Featured Image Cowboy Hat Lady, Chang Phuak Market

Street Food Chiang Mai 2023

In Travel, Thailand, Food by tony4 Comments

Featured Image: Cowboy Hat Lady, Chang Phuak Market

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  5 May 2023

Street Food in Chiang Mai is the companion article to Street Food in Bangkok. Another article on Bangkok is about the Klong Saen Saep Transport System.

Articles in the series on food and restaurants in Chiang Mai are: 1 Akha Tribal Food, 2 Pho Vieng Chane, 3 Khao Soy, 4 French & Italian Restaurants, 5 Airport Plaza, 6 Update 2017,Update 2023, 8 Street Food. Another article is about What Travel Costs in Chiang Mai, part of another memorable series.

Food in Chiang Mai 8: Street Food

Main Points

  • Food Tours
  • A Short History of Thai and Northern Thai Food
  • Typical Chiang Mai Street Food
  • 14 Terrific Places to Go for Authentic Chiang Mai Street Food
  • Further Sources of Information

1 Preamble on Food Tours

This article the eighth on food in Chiang Mai is also a companion article to Street Food in Bangkok (my next article).

When we arrived in Bangkok in January 2023, we took a Chef’s Tour hosted by Nutth. This was a terrific and well-organised tour around Chinatown lasting about four hours.

A Small Selection of Fungi Available From Fresh Food Markets

A Small Selection of Fungi Available From Fresh Food Markets

I’d done some research on food tours in Bangkok before leaving Australia and there appeared to be quite a number. There were also plenty of blog articles recommending street food and cheap restaurants, indeed all types of restaurants some of which were excellent. This is a big change from only a few years ago.

We’d previously done a food tour in Bangkok on a visit for my nephew’s wedding in 2017 in the old European quarter of Bang Rak, which was also terrific.

Making Crepe-like Desserts with Dodgy Electrics, Warorot Market

Making Crepe-like Desserts with Dodgy Electrics, Warorot Market

However, although there seemed to be plenty of tours, closer investigation showed that the number of tours that focussed on better and more inventive food were actually limited. This may change as Thailand really comes out of Covid 19 tourism. Our ad hoc estimate down south was that in January/ February 2023 numbers were around 40% of pre-covid levels.

Many popular tours that didn’t appeal to us seemed to be targeted at first time or relatively new visitors to Thailand. I’m not knocking these, as they are probably excellent, but we were looking at something more in-depth. A Chef’s Tour seemed to fill our bill and they made a clever marketing statement that they wouldn’t take us to a pad Thai venue. This isn’t to say there is anything wrong with pad Thai but a more discriminating palate wants something a bit more special.

Meat Stall, Muang Mai Markets

Meat Stall, Muang Mai Markets

After a diversion to the south to Krabi and Koh Lanta, we arrived in Chiang Mai for two weeks wanting to go birding, eating and to see friends. A bad cold for 5 days for both of us limited all these activities and means that I’ll need another trip to catch-up on food in Chiang Mai fully.

Nevertheless, we experienced street food to the full and found sadly that at least two favourite places had closed forever. We also took a Chef’s Tour in Chiang Mai with the same company. Both tours are recommended (see Further Information Section).

2 A Short History of Thai and Northern Thai Food

The T’ai originally inhabited Yunnan in southern China. They moved south as the Chinese empire began to encroach reaching the Chao Phraya River Basin in central Thailand around the 10th century.

The northern kingdom around Chiang Mai was separate. Chiang Mai food is influenced by Yunnan, Burma, Isaan (the north east) and Laos and by tribal populations that surrounded Chiang Mai.

Cutting Meat at Neng Earthen Jar Restaurant

Cutting Meat at Neng Earthen Jar Restaurant

Northern food is not as extreme in taste as other Thai regions, because relative abundance meant that it wasn’t necessary to mix small quantities of extremely pungent food with large quantities of rice to satisfy the appetite.

