Homemade Thai Ya Dong
My earliest memory of Ya Dong (also spelled yadong, and yaa dong) dates back to my first visit to Pattaya. A bar crawl around Pattaya was coming to an end on Soi 7. Now, I honestly can’t remember if it was ya dong or not, but the idea was to finish off the night with a glass or 2 of ya dong, thus I always remember it as ya dong.
That night, I bravely swallowed what I considered to be a vile, fiery, utterly disgusting potion. I momentarily managed to contain it before my stomach started to heave, and my first mouthful of ya dong erupted from my mouth with the velocity and volume of a high pressure water cannon.
I never dared try ya dong again until my wife started experimenting with homemade ya dong.
When my wife takes on a new project there is usually a reason, or a motive behind it. I never asked her reason for making ya dong, but I suspect a number of motives including minimizing my donations to Johnny Walker, and/or improving my sex drive.
The essential ingredients of ya dong (see photo below) are an assortment of herbs and other plants which are selected for their individual and combined properties. Different combinations of herbs and other ingredients are generally used as a tonic to improve libido, sex drive, and to remedy a host of physical and mental conditions.
My wife purchased her chosen ya dong mixture from a friend. She also bought 3 of the large glass canisters/jars similar to those seen covered with red cloth at ya dong stalls around Pattaya.
The other vital ingredient of ya dong is lao khao (rice wine) which gives ya dong its strong alcohol content. There is not the slightest chance I would drink ya dong if it had no alcohol content.
But lao khao is used not only for the obvious pleasure giving effect of its alcohol, the alcohol is required to extract the nutrients and flavors from the herbs
Making your own ya dong at home is most likely the easiest form of home brewing I have ever seen. Simply place the herbs in the jar, add the lao khao until the jar is full, then seal the top of the jar with cling-wrap before placing the lid on top.
The jar should remain sealed for 2 to 3 months so that the alcohol extracts the maximum nutrients and flavor from the herbs. The last thing to do before drinking the ya dong is to strain it through a fine muslin cloth to extract the sediment, otherwise it will reattain a very cloudy appearance.
What Does Ya Dong Taste Like ?
A medicinal drink and tonic, ya dong is used as a remedy for various ailments and conditions. And so the different ingredients add their own unique taste to any particular blend of ya dong.
My wife added honey tro her blend, which combined with the other ingredients to give the ya dong a deep brown coloring, very similar in appearance to Jagermeister.
Unlike my first experience ya dong, my wife’s homemade ya dong was actually very enjoyable. Whether or not it had the desired effect, I can’t say, but if its purpose was to substitute my regular intake of Johnny Walker, then my wife should consider it a successful experiment.
I found it a very warming drink, and one which quickly hit the mark. My measures are larger than the average shot glass, and 2 glasses before or after a few beers is more than enough …..for me.
Ya Dong Facts
Ya dong definition: the meaning of ya dong is most easily translated to English as “pickled medicine”. Ya means medicine. Dong means pickle, or preserve.
Ya dong stalls are usually a small wooden stall often located near other eating and drinking establishments. They are easily identified by the large jars of ya dong covered with red cloth.
The origins of ya dong are a little sketchy. Some will tell you it originates from Issan (Northeast Thailand), others say it was formulated in temples. I would not be surprised if ya dong was originally introduced to Thailand by the Chinese Thais.
Ya dong is primarily a medicinal drink or tonic used to treat and remedy many common ailments, conditions and disorders. Ya dong is commonly drank as an aphrodisiac, a pain killer, a libido enhancer, and a hangover cure.