In the House: Ya Dong

Sawasdee Torn Chao all!

As it’s now getting colder, let’s warm ourselves up with a boozy topic today.

It’s one of the first things you’ll get from us.

It’s one thing (of so many) that sets Chao apart from any other hostels in Bangkok.

It’s our proud welcome drink.

It’s ya dong.

(And we know you like it!)

So what’s ya dong (ยาดอง)?

In Thai, ya (ยา) means medicine and dong (ดอง) means to pickle. So ya dong literally means pickled medicine.

It’s one of our traditional ways to extract substances from herbs without adding heat –by using local solvents.

To make ya dong edible, the solvents used must be able to prevent bacteria from growing and spoil the batch, namely honey, salt, yeast and alcohol.

And, you guessed it, the boozier, the merrier!

So what we actually see on street side of some residential areas are the jars of alcohol ya dong, made using Thai white rice spirit (lao khao, in Thai)  which is so cheap yet high in ABV. 

Thrown some herbs and spices in a jar of spirit and let it rest for at least a month. Then it’s time to taste the infused liquor.

Ya dong is believed to help energizing, boosting blood flow and, what makes it popular, enhancing libido as well as be an elixir.

As witty and fun as Thai people always are, the wonderful names of common recipes and herbs depicts the medical benefit of each one.

Mah gra tueb rong (ม้ากระทืบโรง), literally translated as horse trampling, is a plant of which vines are used in infusion, believing to boost energy for drinkers as well as Gum lung suea krong (กำลังเสือโคร่ง = power of tiger).

Crazier name like Doe mai roo lom (โด่ไม่รู้ล้ม), translated as ever standing, is always associated with men’s erection, thus believed to help men’s reproduction, while naree rumpueng (นารีรำพึง = groaning lady) recipe is created to help blood circulation and menstruation system.

In addition to herbs and spices, some local ya dong makers play it with poisonous animals like snake and centipede.

As ya dong is usually drunk straight up, you have to be really careful, especially at local stalls where the spirit used can be as high in alcohol level as more than 40%.

Feel free to ask our friendly staff what we currently have at the counter and if you want to explore more in this Thai infusion world, the hot spots are Studio Lam (Sukhumvit Soi 51) and Tep Bar (Soi Nana on Rama 4).

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