Sticky rice is the preferred rice locally but in recent times both types are eaten frequently. Coconut is seldom used in the north because of a too temperate climate. Rendered pork fat is the traditional frying medium, imparting a rich silken quality but in recent times vegetable oils are more commonly used for health.

The primary seasoning characteristic is hot and salty.

One taste in northern food not commonly encountered elsewhere is bitterness, provided by a variety of leaves, shoots and plants collected from the nearby mountains and forests. The smoke that stifles Chiang Mai after winter is not only agricultural but arises from fungi collectors setting cool fires in the forests.  (Information mainly from David Thompson)

Take-Away Food at Local Market

Take-Away Food at Local Market

3 Typical Chiang Mai Street Food

Street food is a loose definition. It is found in food stalls and food markets, on the street, in local markets and in open-fronted shop houses. The distinction between restaurant and street food is also a grey area, with which we won’t concern ourselves. Price is a factor too. Street food is usually cheap.

Some dishes typify Chiang Mai and its street food.

3.1 Khao Soi

Chicken khao soi from Khao Soi Khun Yai, photo by Justgola.com

Chicken khao soi from Khao Soi Khun Yai, photo by Justgola.com

Khao Soi, Chiang Mai’s favourite curried noodle dish, some say came from Burma, but David Thompson in his cook book (see below) says it is believed to have arrived with Chinese Muslim traders, the Haw.

I’ve discussed Khao Soi extensively in earlier articles: 3 Khao Soy, 6 2017 Update and 7 2023 Update.

3.2 Chiang Mai Sausage (Sai Ua)

Chiang Mai Sausages at Market

Chiang Mai Sausages at a Local Market

Sai Ua or herbally flavoured pork sausage with varied amounts of chilli is also very popular in Chiang Mai. It comes usually in long coils of sausage (similar to breifleis in South Africa), but there are also shorter versions and different flavours. It is not unique to Chiang Mai as there are also Lao versions from Laos and the northeast. The locals buy it in fresh food markets, where, like curry pastes, it is specially made to family recipes and usually purchased cooked.

3.3 Nam Prik (chilli snack relishes or dips)

Nam prik num (green chilli dip) has a little umami from pickled fish and a garlicky finish.

Nam Prik Ong, Photo Travel Chef Guide

Nam Prik Ong, Photo Travel Chef Guide

Nam prik ong is a ground pork and tomato dip. It begins with a paste of dried chillies, prawn paste, coriander, garlic and shallots. This is then fried in a wok with ground pork, tomatoes and fermented soybean sauce.

3.4 Soups

Soups of the north are usually gentle, very simple broths often just minced or cubed meat simmered with vegetables. Hot and sour soups are enhanced with charred red shallots, garlic and chillies and perfumed with shredded herbs (David Thompson).

3.5 Grilled Meat

Grilled often marinated meat is a fundamental technique in northern cooking, whether fresh fish, prawns, pork, chicken, game or mushrooms/fungi and served with almost any meal.

Meat at Satay Stall, Phuak Chang Night Market

Meat at Satay Stall, Phuak Chang Night Market

3.5.1 Grilled Chicken

We went to three places that use different methods of grilling chicken (see below). The two khao soi places along the river also do excellent grilling over charcoal braziers, as do many, many other places.

3.6 Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiaw

Beloved by Thais nationwide, this fermented noodle dish is surprisingly hard to come by because of its difficult preparation. The fermentation of the noodles gives this curry-like dish a sweet and sour punch. In Northern Thailand, the most popular version is nam ngiaw, or a thin gravy-like broth cooked in dok ngiaw flowers (dried flowers of the red silk cotton tree) and a splash of pig’s blood.

Khanom Jiin Naam Ngiew, Photo Chef Travel Guide

Khanom Jiin Naam Ngiew, Photo Chef Travel Guide

It is supposedly available at Lam Duan Fah Ham one of the two khao soi places along the river mentioned in 2023 Update and the other kao soi articles.

