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Chiang Mai Thailand Dining and Food


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We'll be in Chiang Mai for a week in early June staying just south of the old city (at Tadkham Village, specifically). I'd be very interested to know what food stall streets, restaurants, cooking schools, and other food-related experiences in the greater CM area we shouldn't miss. Thanks in advance!

Chris Amirault

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Hi, Chris,

I'm partial to the Good View. It's on the other side of the Ping, a large open air restaurant alongside the river. Live Thai rock/pop in the evenings and a very pleasant ambiance. They've done well enough here with Northern Thai cuisine that they've opened a place in Bangkok now, as well.

Also on that side of the river is Kitchen Hush (it may be easiest to get there by cutting through Wat Gate, on the other side of the footbridge). An old house with a good menu of home-cooking Japanese dishes.

There's a string of places up Charoenraj Road, up past the Good View.

For breakfast we'd just go to the market in Chinatown and grab a bench at any of the kwayteow stands. But for really good noodles, I'd go to Dr. Noodle out on Nimmanhaeman Road (out by the Uinversity) is excellent (it was set up by a female doctor as a side business). Also out here is Hong Taew Inn, which had some very good pork dishes.

That's what I can remember off the top of my head.

Cheers,

Peter

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Sheesh, I'm getting old and forgetful. Khao Soi!

If you have the time, get a tuktuk and head out to Thanon Faham for Khao Soi. I think the name was lam duan (or something like that). That's the famous one, a good place for lunch, but it is out of the way.

Across from the Night Bazaar is the Galare Food Court. A typical Thai food court packed out with individual stalls. Buy a roll of tickets, and eat your heart out. Friends of ours living in town recommended the place here that was doing sticky rice and mango as one of the best, and there was also good khao soi available here, just as you entered on your right, if what's left of my memory is functioning at all.

One caution, especially if you're travelling with kids....lather on the anti-mosquito repellent if you're going to be by the Ping at dusk. Even with malaria is under control, you don't want to be gnawed on all through your meal.

Okay, I'd better get to work (and, yes, I do have a job!)

peter

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thanks, Peter. I appreciate your responses!

Here's a question: whither khantoke? I can't get a clear sense to what extent this Lanna Thai traditional meal and performance is (1) kitsch (2) good food (3) interesting (4) absurd (5) a tourist trap -- and if any or all of those options, whether it's worth trying. For context, I have an article coming out on pu pu platters, so I'm not above a lively combination of those five things.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Thanks, Peter. I appreciate your responses!

Here's a question: whither khantoke? I can't get a clear sense to what extent this Lanna Thai traditional meal and performance is (1) kitsch (2) good food (3) interesting (4) absurd (5) a tourist trap -- and if any or all of those options, whether it's worth trying. For context, I have an article coming out on pu pu platters, so I'm not above a lively combination of those five things.

Well it will be a dinner with a bunch of other farang, food will be ok but its all about the show should be a fun cultural experience not really a gastro adventure,,,,

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Coincidentally, my husband and I will be in Chiang Mai all next week and half of the following, for a business trip + Songkran (April 7-16th).

We'll be staying at the D2 Hotel near the Night Bazaar...and I had seen a couple of reviews saying that their restaurant, Moxie, is quite good. Any experiences with it? Of course we are also looking forward to eating some proper Thai food, khao soi and the like...

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Coincidentally, my husband and I will be in Chiang Mai all next week and half of the following, for a business trip + Songkran (April 7-16th). 

We'll be staying at the D2 Hotel near the Night Bazaar...and I had seen a couple of reviews saying that their restaurant, Moxie, is quite good.  Any experiences with it?  Of course we are also looking forward to eating some proper Thai food, khao soi and the like...

Have you been to Chiang Mai during Songkran before? It's pretty crazy, but more importantly, a lot of places are closed during that time. Even the Night Bazaar was pretty dead (both in terms of shoppers and open stores).

