Some people go to Chiang Mai for culture, others go for trekking, but of course I went there with one goal in mind. To eat.
When you find yourself hungry in Chiang Mai, way up northern Thailand, here are some suggestions to keep you satiated:
1. Street food
Most of the street food you get in northern Thailand serves popular Thai food, which, of course, is all worth eating. You find vendors selling pad thai, khao kha moo (melt-in-your-mouth stewed pork leg on rice), mango sticky rice, barbecued chicken, rotis, papaya salad, sticky barbecued pork skewers, noodle soup… The list goes on and on. The price range for street stall food is around THB 30-50 per plate. Within the walled city, one of my most frequented places for street food is around Chiang Mai Gate. On Saturdays and Sundays, you’ll find extensive and busy night markets in and around the old city, though we struggled to find street food that we were happy with. For quality of food, shopping, and general enjoyment, we’d advise steering clear of Anusarn Market and the daily Night Bazaar on Chang Klan Road.
2. Khao soi
Well, you can’t say you’ve been to northern Thailand if you haven’t eaten khao soy. It’s like a northern Thai laksa – a bowl of a coconut-based curry soup with thick yellow egg noodles and usually a leg of stewed chicken. They sprinkle a crunchy deep-fried version of the same egg noodles on top of the dish. We first sampled this within the old town for a bargainous AED 40 at a little restaurant at the corner of Intrawarorot Road and Jhaban Road.
3. Salty Egg Lava Bun at Pun-Pao Steamed Buns
The Salty Egg Lava Bun is the food I’m still dreaming about. This is another little shop located within the walled city near the West Gate (Suan Dok Gate) at the corner of Arak 5 Road. The shopkeeper recommended the Salty Egg Lava Bun which took 5 minutes to heat up in the steamer and 5 seconds to devour. This bun was one of the highlights of my trip, especially after eating a hard and over-cooked bun from a street vendor at a night market the previous day. Pun-Pao has a number of varieties including Salty Egg, Matcha and Chocolate.
4. Sai ua
This famous northern Thai sausage is like a taste of Thailand in one single bite. You get whiffs of lemongrass and chili and pork all wrapped up in these continuous spirals of sausage. You’ll find many vendors on the ground floor of Warorot Market (to the east of the old town) selling their own versions of the sai ua and giving free samples.
5. Coffee at Ristr8to
Technically I didn’t eat anything at Ristr8to, I just enjoyed an amazingly delicious coffee. This tiny cafe is located on Nimmanhaemin Road to the west of the walled city and is reputed to be one of the best specialist coffeehouses in the Chiang Mai. The menu has comprehensive and thorough descriptions of the coffees on offer, including the exact ratio of coffee to milk to foam. Plus you can choose specific single-origin coffee beans if you wish, or opt for their standard blend. This place is trendy and busy, but the seating isn’t the most comfortable. However, if you’re a coffee aficionado, you’ll still want to stop here when exploring Nimmanhaemin.
6. Coconut cream pie at Cake Baan Piemsuk
I’m normally not a fan of coconut cream pie. Where I come from, this pie is bastardised by the use of sweetened shredded coconut. But nevertheless, I ordered one from Cake Baan Piemsuk, as it was recommended by the staff. It was light and not too sweet, on a delicious, slightly salty biscuit base with dreamy custardy filling and a ultra-light whipped cream. And the pièce de résistance, it’s made with big slivers of fresh, soft, young coconut. This tiny cafe is located on Charoen Rajd Road, a historic commercial road that runs parallel to the Ping River on the east side.
7. Iced coffee at Woo Cafe
Woo Cafe is a concept store on Charoen Rajd Road, just a few hundred metres south of Cake Baan Piemsuk. There’s a cafe, shop and gallery. The cafe is small with a few options for seating, including within the house or outside on the terrace. I loved this place for the interiors, fresh flowers, and the massive jugs of iced coffee. They also have free wi-fi, like most places in Chiang Mai, so makes for a lovely, relaxing place to while away a few hours.
The best part about eating in Chiang Mai? You can get delicious food at bargain-basement prices.
What are your favourite things to eat and drink in Chiang Mai?