What to Eat in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is the second-largest city in Thailand. You can expect that there will be amazing and tasty things to eat in a city this large...you will not be disappointed! Separated by walls, the old city and the new offer so many food venues that it would be impossible to try everything in one visit. We can help you narrow down your list of options with these fabulous places to eat and what to try while you are there.
Start with the dishes that are most popular in Chiang Mai and less known in other parts of Thailand (after all, we've all tried chicken satay so let's move on!). A great dish to dig into for anytime of the day is Khao Soi. Start with creamy coconut milk and curry as the base to this soup (it sounds pretty good already!) and then add in plenty of egg noodles. Most popularly, it is served with a chicken leg but beef or other meats can be substituted. Next, throw on a pile of crispy, fried noodles and some chili jam or pickled vegetables or both. Top it off with fresh onion slices and lime juice. Get ready for your next food addiction because this is it!
Okay, so this sounds wonderful. Where can you find it? Well, probably not in Bangkok, this dish is local to Chiang Mai. For the best of this dish try a little place called Khao Soi Khun Yai. This tiny place does a hopping breakfast and lunch business. People line up for the tasty soup. Usually, if you wait until after lunch you will be too late. The noodle soup sells out fast.
Dada Kafe is another great place to eat in Chiang Mai. Serving both Western and local cuisines, this place is always packed, with people being turned away. If you can get in and get a seat don't miss the opportunity to try their stir-fried pumpkin with sliced peppers or their scrambled eggs with prawns. Both dishes are made from the freshest foods available and you can certainly taste it.
Another very popular dish in this northern city is Gaeng Hunglay. Here you need to throw out thoughts of health-consciousness and just dip in and enjoy the dish. Fat-laden pork cuts are simmered in coconut milk, hunglay curry paste, pickled garlic and fresh ginger for flavor layers that will have your tongue dancing. Getting this dish is easy - just got to any of the street vendors or head over to Warorot Market where you can find the Dumrong stall. Here, some of the best Gaeng Hunglay is served to waiting visitors and locals alike.
Pork cracklings are so yummy accompanied by Nam Prik Noom. This dip is easy to find here in Chiang Mai and hard to resist. You can almost hear your taste buds sizzling as the fiery heat caused by this green chili paste scorches your mouth. A common condiment, Nam Prik Noom can be found just about anywhere. Served with cracklings, fresh steamed vegetables or soups and salads, this fiery treat can be sampled in a sit-down setting at Tong Tem Toh restaurant.
Herbs and spices differentiate regional fares all over the world. Chiang Mai is no exception. Here, Sai Oua is a local favorite that is not replicated in other parts of Thailand. Sai Oua is an herbed sausage made with ground pork, chilies, garlic, shallots and locally grown spices and herbs. This sausage is not for the fair-palette. It is like fire in your mouth, with delicious savory flavors that linger after the burn is gone. Gao Makham, located in the Mae Hia Fresh Market is a little kitchen that serves up some of the best Sai Oua in Chiang Mai. Grills are loaded down with the sausage. If the long lines of people waiting for it don't tip you off that this is the right place, the aromas will. Galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves are pungent and easy to follow with your nose, leading you to the coiled sausages smoking away on the grills.
Larb Kua is loved by locals and tentatively tried by adventurous travelers. This spicy meat salad includes things ingredients like fish, blood chunks, innards, chicken and pork that are finely chopped together. Cooking oil is heated with spices and herbs, blood chunks, and dried chilies before the chopped meats are added and quickly removed. Served up with sticky rice, this dish is hearty and full of flavor. Find the best Larb Kua at Huen Phen Restaurant. Looking more 'antiques shop' than a restaurant, this place is relaxing, quiet and quirky, with some of the best local dishes around. The recipes have been passed down for generations and are still made the same today. Food doesn't get more authentic than this place.
Of course, great restaurants in Chiang Mai are not limited to Thai dishes. There are lots of options for other cuisines in stunning settings. The Akyra Manor is one of these places. A stunning five star hotel, this art inspired hotel boasts courtyards inside the rooms, stunning views and delectable dishes at ITALICS - the elegant restaurant located on-site.
ITALICS fuses Chiang Mai's love for the freshest ingredients with an artful flair for beautifully presented dishes that delight even the most discerning foodies. Try some steaming Kao Tom, a sticky rice served up with spring onion, ginger, fish or pork and fried garlic. There is a Lanna Platter with sour pork sausage, green chili dips, vegetables and crispy pork skins - perfect for sharing. The Classic Prawn Cake is absolutely divine. A marinated prawn patty is pan-fried and served with plum sauce and mango salsa.
You can also try fusion dishes like Chiang Mai Pizza with sour pork, Northern sausage, arugula and pickles. Yum Nua uses Australian beef, spicy lime fish sauce dressing and dried chilies for an eclectic taste that mixes East and West in a tantalising way. Main courses are served with flair and flavor for guests to enjoy. Savor pan-seared snow fish with pumpkin puree. Go for a mix of cultures with the Grilled Pork Chop served with spaghetti, Onsen egg and mushroom cream sauce.
Desserts like Mellow Mango and Tiramisu showcase the chef's abilities to serve culturally diverse dishes. The Tiramisu with coffee ice cream is smooth, creamy and slightly sweet. The Mellow Mango with coconut pudding and mango ice cream is refreshing and light. Indulge in traditional Sticky Rice Balls with Mango. Deep fried and served with coconut ice cream, this is a hit with locals and travelers alike.
Before retiring to your luxurious suite, hit the Rise Rooftop Bar for after-dinner cocktails. Breathtaking views of the city sprawl out before you. Chic decor, a cool pool and the hottest drinks in town bring visitors from the hotel and surrounding areas to gather and relax. An extensive wine list boasts vintages from the USA, Spain, South Africa and more. Have a chilled red wine or watch as a flaming cocktail is concocted by the bartenders. Sip and chat with friends on the comfy sofas overlooking the crumbling ancient city walls in the distance.
Chiang Mai flavors and memories will last a lifetime...or until your next foodie adventure!
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