I've not been to the Moxie, but I remember having shrimp toast at a little guest house called Lai-Thai. It was really good. :smile:

Chris--dont' forget to have roti from a street vendor! We found it more easily in Chiang Mai than in Bangkok. The kind drizzled with condensed milk and rolled tightly (I prefer it without egg). Mmmmm...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry about the late reply-- we just got back from Chiang Mai after our 10-day trip (April 7th to 16th).

Things were definitely a bit dead around the Night Bazaar during Songkran proper, but a lot of the tourist stops did remain open: we went to Baan Tawai (the wood-carving center) on the 13th, and did the Elephant Nature Park on the 14th (HIGHLY recommended!)

A friend also took us to the Khum Khantoke, which was definitely kitschy and touristy, but enjoyable all the same. We found the food to be tasty and a good value at 300 baht per person (excluding drinks). The quality of the dancing was a bit lackluster, but we were spoiled by having seen a Khon performance in Bangkok a week or two before...

Other places we ate and can recommend are as follows:

- Whole Earth, an Indian/Thai restaurant which specializes in vegetarian dishes. We didn't go veg but really enjoyed the meal, and the setting (upstairs in an old teak house-- you remove your shoes before entering) was nice.

- The Antique House, a restaurant between the Night Bazaar and the river, serves good Thai food for very good value in a beautiful garden. (The house is evidently on the Register of Historic Places, or the Thai equivalent.)

- Moxie at the D2 Hotel. WOW. We'd heard good things about this place and were very, very pleased-- Thai and Western food served in a very contemporary atmosphere (the entire hotel excels on design, quality, and customer service). I had a passionfruit margarita, and for my meal the papardelle pasta with a ragout of wild boar and vegetables; both were some of the best examples of their kind that I had ever tasted. My husband had lamb shanks with a massamun curry sauce and also proclaimed them to be excellent. For dessert I had a "warm cappuccino with cookies" that I think is the single best drink I have ever experienced, rich and creamy like a chocolat chaud, but not at all cloying or heavy. (Sorry about the hyperbole, but this place was a revelation-- and we probably paid about one half to one third of what a similar meal of this quality would have cost back in the US. The total bill was around 2000 baht.)

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- Moxie at the D2 Hotel.  WOW.  We'd heard good things about this place and were very, very pleased-- Thai and Western food served in a very contemporary atmosphere (the entire hotel excels on design, quality, and customer service).  I had a passionfruit margarita, and for my meal the papardelle pasta with a ragout of wild boar and vegetables; both were some of the best examples of their kind that I had ever tasted.  My husband had lamb shanks with a massamun curry sauce and also proclaimed them to be excellent.  For dessert I had a "warm cappuccino with cookies" that I think is the single best drink I have ever experienced, rich and creamy like a chocolat chaud, but not at all cloying or heavy.  (Sorry about the hyperbole, but this place was a revelation-- and we probably paid about one half to one third of what a similar meal of this quality would have cost back in the US.  The total bill was around 2000 baht.)

How was Moxie for their timing? I've had some very good meals in Chiang Mai, but was upset at the "wham bam" approach to getting everything out to the table in a rush, rather than letting you relax, course after course.

Mind you, with wild boar on the menu, I'm not going to let timing get in my way! :biggrin:

Cheers,

Peter

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How was Moxie for their timing?  I've had some very good meals in Chiang Mai, but was upset at the "wham bam" approach to getting everything out to the table in a rush, rather than letting you relax, course after course.

Funny-- I remember commenting to my husband at the time that it was one of the first meals I can remember since arriving in Thailand where the timing/pacing of the meal was spot on, instead of like "waiting for the bus to arrive" (everything comes in the wrong order and at random intervals)!

We found service at the D2 overall to be excellent-- attentive but not obsessively so (which can be the case in other places here). The one thing I'm not as sure about would be servers' in-depth knowledge of the menu, but we really didn't test that.

