The cuisine in Chiang Mai, and all of Northern Thailand, is influenced by Burmese, Lao, and Yunnanese cuisines which makes it quite unique to the region. Also, instead of being served with the usual steamed rice, it is much more common that sticky rice is paired up with a meal. Another difference with the food in Chiang Mai is that chilies are generally used in less quantity than in other regions in Thailand.
Although there are quite a few similarities between the foods throughout all of Thailand, the cuisine of the north comes with its own distinct flavors, blends, and styles of preparation.
Great Thai food can be found all throughout Chiang Mai, and street food is no exception. At the local markets and night bazaars, cheap, delicious food can easily be found as a quick bite to eat. Fried bananas and pork rinds are a popular choice for backpackers and budget travelers that usually crowd the streets of the local markets, looking for a cheap bite to eat.
Meals in Chiang Mai are often enjoyed on small, round tables called Khantoke tables. If you are given a chance to join some locals in a meal at one of these tables, don’t pass up the opportunity. You just might get a great chance to sample some of the best food that the city has to offer.
Even if you are quite familiar with many Thai dishes from Bangkok and in Southern Thailand, you will be pleasantly surprised when you sample some of the uniquely delicious dishes that Chiang Mai has to offer.
Here are the top 15 foods that you should try during your visit to Chiang Mai.
The most loved dish in all of Northern Thailand is Khao Soi. It is a mild yellow curry cooked in coconut milk and topped off with fried noodles, lime wedges, onion, pickled cabbage, and chilies. No trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without trying this ever so popular dish.
Known to foreigners as “Chiang Mai” sausages, these spicy and savory sausages are a guilty pleasure for many lovers of meat. They are made by mixing minced pork with a variety of herbs and spices including lemongrass, shallot, galangal, and chili paste. These sausages come with a delicious kick.
Rather than a single dish, Khan Toke is an entire meal. A platter of Lanna side dishes are served together with stick rice. This makes a perfect dining experience for a small social gathering with friends. A few rounds of Thai beer also pairs with it quite well.
Sticky rice sausage and minced pork is fermented for two days seasoned with garlic and chili, then barbequed over hot coals. This meat on a stick has a unique sour flavor unlike anything you have probably tried before.
This appetizing meal is a quite popular dish for restaurants in Chiang Mai. Boiled pork sausage is mixed with salad, fish sauce, lime, coriander, and chilies. It can also be found being sold in food stalls wrapped in banana leaves.
Green chilies are roasted with garlic and shallots and served with pork rinds, sticky rice, and vegetables. Be careful though, one bite of this fiery dish will have your quickly grabbing for some water.
If you are searching for a curry that has a more Burmese inspired taste, then you should try Kaeng Hang Lei. This yellow pork curry is mixed with ginger, tamarind, garlic, and shrimp paste. This dish has mixed reactions for those who try it.
This delicious street food serves as a perfect snack on the go. Pork rinds are deep fried until crispy and seasoned with garlic, cloves, and salt. You can find this treat at many markets in Chiang Mai.
This pork-based soybean curry is mixed with Kaeb Moo (see above), vegetables, and chilies. This variation of curry is a lot less thick because it isn’t made using coconut milk like most others making it a appetizing alternative to the regular curries.
If you prefer mixing it up a bit and eating with your hands, then Miang Kham will certainly please you. Betal leaves are used to wrap up a variety of toppings into bite-sized snacks. These toppings will vary from place to place, but generally they include chilies, garlic, lime wedges, ginger, shrimp, peanuts, and coconut. Mix and match different combinations of toppings to your heart’s delight.
Young jackfruit is boiled, shredded, and fried with shrimp paste, herbs, garlic, and chilies. It is sweet, sour, and salty all in one bite. This dish might be a bit overwhelming of the senses for some, but it is generally loved by all.
Made with fish, beef, pork, or chicken; this dish is mixed with chilies, larb curry, blood, innards, herbs, and spices and roasted in oil. Not for the faint of heart, this dish is enjoyed by the not so squeamish crowd.
This Chinese-inspired dish consists of a steamed bun stuffed with juicy minced pork, Chinese sausage, and slated egg. This easy to eat meal is a great treat for take-away meal at the local marketplace.
This completely mixed-up dish is made up from kae curry paste, hang lay curry paste, red curry paste, and kae curry paste. It is mixed with vegetables, herbs, bamboo shoots, pork belly, shrimp paste, noodles, and chilies.
This sticky treat is made up from sticky rice, molasses, coconut milk, and then covered in sesame seeds. Different variations of the treat include using pandanus and durian. For easy consumption, they are wrapped in palm leaves followed by cellophane.