is because the purity of the water is different from the past. When fertilizers or agricultural chemicals are used in nearby areas The rain will leach the chemistry in the soil into the Nan River, causing the number to decrease.
When it's the seaweed season People who work for Kai in the city will leave other burdens., breaking away from the hard work of the farm to come to Kai together solidly because the price of the early season trigger is enough to make money and the time for harvesting Kai is quite limited. The task of finding a trigger was therefore given the highest priority.
Some houses have very few tools, they can only be collected as 'Kai Hin' or a short trigger, attached to the rocks near the water's edge, walking down empty-handed, bowing down and looking up for a moment, a Kai draped over his shoulder. Kai Hin has the advantage that it is easy to keep because it is located by the shore, the water is not deep, not turbulent, and the Kai itself is completely tasteless, suitable for further processing. The downside is that the trigger stone picks up little by little. Plus, it takes time to wash each other for a long time before it's clean.
Cleaning the trigger is not an easy task, because Kai is a small, fine algae, it traps dust, rocks, dirt, sand, and small creatures. In the water The way to clear is to hold the trigger loosely. Then flick the trigger in the water for minutes. Therefore, those who prefer to keep the trigger at the water's edge will have to exert a little more effort.
Different from those who have boats, There is a power saver and not afraid of rapids will be able to go down to collect 'Kai Mai' or 'Kai Yao' until the middle of the water. Some people, when flying high, can dive to the depth of their heads down to 'Jok Kai' or keep the trigger up to the middle of the river. A trigger that grows in deeper water has a long, flowing line. Some people's limbs are strong enough to lift up and sling over their shoulders as thick blankets. therefore going up to the water for a while The trigger is a long string. When picking up a bundle, it weighs more. can be washed a lot at a time But the disadvantage is that it has a salty taste. suitable for cooking
There is also a 'Kaita' or a bunch of short and fluffy Kai. usually grows in small creek waters or does it depend on the trigger? Which, to be honest, is a trigger at the lowest position because it is not very popular with people looking for a trigger for a long time. The villagers who walk across the creek to farm, will regret keeping the hands back and forth.
After the trigger has been collected and cleaned, Kai can be cooked in a variety of dishes. Whether it's Steamed Kai Wrap, Kai Curry, and Kua Kai, food from Kai may have a dark green color and a sloppy appearance, but Kai's unique oily taste combined with the wisdom of using fresh herbs to enhance the flavor. Makes Kai a delicacy menu that should not be missed in all respects.
In addition to fresh cooking Kai also prolongs the shelf life so that it can be eaten for up to a year by drying it. When it comes to cooking in a household, it's usually done by drying the chicken on a 'tap' or woven bamboo mat but for people who find a trigger as a career, The Kai season coincides with the time when the rice fields are already harvested, so the empty fields can be borrowed to be used as a chicken drying area. The bamboo poles were hammered about 2-3 meters apart, their arms stretched with a thin nylon rope, becoming a rail for placing the trigger in bulk. The collected trigger is then washed and spread on a rack to dry as much as possible. Before folding it into a bag and closing the bag's mouth tightly, that's it.
Dried Kai will be available for sale in the general market in Nan and the people who bought it were none other than the locals who wanted to stock up on Kai to eat out of season to use it, just soak it in clean water. The chicken will swell and fill with water, similar to fresh chicken. Can be used to cook almost anything.
The most popular way of eating seems to be making 'Kai Yi', the number one menu of seaweed that Nan people insist that they eat with sour eggplant chili paste and hot, fresh sticky rice.
The process of making Kai yi is to grill the dried Kai over low heat or fry it in a pan until it is cooked and brittle, then 'crush' or crush it with your hands until it is finely powdered. You only need to cook the trigger when it's still hot for it to turn out nice and fluffy. Many modern housewives say that they will be spun in a dryer to save a lot of time. After getting the Kai powder, season with salt, roasted white sesame, and crispy fried garlic. Who likes a clear scent? Drizzle a little more sesame oil on it, it's not against the rules. When finished, use force to mix the ingredients thoroughly to get a delicious Kai yi. Some people keep it in a jar to use, such as furikake or Japanese rice powder.
Currently, Kai has been developed by the new generation into a variety of products, both being chicken cookies, chicken bread, chicken curry, and becoming a source of income for people in the community throughout the year, such as Ban Nong Bua Freshwater Algae Processing Community Enterprise. It has been selling processed Kai products for more than 18 years under the brand name 'Sai Yai Lotus', there are Kai Yi, Kai crispy sheets, Kai chili paste, and also developing new products, always coming out because there are new generations joining the movement.
As mentioned, during the harvesting season, there are only a few months. Therefore, we have to buy dry Kai stock for hundreds of thousands of baht in order to have enough for production throughout the year. Therefore, people in the Ban Nong Bua community also said that Kai is an economic plant that has always generated income for the people in the community till now.