3.7 Traditional Lanna Food

I’ve mentioned the Huen Pen and Laab Kai Meuang Waen restaurants both in the old city in my 2023 Update. I’d recommend the latter, if you want to try the food for the first time. There are also other Lanna food places around, but not as many as other restaurants. One can even find some Lanna food in the basement food hall in Airport Plaza.

3.7.1 Laab Khua

Laab khua, so called because blood is omitted from the preparation, (pungent and smoky) made of chicken, duck or even liver, is the classic dish of northern Thailand and Chiang Mai. It is really a dish of Isaan, the northeast of Thailand, and Laos probably brought into Thailand by the Hmong in the 19th century. In the two Lanna restaurants above you’ll also get beef and buffalo laab.

Laab Khua Mu by TakeAway Wikimedia

Laab is made of minced meat with perhaps some vegetable or accompanied with vegetable on the side. It is also often accompanied with somtam (papaya salad) and sticky rice.

Laab, laap or larb usually in less pungent versions, though with red chillies and fish sauce, is found throughout Thailand and in Thai restaurants around the world. It is often a pale imitation of laab in Chiang Mai.

Wikipedia provides a good description of larb. Rachel Cooks Thai also has a good recipe and instructions for making your own larb (see Further Information).

3.8 Other

Other Chiang Mai foods worth mentioning are: Jok (rice style porridge) often served at breakfast. Kaeb moo (crispy pork rinds) immensely popular in Chiang Mai.

Naem moo or fermented pork meat served raw is supposed to be good, but is beyond my culinary expertise.

Khanom kroke is a coconut, egg and rice flour batter dessert, fried on a hot skillet. It can be eaten plain, or served with a variety of toppings like corn, sweet potato, or chives. But this leads to a plethora of desserts available locally (often in fresh food markets) and across Thailand.

There are also plenty of local curry dishes, which I haven’t included here as they are well-described elsewhere.

Satay Stall, Phuak Chang Night Market

Satay Stall, Phuak Chang Night Market

4 Places to Go for Authentic Chiang Mai Street Food

4.1 Stalls, markets, shop houses, small restaurants

I’ve written seven articles on food in Chiang Mai previously and I am relatively familiar with the city and many of the eating places and areas it contains. Yet, even in a small city like Chiang Mai one is always stumbling over the new. Covid has also had a massive effect on Chiang Mai.

We revisited areas we knew and looked to see if places still existed or shut down. I will also need to go again in the not too distant future to explore further.

Because of having had a successful Chef’s Tour in Chinatown in Bangkok, we also booked to take a Chef’s tour of Chiang Mai. The tour, research on other’s food blogs and visits to places with which we were familiar was sufficient for us to gain a new view of the street food on offer post Covid 19.

There are literally hundreds of local markets in Chiang Mai. Most are fresh food markets but they also have cooked and pre-prepared hot foods to take away and some have small areas for eating. There are also night markets specifically for eating out.

Wat Lok Moli_with Chinese New Year Decorations

Wat Lok Moli with Chinese New Year Decorations

4.2 Chang Phuak Night Market

Our chef’s tour met at Wat Lok Moli (or Molee) and began a short distance away at Chang Phuak night market on Sri Poom Road just across from North Gate.

Chang Phuak Market is buzzing as a street food destination at night with some really terrific food on offer. The crowds are intense between six and eight but nothing like Chinatown in Bangkok.

Fourteen places to visit are numbered as follows:

Chang Phuak Market Stalls

1 The Cowboy Lady stall we went to first is famous for its stewed pork leg cooked slowly for over five hours.

Cowboy Hat Lady, Poster

Cowboy Hat Lady, Poster

Will Fly for Food in October 2022 says:

If khao soi is Chiang Mai’s most famous dish, then this food stall is arguably its most famous. Manning the stall is this lady badass wearing a 10 gallon cowboy hat.

Known as the Cowboy Hat Lady, she’s been described as a Chiang Mai institution with a reputation for serving some of the best khao kha moo in town. Khao kha moo is braised pork leg cooked in Chinese five spice and served over rice with a medium-boiled egg.