Moxie also does a very nice breakfast buffet (included with the room, but about 350 baht otherwise, I believe, and I consider that a fair price for the range/freshness of stuff on offer).

Geesh, I sound like a commercial! :biggrin:

(ETA: I should also say that I heard Moxie's Thai food is not that memorable, with the exception of the khao soi, which is supposed to be a very fine example of the dish.)

Edited by FlyingRat (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

Good to see this thread! I just found out I'm going to be in Chang Mai in November, so keep up the suggestions and trip reports! I have six months of computer screen drooling till I get to taste it all!

Gnomey

The GastroGnome

(The adventures of a Gnome who does not sit idly on the front lawn of culinary cottages)

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Good to see this thread! I just found out I'm going to be in Chang Mai in November, so keep up the suggestions and trip reports! I have six months of computer screen drooling till I get to taste it all!

Im going to cm next week for a few days of relax and eating as usual will take some pics of khao soi spots and where ever we end up eating 3 days 10 or 11 meals gotta love it

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This has been hanging around for awhile ( a couple of years actually) and there are so many folks with trips to Chiang Mai coming up that I figure I’d better toss this up.

First, as you can tell from the the pictures of the vermin, this is from a couple of years ago. For that reason, I’ll concentrate more on Thai food than European (‘cause you’re never too sure who’s still in business).

So, let’s look at what there is to eat in Chiang Mai.

There are a few things about CM to know before going.

One, because it’s so small, it’s very big. The city is, in many ways, tiny, but it’s sprawled over the years. Combine this with the lack of mass rapid transit, and you have a situation where it can take ages to get to the other side of what appears to be a fairly small town. Plan your days to get to one part of town, and then cover that area. It can take longer to get places here than it does for a similar distance in Bangkok, as there’s no Skytrain.

Two, having said the above, don’t rush. Part of the joy of CM is the pace at which it moves.

There, let’s look at food.

Chiang Mai, representing the older Lanna Kingdom, has more ties with the region from here to Luang Prabang to Sip Sawng Panna than it does with Sukhothai and the Krungthep to the South.

In fact, it’s difficult to find Northern food in the capital. Some of the food from Isaan will have crossovers (coming from the aforementioned Lao tie in) but the food of Isaan is much different from what you’ll find here. So, make the most of the trip and see what there is to be had.

First, remember that pig meat is good. As Steingarten said, all great civilizations are based on pork.

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The North specializes in fermented pork (you can buy this as pink sausages in tubes – nehm), which will come glistening from the steamer or the fryer, dripping in fat.

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You can also get it shredded and dry fried (with fresh basil in this case).

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And let’s not forget pork rinds, crispy and tough to chew, with a sweet dipping sauce (and Serena having her hot chocolate).

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What we have here is more pork – spareribs this time, fermented and then deep fried.

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Another speciality of the North I love is miang kam (this is always brought out as a starter at Baan Khanitha in Bangkok), and the beauty is in the simplicity. Pandan leaves are wrapped into a cone, and then a selection of ginnger, peanuts, chilis, dried shrimp, onion, lime, and roasted coconunt is added to be topped with a dollop of sweet sauce (I like the plum). But this can be varied to any adjustment of items (or rather tastes) you care to try.

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I’d say “don’t be scared to order seafood”. It’ll be relatively fresh, and it will taste good. The only down side is that it isn’t pork.

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A lot of the seafood dishes will have a Chinese background to them, like this crab in vermicelli. The Chinese community with their traditional center in Waroraj, their big market on the Ping (conveniently across the foot bridge from where we’d taken a house off of Charoenraj.

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If you look over to the right hand side of this shot, you’ll spot a bowl of dip, with some deep fried buffalo skin, pickles, and cabbage to go with it. Dips are a very Lanna thing.

