Can you base a holiday solely around eating Thai food? I’d say so, I’ve always based my travels around food, that’s how I first learned about Northern Thai cuisine. Use this guide to discover the five Northern Thai dishes worth travelling for – and where you can find them on your trip to Chiang Mai.
Before my very first travels in Thailand, I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought Thai food was made up of just Pad Thai and green curries. Ten years have now passed and since I first touched down in the land of smiles, and I haven’t even scratched the surface of this wonderfully diverse cuisine.
Every region in Thailand has its own style of cooking, from creamy coconut based curries in the south to spicy grilled meats and salads in the north east, I love all Thai food. No other food has captured my heart more, though, than the amazing dishes from Thailand’s second city; Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai’s food, or Lanna cuisine, as it’s known locally is nowhere near as well known as the city it hails from. Chiang Mai is one of the most visited cities in Thailand, but unfortunately, a lot of the time, the wonderful local dishes go under the radar with tourists.
Today, we’re going to change all by looking at five fantastic Northern Thai food dishes that are worth visiting Chiang Mai for.
Travel for This Thai Food
1. Khao Soi – Coconut Based Curry with Egg Noodles
Khao Soi is easily Chiang Mai’s most famous dish. It consists of a rich coconut milk-based curry, flavored with Indian spices, namely coriander seeds, black cardamom and fresh turmeric poured over flat egg noodles and topped with crunchy, deep-fried noodles. On the side, you’ll find fresh lime wedges, chilli oil and pickled cabbage. These condiments are there to tweak the dish to your own taste. Khao Soi is my favorite dish in Thailand, just to give you an idea of how delicious it is!
For my favorite khao soi in Chiang mai, head to Khao Soi Samer Jai, just across the river from the main town.
2. Sai Ua – Northern Thai Sausage
This is the sausage to end all sausages, a meat lovers dream! Sai ua just screams Thailand from the first bite, it’s bursting with flavour from Thai staples such as lemongrass, lime leaves, chilli, galangal, ginger and turmeric. These herbs and spices are mixed with fatty pork mince and slowly grilled over coals to maximise the flavour. The shape of the sausage is reminiscent of an English Cumberland ring.
Sai Ua is sold for takeaway everywhere in nearly every market and restaurant in Chiang Mai, one of my top choices, though, is Huen Puen on Ratchamanka Rd.
3. Gang Hang Lay – Northern Pork Belly Curry
You might not be familiar with this curry if you have been to Chiang Mai! It’s called gaeng hang lay and it’s a slow cooked curry of pork, usually, belly and shoulder soured with tamarind and flavoured with Indian spices.
There are so many different recipes for this that I’m not sure I’ve had two that taste exactly the same even from the same shop!
It has it’s roots in Myanmar (Burma) and tastes like no other curry in Thailand. The closest I would say would be a massaman curry without the coconut milk.
4. Khanon Jeen Nam Ngiaw
Probably the least known dish outside of Chiang Mai, Khanom jeen nam ngiaw reminds me of a kind of Thai spaghetti bolognese. It’s a comforting dish of fresh rice noodles topped with a wonderfully rich, smokey tomato based broth with minced or sliced pork and ribs.
You can’t go wrong with Nam Ngiaw Thapae for an authentic version.
5. Nam Prik Noom – Roasted Green Chilli Dip
Last but not least, my favourite Thai dip, nam prik noom. This wonderful salsa is made by grilling long green chilli peppers, garlic and shallots over an open flame and pounding them in a pestle and mortar with lime juice and fish sauce. The result is an amazingly smokey, spicy, salty dip that’s a perfect accompaniment to crunchy fresh vegetables.
So there you have it; five reasons to make your next trip a food adventure to Thailand’s beautiful north. Plan a trip with some online resources.
Need somewhere to enjoy authentic Thai food, but can’t make a trip across the world? Try one of these gems:
Pure Thai Cookhouse, NYC
Pok Pok, Portland