Khao Kha Moo Serve, Cowboy Hat Lady

Khao Kha Moo Serve, Cowboy Hat Lady

Although, brilliant marketing, the Burmese owner with her cowboy hat originally wore it to keep the bright overhead stall lights out of her eyes.

We’d been there two nights previously, we enjoyed our khao kha moo. It is delicious.

Khao kha moo isn’t a Chiang Mai dish it is found all over Thailand and is probably originally from Teochow cuisine (Chiuchow) brought in by immigrants from China. The dish is served with half-spiced corned-eggs and pickled mustard-greens. The dipping sauce is made of yellow chillis, garlic, lime, vinegar and salt.

Sweet Stall at Chang Phuak Night Market

Sweet Stall at Chang Phuak Night Market

2 Next door to the Cowboy lady is a sweet stall with traditional Thai sweets where we finished our tour.

3 When we’d been two nights before we also patronised a satay stall within a few metres which had terrific satay on a stick — not only the usual chicken, pork beef sticks but other delights as well. We couldn’t go past the mushroom satay which were just incredible in flavour.

Mushroooms Wrapped in Bacon at Satay Stall

Enoki Mushroooms Wrapped in Bacon at Satay Stall

4 We looked for but didn’t find the suki soup place which is also supposedly near by. I think it may have closed during covid and hasn’t reopened. Vegetable suki soup is an excellent accompaniment to chicken satay. There is a shop house at the back, which promised bone soup but it certainly isn’t the famous suki stall (it was too busy at the time to ask what happened).

4.2 Grilled meats

5 SP Chicken in the old city is famous. The chicken is grilled vertically on rotating spits. The chicken is best with som tam and the food is very cheap.

SP Chicken Cooking System

SP Chicken Cooking System

6 Cherng Doi Chicken in the Nimmanhaemin area is also famous (see menu at the end). The food is equally cheap and they do pork as well as chicken usually accompanied with som tam. It’s surprising to find such a cheap place in an upmarket area.

I prefer Cherng Doi Chicken slightly over SP Chicken. The ambience though basic is pleasanter and the food I think slightly better, but it’s only marginal. I’d go to wherever is closer or more convenient.

Chern Doi Chicken Sign

Cherng Doi Chicken Sign

My notes for the first visit to Cherng Doi Chicken were (we had both pork and chicken on the second visit):

We had lunch at Cherng Doi. Two serves of Kai yang nung krob (roast chicken flattened and barbecued) with rice and a shared som tam ma-moung (som tam made with green mango rather than papaya, see menu) with a coke and iced Thai tea. The menu (shown) offers 11 different types of som tam to choose from.

Chern Doi Chicken Meal with Som Tam

Chern Doi Chicken Meal with Som Tam

The bill for two came to 315 Baht (roughly AUD $13.50). The price of Thai food has gone up a lot in five years but it is still ridiculously cheap when compared with home, especially Thai street food.

7 Neng Earthen Jar Restaurant (on Muang Samat Road opposite the Mercedes dealer — a little harder to get to) was the second stop on our chef’s tour.

Neng Earthern Jar Restaurant

Neng Earthen Jar Restaurant

This is both a dine-in and takeaway shed.

Neng Tasting Plates

Neng Tasting Plates

The meat is grilled around the top of large Chinese earthenware vessels with a charcoal fire at the bottom. The technique is for very hot cooking, very similar in principle to tandoor ovens in India. As such, although the food is similar to SP and Cherng Doi Chicken above, the method is exciting! Som tam is also served.

Neng Earthern Jar, Pork

Neng Earthen Jar, Pork

4.3 Tilapia Fish

8 Tilapia fish: The third stop on our Chef’s tour was a grilled chicken place on Rattanakosin Road that also grilled salt-encrusted ruby red tilapia fish and the cheaper version over hot coals. We were all underwhelmed (3 of us). The flesh was moist and beautifully cooked, but despite the hot dipping sauces the meat was tasteless. Even the guide was relatively dismissive. Cars were stopping the whole time we were there to pick up takeaway.

