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Jan 15, 2014 05:14 PM

Chiang Mai

Will be in Chiang Mai, Thailand from February 5 for 4 nights staying on Charoenprathet Road in Changklan. Looking for recommendations for restaurants that serve quality northern thai food. Restaurants that are interested in the food they serve. Spicy food is fine.

thanks in advance for any help

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  1. Hey there!

    I spent a few weeks eating my way through Chiang Mai and learned a ton about the cuisine.

    A few tips - in general "northern" thai food is actually northeastern thai food. There are a few places that serve it in Chiang Mai, but the Chiang Mai food is more burmese in nature (Chiang Mai was occupied by the Burmese for a while) and the 5 foods you'll find everywhere are Khao Soai (coconut chicken soup), Hang Lay (Pork curry), Nam prik ong (nam prik is a dip - ong = a tomato-pork dip, other nam priks also available) and Sai Ua (chiang mai spicy sausage). You'll also find some good laab.

    Here are my absolute favs overall:
    Khao Soi Samerjai ข้าวซอยเสมอใจ (Kao Soi Samer Jai) @18.804588,99.005463
    Khao Soi is the signature dish of chiang mai - a type of coconut curry noodle soup that is unlike anything I've had before and incredibly delicious. Samer Jai is the absolute BEST one out there. It's a little out of the way to get there, but worth the taxi/red wagon (if you tell them Khao Soi Samerjai they'll nod in approval). Get it with chicken. The other food on the menu is fine, but the khao soi is the highlight. Street-food esque ambiance, there are seats but it's a dusty little shop for locals.

    Sornchan @18.787174,98.993602
    Totally unassuming little shop next to a pharmacy and across from the Tha Pae Gate that has maybe 3 tables inside? They sell smoothies outside which most people get and don't notice they have plates of food inside. It's one of the best places to try the classic Chiang Mai dishes like hang lay (pork curry), nam prik ong (a tomato dip that is reminiscient of a bolognese but delicious), and sai ua (chiang mai spicy sausage). You can also try the laab khua muu (spicy pork laab or larb salad) but it has a bit of an offal-y taste (very authentic). The Som Tam (green papaya salad) is good, but there's a better issan style place in the nimman area that's the best som tam. Owned by 3 sisters, they make the food in the morning and sell it until the afternoon when it's done.

    If I went back, I'd probably eat exclusively at those two places, but since you requested northern food:

    Solao @18.797811,98.970967
    This is the place for green papaya salad (som tam) - issan style restaurant that sears your tongue! The fried chicken wings are also delicious. No english here, just point at the pictures on the menu (or the pictures i send you!)

    Veera laab ped @18.797964,98.970696
    I think i read somewhere that Veera might be moving, but it's located near Solao and has very authentic laab ped (duck laab). The grilled pork was tasty too, but it's really all about the laab here.
    - according to another chow post, it seems like this might be moving

    And for more chiang-mai specific food:

    Khao soi khun yai @18.795358,98.983249
    This was our second favorite khao soi, and it's a little more conveniently located if you don't want to trek out to samerjai for your khao soi fix. It's open 10-2, mon-sat and kinda weirdly located on the innerside of the north moat between Wat Monthian and Wat Kuan Kama. You kind of walk down a driveway like path with an arrow pointing to walk in

    Kiet ocha @18.789737,98.986387
    Kiet Ocha is in the old city and had our favorite hainanese chicken rice (khao man gai). Very conveniently located next to a temple or some other tourist attraction. They also serve chicken satay and fried chicken but the chicken rice is the best thing on the menu.

    mango sticky rice @18.790715,98.9892
    This place is in the old city and is famous for their mango sticky rice. Tiny shop window, you eat outside but very delicious! Classic thai dessert.

    Nam Ngiaw Thapae @18.788417,98.996135
    Totally unassuming little shop down an alley outside the old city. They best serve a special kind of noodle called kanoom jeen nam ngiaw - a northern style noodle with pork. The noodles are fermented and the soup is a pork and tomato broth that's delicious. Very local

    And for a general travel tip, I'd recommend trying to use the red trucks instead of tuk tuks (the tuk tuks are a rip off). You shouldn't pay more than 20-30 baht per person for a ride just about anywhere in chiang mai.

    Hope you have a fantastic trip!

    --- /

    4 Replies
    1. re: heydana

      Great list, Dana.

      Vera's isn't moving until "around Songkran" (mid-April).

      Northern Thai is definitely different than Isaan (northeastern) food. My favorite northern Thai places are still Tong (Nimmanhaemin Soi 13; an hour wait tonight) and Huen Muan Jai on Ratchapruak Rd (north of Kad Suan Kaew)

      1. re: el jefe

        I did go to Huen Muan Jai but wasn't that impressed with the food there... Perhaps it was worth going to again.

        I went to Tong twice but didn't think it was worth the wait, personally, but if I had to choose one more general northern thai restaurant It'd probably be that one.

        The Ruen Tamarind in the old town (part of a hotel) was a good place for a "nice" meal - but better to order their "fusion" style dishes than any thai classics.

      2. re: heydana

        Hi Dana- thanks so much for all your effort in putting together this list of places in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, we'll definitely try some out from both locations. By northern food i guess i'm thinking of anything distinguished from Bangkok food but truthfully i'm parroting back phrases i've seen in guide books.
        Do you have any suggestions for a guide in Chiang Mai or Bangkok-do we need a guide in Bangkok?

        Hope we can help you out some day on one of your travels.


        1. re: IPcook

          Unfortunately no recommendations for guides - I'm a little embarrassed to say all we did was eat our entire trip and didn't actually go to see the sights! ><

          Some food notes in general - Southern thai food uses more coconut milk (close to the ocean where the coconut groves are) and is much sweeter (more sugar cane grown), so you're better off not ordering coconut-milk based curries/soups in Chiang Mai (they're not very good, although if you have a really strong craving, Lemon Tree has a good red curry). You'll also see more steamed rice since that's more native to the region.

          Sticky rice is grown in northern thailand, which is why it's more often the accompaniment for the food (served in the little bamboo baskets). It's also very spicy (although I've also had some very spicy southern food in Bangkok). You'll also see far less seafood (far away from the sea) and more chicken/pork/duck.

          For a good food education in northern food I'd recommend trying:
          - Khao Soi (Chiang mai signature soup)
          - Som tam (spicy green papaya salad)
          - Laab (minced meat spicy salad)
          - Sai Ua (Chiang mai spicy sausage)
          - Nam Priks (dips served with veggies and cabbage - my fav was the nam prik ong, a bit like an asian bolognese)
          - Khanom Jeen (fermented rice noodle, usually in some sort of soup - doesn't taste fermeneted, but has a softer texture i thought)
          - Hang Lay / hung lay (burmese style pork curry - one of my fav dishes in all of thailand)