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And mushrooms. Be sure to find as many different types of mushrooms as you can. There’s some of the local pate (yeah, I know, why not just call it spam) worked into a salad. This is very similar to what you’ll find in Saigon, Hanoi, and Penh.

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Oh, and lest I forget….drink a lot of coconuts.

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I said I’d pass on the Europeans, but friends of ours up there had taken us to “To Nobody”, a German restaurant. It’s a ways off the beaten path, but if you have wheels, it’s a nice break. The chef does an excellent pork knuckle (the Thai have a real weakness for German pork knuckles), and Scud considered it a personal challenge to finish it off (boy, does he look young here).

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Of more interest to me, he’s drawing a lot of his material from the Royal Projects up here in the north, particularly the trout, which he’s providing here as a smoked dish. At the time (I’m not certain now) he was providing the Business Class meals on Thai.

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Keep an eye out for the Sunday Market on Rachadamnoern in the middle of town. It’s a good chance to find a lot of fun stuff for nibbling on, without the traffic (and the resultant pollution and noise).

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The streetside sweets are very similar to what you’ll find in Bangkok. I do love that fortune cookie egg based dough they do.

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I already mentioned the thing about pork being good, didn’t I?

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Besides pork, beef isn’t bad. Sai eua, the famous lanna sausages, are something that’ll stop me in the street anyday. Nicely loaded with burning evil green chilis, these’ll bring a tear to your eye.

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And – we only found these at Antique House, the other one on the far side of the Ping (our side) – are crispy fried bamboo worms. You can also buy these at the airport to take home.

This is the Good View, but at early lunch. It’s very much an evening place, but we were quite content to wander down for a bit while Yoonhi and Scud were at massage school.

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Lunch for me would be fried squid, and fired fermented pork ribs. Lots of bits and pieces, all taken with the fingers.

Besides coconuts, also take the time to get as much fresh fruit into you as you can. Somehow the pineapple in Thailand always tastes sweeter than anywhere else.

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The food courts are always a safe bet. You’ll be at the Night Bazaar at some point, so the Galare Food Court across the street (I think that was the name) is a good choice for an hour or so of eating.

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Pigs’ feet. How can you say no?

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Here we have red pork on rice, and an oyster omellet.

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The pork satay is good, and the phad Thai didn’t linger around long enough to be photographed.

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Feel free to work up your food to the desired flavoured, with a wide selection of chilis and pickles. The red chilis aren’t hot at all. Trust me.

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The khao soy isn’t bad here (but load it up with the pickles from the last picture).

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And some of my friends claim this to be the best mango and sticky rice with coconut in the country.

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Besides the Chinese noodle dishes which are thick in this shot, you can also find kranab, mousses of chicken or fish roasted inside of bamboo leaves. These are worth hunting out.

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And don’t forget to have some fish. A traditional prep is to fry the fish (the Thai are the masters of frying things) and then covering it with sauce, preferably loaded with chilis and garlic (at least, that’s what I always order).

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Another way to go is for the full frying experience. Crust and bread it, and go for the simple joy of oil.

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I did mention the part aobut coconuts, right? (By the way, Aroonrai isn’t fancy, but they do nice curries).

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Remember I said to plan your days out? If you’re up around Nimmanhaemin Road, which’ll put you in a funky university neighborhood down below Doi Suthep, then you need to do lunch at this place. This’ll start arguments, but the lady doctor who owns this place does some of the best kway tieow noodle soups to be had.

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Both the broth and the fish balls are excellent. I took Yoonhi here, and even she admitted that the broth was clearly above what we’d had elsewhere.

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Our typical breakfast would be a walk across the footbridge to Wowaraj for noodles, but these left them in the dust (and they were about the same price).

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Here’s a comparison shot from the market (it doesn’t look bad, either, though, but the truth is in the broth).

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It’s not fancy, and it’s not expensive. Just ask questions until you get to the place.

Back to our side of the Ping, let’s look in ont the Good View at night.