Salt-Encrusted Red or Ruby Tilapia Grilled

Salt-Encrusted Red or Ruby Tilapia Grilled

I could write a long story about the introduction of tilapia into Thailand and the benefits for rural Thais (see below), but it doesn’t belong in the main description of great street food. Similarly, you can get seafood and other fresh water creatures in Chiang Mai, but not really as street food.

4.4 Markets and Sai Ua

9 Market shopping, Chiang Mai Sausage (Sai Ua), fruit and sweets

Figure-8 Folded Sweets before folding at Siri-wattana Market

Figure-8 Folded Sweets before folding at Siri-wattana Market

On the chef’s tour we went to Siri-wattana market for a visit and to eat fruits and dessert. The main event, however, was the Sai Ua, which you can buy hot off the grill in any market. We tried the short sausage version (delicious) rather than a taste of the long coils. You can buy curry paste pre-prepared food, meats, fish and vegetables at similar local markets all over Chiang Mai. And, desserts at virtually every market.

Durian Stand at Local Market

Durian Stand at Local Market

The fruit selection in January isn’t as extensive as at other times of the year. At Siri-wattana market we tried rose, apple, jack fruit, pomelo and a very mild durian. We also tasted a variety of Thai sweets.

Pomelo, like an oversize grapefruit, is hard to deal with yourself. It is wonderful when bought as slices and eaten with a chilli, spice, salt and sugar mix. A good pomelo salad is to die for.

An acquaintance who lived in Malaysia for many years was a durian aficionado, the smellier the better, groups discuss a particular fruit before eating it. He compared durian to a fine wine or smelly cheese. An acquired taste. Our hotel has a sign forbidding taking durian up to the rooms. Most hotels are the same. Our durian was for amateurs and didn’t smell much.

My favourite exotic fruit in Thailand, but not at this time of year, is wood apple or mangosteen (May to September).

Where we stay is only ten minutes walk from Warorot Market and we usually buy fruit when needed there or sometimes at the large Mueang Mai wholesale markets.

I would love to live in Chiang Mai because then you’d have the endless pleasure of shopping for fresh food at your local market.

Curry Pastes

Curry Pastes, Available from Every Local Market, Your Favourite Stall Every Day

10 Another Chiang Mai favourite mentioned above and available in plastic packets in all markets is naem moo or fermented raw pork meat. They ferment pork meat and skin, mixed with cooked sticky rice, garlic, chillies, salt, and sugar. They wrap it up in banana leaves or plastic and leave it at a hot room temperature (~ 29.5 °C) for three days. It is traditionally sliced and served raw with ginger, peanuts, chillies, and shallot. A more foreigner friendly version and safer is grilled over charcoal and served on a stick.

Fermented Thai Sausage, Photo Chef Travel Guide

Fermented Thai Sausage, Photo Chef Travel Guide

4.5 Other Open-to-the-street Stalls or Restaurants

Kiat Ocha

11 Kiat Ocha, the Hainanese Chicken 1957 open shop-front restaurant, I’ve mentioned before in my articles on Khao Soi, my 2017 and 2023 updates.

Kiat Ocha, Hainanese Chicken 1957

Kiat Ocha, Hainanese Chicken 1957

Kiat Ocha deserves a visit as it has been one of the most famous street food restaurants in Chiang Mai since 1957 supposedly. Kiat Ocha only serves steamed and fried Hainanese Chicken or khao ka gai and pork or moo satay with accompaniments. This is very simple food but it is excellent and a favourite cheap eats for locals.

Hainanese Fried Chicken

Hainanese Fried Chicken

Kiat Ocha is located within the walls on Intrawarorot just around the corner from the three Kings Monument. Intrawarorot is a narrow one-way street with several cheap shop front establishments.

Mitmai, Old Yunnan

I mentioned Payod, a Shan vegetarian restaurant, and Laab Kai Meuang Waen, Lanna food in an old teak house in my 2023 Update. They are not really street food but are the type of food that influences street food and much else.

