Digest May Changmai

eating in chiang mai

Simon Farrell-Green has recently come back from a week’s eating in Chiang Mai and this is his pick of four things to eat.

I took my partner and nine-month-old son, which meant a bit of a different pace to my usual excursions, which usually involve multiple meals and trekking all over the city. In fact, we ate takeout on the balcony of our hotel quite a few times: it was about as good an eating experience as I’ve had.

1. Grilled chicken
By day, the Warorot Markets are a maze of stalls selling everything from washing powder to brightly coloured enamel pots: at night, the street behind it turns into a night market. We picked up grilled chicken from one stall, tender and cooked over charcoal, and then we broke all the rules and bought sticky rice and salad from another stall: we just couldn’t resist the one made with bamboo shoots and torn-up kaffir lime leaves, by turns sour and fragrant. Stunning.

2. Sai ua
Sai ua is the pork-and-herb sausage of Chiang Mai, redolent with lemongrass and Burmese curry paste, it’s at its best when grilled over charcoal. Arguably the best can be found at Sai Ua Kam Pang (this link is to a Thai review website but it’s the only one I can find – use it to show your taxi driver) on the side of a highway near the airport, where a dude in mirrored aviators doles out the good stuff. (My thanks to Lek and Eye at Auckland’s Saan who directed me to this joint.)

3. Khao soi
Khao Soi is an iconic dish of Chiang Mai, a remnant of the Burmese occupation of the north of Thailand for several centuries from the 1500s. At its most simple, it’s a bowl of flat rice noodles, a broth that is sour, salty and sweet, with slow-cooked bits of pork, beef or chicken. The addition of pickled greens and puffy fried noodles on the side is genius. My favourite was from Khao Soi Lam Duan – just across the river from downtown.

4. Gaeng hung lay
The classic – again, Burmese-influenced – pork belly curry is found all over the city, but do head to Tong Tem Toh in the hipster Nimmanhaemin area for the definitive version. It’s fragrant and falling apart, in a mild curry. It helps that the place is a cute little restaurant in an open-air courtyard with dark timber tables and a charcoal grill cooking sai ua beside the front door.