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Along with the food, you also have the added attraction of towers of beer.

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How can you not love this place? And I haven’t even posted the pictures of the beer girls in the leather police outfits!

There. That touches upon some of the things to be eaten. There’s lots more, but, like we said at the start, when you’re up here, take your time and just relax into things.

Lifes to short to be in a hurry.

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Quote: "Feel free to work up your food to the desired flavoured, with a wide selection of chilis and pickles. The red chilis aren’t hot at all. Trust me."

Not hot? A country that has bird chilis like the Philipppines (bird chilis were once in the Guinness book for being the world's hottest chili), those RED chilis are not hot? RIGHT.

Quote: "And I haven’t even posted the pictures of the beer girls in the leather police outfits!"

Hey I posted belly dancing girls in my Ceramic Festival report! You should um, do the same. :biggrin:

(Out of topic: Peter, pssst! We will be going to this year's Ceramic Festival next week. Hope there will be more uh, unusual stuff like the aforementioned attraction).

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Another speciality of the North I love is miang kam (this is always brought out as a starter at Baan Khanitha in Bangkok), and the beauty is in the simplicity.  Pandan leaves are wrapped into a cone, and then a selection of ginnger, peanuts, chilis, dried shrimp, onion, lime, and roasted coconunt is added to be topped with a dollop of sweet sauce (I like the plum).  But this can be varied to any adjustment of items (or rather tastes) you care to try.

Those definitely aren't pandan leaves.

I was told they were betel nut leaves, but not sure whether that's true either. Sure is an acquired taste though.

May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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gallery_22892_5952_37587.jpg

Another speciality of the North I love is miang kam (this is always brought out as a starter at Baan Khanitha in Bangkok), and the beauty is in the simplicity.  Pandan leaves are wrapped into a cone, and then a selection of ginnger, peanuts, chilis, dried shrimp, onion, lime, and roasted coconunt is added to be topped with a dollop of sweet sauce (I like the plum).  But this can be varied to any adjustment of items (or rather tastes) you care to try.

Those definitely aren't pandan leaves.

I was told they were betel nut leaves, but not sure whether that's true either. Sure is an acquired taste though.

Yes I believe they are fresh betel nut leaves. Or at least what you use to chew betel nuts.

Edited to add:

This is also one of my favorite things to munch on. Great appetizer. Good with beer I'm told ( I was too young to imbibe back then). I can't find the leaves here fresh and it doesnt work otherwise.

Edited by OnigiriFB (log)
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gallery_22892_5952_37587.jpg

Another speciality of the North I love is miang kam (this is always brought out as a starter at Baan Khanitha in Bangkok), and the beauty is in the simplicity.  Pandan leaves are wrapped into a cone, and then a selection of ginnger, peanuts, chilis, dried shrimp, onion, lime, and roasted coconunt is added to be topped with a dollop of sweet sauce (I like the plum).  But this can be varied to any adjustment of items (or rather tastes) you care to try.

Those definitely aren't pandan leaves.

I was told they were betel nut leaves, but not sure whether that's true either. Sure is an acquired taste though.

Yes I believe they are fresh betel nut leaves. Or at least what you use to chew betel nuts.

Edited to add:

This is also one of my favorite things to munch on. Great appetizer. Good with beer I'm told ( I was too young to imbibe back then). I can't find the leaves here fresh and it doesnt work otherwise.

You're right. I don't know why I thought pandan. Bai chaploo, or some transliteration like that, which I think is betel nut leaves. Waxy texture, but a neat taste.

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  • 2 months later...

I'm getting my CM photos organized, but I thought I'd report back about a few things that Peter mentions here.

Dr. Noodle has moved into a new venue (or a renovated one) on Soi 17, IIRC. The sign on Nimmanhaeman Road looks like the one above, but it's hard to spy. We went there twice and were happy both times (though happier the first). Just look for this sign on Nimmanhaeman (tx Peter!):

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Good View was the best restaurant we ate at, hands down. Everything was good and most stuff was fantastic. We went to Riverview once but were not particularly impressed -- and the three or four times we passed it by there were several tourist buses in the parking lot.