12 Mitmai is more basic in some ways, despite being right in the midst of tourist land. Mitmai is more patronised by locals and has few tourists. People walk past and have no idea what an unusual and interesting restaurant it is.

Mitmai Yunnan Restaurant

Mitmai Yunnan Restaurant

Mitmai is an open shop-front or shed just across the road from La Fontana within the walls. Both restaurants are on Ratchamanka Road not far from Tha Pae Gate and directly across the moat from Loi Kroh Road.

Mitmai is an authentic old-style family run restaurant serving Yunnan food, but Yunnan food from a previous generation. Yunnan is the closest province of China and is important in Chiang Mai, because most Chinese or cross-over dishes that have influenced the cuisine of Chiang Mai originated from Yunnan. Although some dishes came from other provinces.

Mitmai Mushrooms to Die For

Mitmai Mushrooms to Die For

What is special about Mitmai is that, though you’ll experience Yunnan style food all over Chiang Mai, at Mitmai you are getting authentic Yunnan family-restaurant food that hasn’t changed in generations. They proudly state that all food is cooked fresh and that you may have to wait sometimes as much as 30-40 minutes (we never have).

Mitmai has a large menu and is perhaps difficult to navigate on a first visit. You may be disappointed in your initial choices and wonder what all the fuss is about. The dishes never look that much, presentation is not a skill at Mitmai, but persevere because some of the food is exceptional and like nothing you’ll get anywhere else.

On our last visit the standout dish was a plate of rather shrivelled looking mushrooms but the taste was divine. Not well-displayed but who cares!

Toey Dim Sum

I’m not sure whether I was wearing rose coloured glasses. I’d always considered Toey Dim Sum a bit rough around the edges, but on this trip it seemed to have been cleaned up and was more presentable. I’d always found Ya Ya dumplings in Chiang Mai Land (now closed) to be more presentable but limited in its offerings.

Toey Dim Sum, Food Display Cabinet

Toey Dim Sum, Food Display Cabinet

13 Toey Dim Sum on Kampangdin Road is a unique experience. I always go there for lunch but it is open until 9 pm.

You go to the booth on the right and look at the raw food displayed behind plexi-glass. There is a large variety. You point and choose. Your choice is placed in steamers and moved to the steamer table.

Meanwhile you find a place to sit. You help yourself to other things ask for drinks and wait. Your food is brought over when ready.

If you haven’t ordered quite enough you go back and order more.

When you are finished the bill is tallied by the number of bamboo steamers on your table.

Toey Dim Sum, Steamers

Toey Dim Sum, Steamers

The food is very cheap. This is another place where westerners are in the minority.

Sukontha Buffet

14 Sukontha Buffet isn’t strictly street food but it has a street food ambience, end product and price. The current price 209 Baht or 399 B with seafood, includes non-alcoholic drinks and desserts.

It is in a huge partly open-air shed (see the video below).

I haven’t been there for quite a few years, but it is still going strong and seems much the same. You’ll either love it or hate it.

Grill your own food on a plate with a steamboat surround and an almost unlimited variety of meats, seafood, vegetables and fungi to choose from.

There are also hundreds of other places not mentioned. I haven’t covered curry or muslim food with rotis. I recommend searching other blog entries and You Tube for them.

5 Conclusion

I hope you’ve enjoyed this coverage of street food in Chiang Mai. This is only a taste there is much more to learn. Indeed, learning about food is one of the many joys of visiting Chiang Mai.

Ton Lamyai part of Wororot Market

Ton Lamyai part of Wororot Market

I’ve given you more information and some really special places to try out in Chiang Mai than most blogs or articles on the Internet. I’ve also included some other excellent sources below, but shop around on the Internet. Do your own research. I’d also suggest you begin before you leave home.

Happy eating!