The mango and coconut rice at Galare Food Court was, indeed, excellent. Not sure if it's the best in town, but we sure loved it.

Moxie was overpriced, too clever for its own good, and didn't consistently deliver on flavor. But it's a nice oasis from that crazy part of town, and we only had Thai food, so can't judge the Western stuff. The timing was fine, but the place was empty save for us and they were training wait staff. :wink:

Rona, we ate so many banana rotis that we nearly burst. The best stand was just inside the old city at Chiang Mai gate on the right side of Phra Pokklao just up from Bamrung Duri.

I've traveled to a lot of food destinations, but nowhere I've been trumps Chiang Mai for food and food culture. I hope I can do it justice in my posts.

More soon.

Chris Amirault

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Chris,

I'm looking forward to loads more photos.

I should've warned you off of Riverside. It was good when it was, but now it isn't. Back when it opened, in the 80's, it was the only place in that strip, and made for a comfortable spot to enjoy the Ping and kill two or five bottles of Maekhong. But I, too, didn't enjoy the food I had there when we went back with the kids.

I'm glad The Good View is holding up. With the new place in Bangkok, you worry if they overstretch, but it sounds like you had a great time. Getting a ride back from dinner with some Thai friends we were talking Chiang Mai eats, and it took us a few minutes but I suddenly realized their favourite spot was The Good View as well (I've really got to work on my Thai).

Oh, and we solved the mystery of the bpai cham poo leaves. They're from the Rose Apple "Cham poo". We were arguing about that just two posts above.

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Post more pictures and comment soon!

Cheers,

Peter

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Baan Bakery

Nikom Tanawa, baker

3/9 Suri(ya)wong

(~200m S of Chiang Mai gate)

Some places are loved by tourists because they are oases of home food in the midst of unfamiliar cuisines, and I certainly understand the appeal of regaining your sea legs after days of new flavors, textures, and preparations. Some places appear better than they might otherwise because they're located in unexpected places.

Though both of those things could be said about Baan Bakery, that's not what I'm here to tell you. I have bigger claims.

Meet Nikom Tanawa, master baker, who was kind enough not only to feed my wife and me breakfast and snacks for a week but also to talk at great length about his life and work:

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Nikom moved with his brother from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai long ago, and the two used their excellent English and intelligence to work as tour guides in and around CM. (Brother Sorapong, who goes by "Chai," is still an outstanding guide; stop by the shop in the morning and you'll likely see him soon enough.) On one tour, Nikom met his future wife, and they returned to her native Japan to live for several years.

When he arrived there, Nikom decided to succumb to a long-standing desire, throw caution to the wind, and train and apprentice as a pastry chef. After seven years, he and his wife moved back to Chiang Mai, set up Baan Bakery, and started feeding expat Japanese and Western retirees, Thais appreciative of a refined style of pastries, and the odd tourists who spy his shop and venture in.

We were profoundly grateful that Baan Bakery was on the road from our hotel (Tadkham Village, a bit further south on Th Nantharam) not just to catch some cappucino and smell fresh baked goods. Each day, we enjoyed some of the finest croissants, tarts, buns, and breads that we'd ever had.

If Nikom served merely passable baked goods, the shop would be a triumph. But Nikom serves the sort of pastries that seem nearly impossible to comprehend in Chiang Mai. They are comparable to most high-end shops I've been to in Europe and are as good as or better than anything I can get around here.

Take a look at that photo up there, in which Nikom is weighing brioche dough, and think about what it would take to crank out even mediocre stuff. I will help you.

Here's a shot of his workspace:

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Note that the windows are opens to the 85-95F outdoor air. That's to cool off the room, which is usually around 120F. Of course, keeping the windows open means that the brutal Thai humidity, abetted by afternoon rains, is a constant challenge to the delicate, dry baked goods. (That's why some of the product on the racks are packed in plastic; otherwise they'd be stale in 15 minutes.)

Across from the two ovens (which remain on the entire day, natch) against the wall you can't see on the left, you'll find a series of small, low refrigerators, in which Nikom cools his doughs between folds. The lamination machine on which he's cutting and weighing the dough is located in the lower right corner of the room, because it's nearer to the air conditioned front of the house. The machine's fabric is kept floured because it's his work station for cold items. He generally has to do cutting, weighing, folding, and the like in less than one or two minutes, or else the butter he uses for his doughs starts to melt and seep.

He does his best to get a constant supply of quality flours, sugars, and so on, but Chiang Mai isn't Paris, and he has to make do. This is particularly true about the butter he uses, which is not high fat/low moisture European pastry butter but the sort of standard-issue material you'd find in any supermarket.

So it's miraculous to be able to enjoy these:

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My photos don't do the banana pastry, custard tart, and apple pastry justice -- though the missing bite from the banana pastry gives you a sense of why we're lacking more photos. No matter what we tried, the product was excellent, and the quality of the laminated items was hard to comprehend, given that workspace. And though I'm not an expert on Japanese pastries, the red bean buns (with brioche dough, I believe) and sesame cookies that I tried were out of this world.

That's Nikom's wife, who runs the front and wrestles with the tempermental espresso machine, on the right; a woman who also works in the front is on the left. (I'm ashamed to say that I lost my notes with their names.)

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Here are two shots of the interior:

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Note the pullman and pain de mie loaves in the center of the shot:

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It's odd to start a series of posts on Chiang Mai off with a tribute to a baker, I'll admit, but it's the proper tribute to this food-crazed city. The tremendous respect accorded all foods in Chiang Mai reaches an apex at Baan Bakery, and Nikom deserves his due propers even if there's no fish sauce or shrimp paste to be found.

Needless to say, if you ever go to Chiang Mai, you must visit Baan Bakery.

Chris Amirault

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Just saw this thread. I was in Chiang Mai last year.

Strange as it seems, one of my favorite dishes was at the Four Seasons - their chilled tomato soup with crab and balsamic vinegar. It is the deepest richest tomato soup I have tasted.

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More Thai, their approach to pad thai,

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which is covered with a drizzled egg yolk netting

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But what I really want to do is to second the recommendation for a visit to the Elephant Nature Park. You won't ride elephants, because the structure the elphant ride places seat tourists on can harm an elephant's spine at its weakest point and also damage babies if a female happens to be pregnant (hard to tell with an elephant). What you will be able to do is hang with about thirty elephants for a day, feed them, and bathe them in a river. It is a preserve for abused elephants and ranks right up there with my top two or three tourist experiences at any point in my life.

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Edited to add - Great pics, Chris. Thanks for pointing out so many places that I missed. Only had a couple of days there. I'll have to get back and stay in Chiang Mai, itself.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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  • 2 weeks later...

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Sum Sabai

Nimmanhaemin Soi 17

108 Sirimangkalajarn Rd.

0-5359-4950

We found this place completely by accident while wandering around Nimmenhamin one night. It is a cavernous open-air buffet that, as far as we could tell, was filled with CMU students hanging out for hours over the beer, grilled food, beer, impromptu soups, and beer.

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There was a large selection of fish, meat, and offal to grill and poach.

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Vegetables (mostly leafy greens like water spinach and cabbage) were also available.

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The prepared foods didn't seem particularly appealing to us, but there was quite a lot of it. We tried the dumplings and pad thai, and they were just ok. Here's a bit more of the spread:

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Sauces were a bit too sweet and gloppy:

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The set-up was really fun, though. You get two circular charcoal burners into which a server places the coals. Over one is a wire rack for grilling:

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The other has a stamped metal dome onto which you place meats and vegetables that cook and drain their flavors down into a moat that turns into an a la minute soup:

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Of course, lots of fruit and jellies for dessert.