Key Words: Chiang Mai, food, northern food, street food, markets, T’ai, Yunnan, Burma, Isaan, the north east, Laos, tribal, sticky rice, bitterness, leaves, plants, fungi, hot, salty, chilli, khao soi, Chiang Mai sausage, sai ua, nam prik, grilled meat, charcoal brazier, Khanom Jeen Naam Ngiew, Lam Duan Fah Ham, laab khua, larb, Lanna food, jok, rice porridge, kaeb moo, crispy pork rind, naem moo, raw fermented pork, khanom kroke, soup, curry, fresh food market, local market, Warorot market, Wat Lok Molee, Chang Phuak night market, cowboy lady, khao kha moo, suki soup, sweet stall, satay stall, coconut, SP chicken, Cherng Doi Chicken, grilled meat, Nimmanhaemin area, Neng Earthen Jar Restaurant, Tilapia fish, Figure-8 folded sweets, Siri-wattana Market, Ton Lamyai market, Muang Mai wholesale market, rose, apple, jack fruit, pomelo, durian, curry paste, naem moo, fermented raw pork sausage, Kiat Ocha, Hainanese Chicken 1957, Mitmai restaurant, Yunnan, Toey Dim Sum, Sukontha Buffet, Mark Wiens, khao lam, David Thompson, Thai food, seafood, squid, prawn, take-away.

Further Information

Tours And Cooking Class

Chef’s tour Chiang Mai and Chef’s Tour Bangkok run by a UK company are highly recommended.

Perhaps, next time I go to Chiang Mai we might try some more cooking schools. We’ve been to A Lot of Thai home cooking class a couple of times and it’s hard to go beyond it. It was recommended by Gordon Ramsay, some time ago. We should spread our wings and try other places.

Bundled Soup or Curry Vege Pack at a Local Market

Bundled Soup or Curry Vege Pack at a Local Market

David Thompson Cook Book

David Thompson Thai Food 2002, 673 pp. A compendium cookbook with extensive information and recipes. A marvellous book.

David Thompson Thai Food, 2002

David Thompson Thai Food, 2002


Rachel Cooks Thai Laab Recipe

Rachel Cooks Thai Chicken Larb Recipe 2022

Wikipedia on Laab

Wikipedia on Larb

The Variety in One Small Market Stall

The Variety in One Small Market Stall

Thai Food in General

Wikipedia on Thai Cuisine

Other Blogs on Chiang Mai Street Food

Will Fly for Food.Net was the first blog article I consulted, which has 11 street food places most of which I have also mentioned but also a couple of which I haven’t included. A good coverage.

I don’t agree with them about Khao Soi Khun Yai being the best khao soi in Chiang Mai covered in my Update 2023 but my disagreement is nuanced. I certainly think that the khao soi at Khao Soi Khun Yai is wonderful.

Chef Travel Guide gives a very good gourmet guide to Chiang Mai Street Food and is well worth reading.

Cookly also has a good list of 12 dishes you must eat in Chiang Mai.

Videos or Food Vlogs on Chiang Mai

I only learned the term food vlog in 2019 when we were staying AirBNB with a lovely couple in outer Vancouver. A food vlog would be a better option for me too. I’d get a much larger viewership. But, I’m an old-fashioned guy, writing an old fashioned blog on a wide range of topics that interest me.

The first vlog below is an idiosyncratic one but charming in an almost insane way about Sukontha Buffet. They have had an audience of one thousand one hundred and ten. The vlog has only been seen by 578 people. I hope most of them enjoyed it as much as I have.

The remainder are by Mark Wiens who has a massive audience of 9.8 million and deservedly so. He is a full-time food vlogger and very entertaining. His posts are informative and well thought-out.

Khao Lam, Sweet Sticky Rice with Sesame Cooked in Bamboo, Photo Chef Travel Guide

Khao Lam, Sweet Sticky Rice with Sesame Cooked in Bamboo, Photo Chef Travel Guide

Sukontha Buffet

Grill your Own Food at Sukontha Buffet (4 min 32). I love this video for some unknown reason. The jerkiness is actually hard to watch.