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It was dirt cheap even for CM standards, and while it wasn't at the quality of Good View, it was a fun, relaxing time with fresh, simply prepared food. Absolutely worth a one-time visit on a short trip; it'd be on our regular cheap-eats itinerary if we lived there.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Ton Lam Yai & Warorot Markets

I had my most remarkable experiences at Chiang Mai markets, and in this post I have photos of two of them: Ton Lam Yai and Warorot markets, between the northeast corner of the old city and the Ping, above the night bazaar areas. First, Ton Lam Yai market:

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This market sprawls through several rabbit-warren alleys, onto main streets, and throughout a multistory building in which I spent several hours over two days. The market is one of the main locations in CM for a wide variety of food-related equipment and supplies, and the shopkeepers there make grocers in Manhattan look like frivolous wasters of space.

Near one of the main streets there was a gardening shop. Having watched a few southeast Asian produce staples wither and die in gardens over the years (and not knowing how Uncle Sam feels about seeds), I didn't buy anything, but the selection was impressive.

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Just down the alleyway was a shop selling an array of fishing supplies. Here are the sorts of nets we saw fishermen using on the beaches of Hua Hin to catch fish:

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Further into the market were three fantastic cooking shops. I left only with some long bamboo paddles for stirring deep stock pots, some small ladles for sauces, and a few other gewgaws, but I could have outfitted my kitchen a few times over without any hesitation had I easy access to a container port:

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This last photo doesn't show them very clearly, but after the wooden mortars and pestles were several large granite ones, and I seriously thought about carrying a deep 12" one onto the plane. I was talked out of this hare-brained scheme:

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In the basement of the main market was a prep area that, by the time this photo was shot, was pretty quiet. Several workers were asleep on the tables that had been used for prepping the variety of foodstuffs in upper floors, and there were a few stalls with a random assortment of stuff for sale:

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Like all CM markets, pork was prominently featured. It's hard to explain what it's like to walk around a corner and see someone cutting up pork bellies that look like this:

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I have been unable to find pork in the US that is as thick and well-marbled as the pork that I found throughout Thailand. In addition, this pork -- sitting out on a wooden cutting board in the midmorning heat -- smelled as sweet and as fresh as spring. This was one of the many moments that I regretted not having a kitchen nearby to use:

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Pork was also available as deep fried rinds:

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And as sausage:

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In a corner in the topmost floor of the market is a very small food stall run by a woman and her kids. After all this, I needed another breakfast:

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OK, back to the market. There was some prepared food at Ton Lam Yai, but not much compared to Warorot (and to the remarkable Siriwattana [Thanin] market -- more on that place in a bit). This fellow was emptying out several dozen tins of steamed rice preparing for the lunch rush:

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And down the way from him someone was bagging this beautiful rose of rice noodles:

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It must get boring to read this, but the produce was impeccable. After years of wondering why Thai chefs crow about Thai eggplants -- the ones at my local markets are astringent, browning, and dry -- I crunched into a few of these sweetly bitter beauties:

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As in Hua Hin, there were a few stalls with North American produce:

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I wasn't able to get an ID on these: are they flower buds?

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Lots of dried fish:

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And here's a typical stall with, well, everything. The picture isn't perfect, but trust me, this stuff was picture-perfect:

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Warorot Market was more focused on prepared foods. Most of the stuff was fried or grilled in outdoor stalls near Th Chang Klan.

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It was mushroom season, apparently, in the hills around Chiang Mai, and a lot of hill people were selling what they had gathered or cultivated (I wasn't sure which) along with other varieties that had been industrially packaged. Here are a few of the varieties that I saw -- and, again, that made me sad to lack a stove.

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Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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