Mark Wiens on Chiang Mai

1 Kiat Ocha, Hainanese Chicken 1957, 2014 (6 min 18)

2 Khao Soi Kun Yai 2014 (4 min 36)

3 Chang Phuak market 2014 (5 min 59)

4 Neng Earthen Jar Restaurant 2022 (38 min 14). The first 14 min cover Neng Earthen Jar. Then Mark moves onto a unique style of noodle soup and various places and dishes, including curries not covered by me.

Another View of Toey Dim Sum

Another View of Toey Dim Sum

Mark Wiens is a full time food vlogger with an endearing and unique style which is very entertaining. His You Tube home site covers the whole gamut of his food vlogging. He is an American but now resident with his wife in Bangkok. He has made extensive posts on food in Chiang Mai over the years and knows the city well. He reminds me a little in style of Levy Rozman of Gotham Chess who only has 3.63 million subscribers. I imagine both would hate the comparison! (I think it is very creative getting Gotham Chess into a food blog.)

Tilapia Fish

Seafood is very important to Thai dining and fish from the sea is transported in innovative ways all over Thailand mainly from southern Thailand. I remember many years ago, waiting for a boat on a pier out of Trang in the south, and watching fascinated while a man bubbled oxygen from a huge cylinder into plastic bags half-filled with water, each of which contained a large live prawn. The bags were loaded on a truck destined for Chiang Mai about 24 hours away.

Fresh Squid at a Local Market in Chiang Mai

Fresh Squid at a Local Market in Chiang Mai

One often sees Thai men eating a meal of fish and drinking expensive whiskey. This is all about face and making a show of wealth and status in front of one’s friends or employees. The fish is usually seafood.

But, all Thais like and eat fish for protein. They often have fish ponds on their small farms and catch fish in their rice fields. These ponds used to be mainly catfish.

Nowadays they are mostly Tilapia. Tilapia is a fish from Africa. Tilapia were introduced into Thailand by King Rama IX in 1966 to provide a cheap source of protein for the Thai people, particularly poor and rural Thais. He was presented with 50 tilapia fish of a superior genetic stock by Prince Akihito of Japan.

Nowadays, around 220,000 tons are produced for the local market and this does not account for personal or small grower aquaculture (See the 2016 Bangkok Post article).

Mackerel for Sale in Bamboo Steamers

Mackerel for Sale in Bamboo Steamers

I’ve always been fascinated by mackerel presented this way in fresh food markets. I thought the bent heads were some special way of displaying or presenting the fish. I finally asked. The heads are bent to fit them into the round steamers. These are cooked fish by the way.


With some exceptions, Thai menus tend to be large and the really large ones make one concerned that they might not deliver. Khao Soi Khun Yai is an exception. They stick to khao soi and not much else.

Even a simple grilled meat shop like Cherng Doi has 13 meat dishes, 2 soups and 11 Som Tam (mostly papaya salad). They have an English menu too, I just picked up the wrong one. SP chicken and Neng Earthen Jar restaurant also have plenty of som tam to accompany the meat.

Cherng Doi Menu Page 1

Cherng Doi Menu Page 1


Cherng Doi Menu Page 2

Cherng Doi Menu Page 2


An Unnecessary Final Word

The Thais, like the Chinese and the Japanese will eat almost anything and don’t worry too much whether it is sustainable. The Thais are into what they call jungle food which can have a devastating impact on plants and wildlife. When I first started going to Chiang Mai you could buy pangolin chopped up for meat at Warorot market. You don’t see pangolin anymore because they’ve been virtually exterminated in Asia. Not that we in Australia should feel smug or self-righteous, we are doing the same thing in different ways.

posted in Canberra



  1. If I ever et back to Chiang Mai this will be my food guide. It’s perfect. And yes, tilapia has very little taste.

  2. Very comprehensive Tony. You sure covered some distance there. All Tip’s favourites are there pity I am not more appreciative of Thai street food. We are in the grip of an extended heat wave with temperatures never below high 30’s and venturing into the 40’s for weeks which makes visiting markets etc very uncomfortable. No significant rain since October in our part of the country

    1. Author

      Thanks Mike, I know your views on much Thai food, so I appreciate the comments.

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