I enjoy eating. Unlike most food lovers, atmosphere has as much to do with the taste of the food I eat. Food goes to tummy. Atmosphere goes to my brain. Combining the two, they make great dining experience.
My rules: 1) This doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. 2) Food doesn’t need to be fancy. 3) Timing doesn’t need to be right. 4) You don’t have to be hungry to be satisfied.
Personally, I find Chiang Mai one of the most entertaining locations of food finding in the world. Remember, good food and good atmosphere are my things. These two keys translate into ‘great’ in my dictionary. I first got hooked to this city when I was a 16-years-old Chiang Mai University kid. Besides messing around in the city, my friends and I mostly looked for ‘our’ place to eat, and that means majority of the time.
Here are a must-eat list when visiting Chiang Mai: (The following places are still actively in business. Also it’d be nice to have pictures of these places and/or foods, but all my originals are back at home in Thailand. Sorry.)
Kanom-Jeen-Nam-Ya and Nam-Nyeaw near Varoroj Market ( ขนมจีนน้ำยา น้ำเงี้ยวใกล้ตลาดวโรรส ) Venders start setting up their off-the-road tables around 9 pm and will be there until 3 am or later nightly. Two options of sauces to choose from like mentioned at the title, and plenty of fresh garnishes for your dish such as bean sprouts, cabbage and garlic, which generously placed in the middle of a large picnic table. This big picnic table is for the vender to use to prepare their food as well as customer to sit around family-style kind of thing. Shower chairs are used around the table. There is no electric there since the market is already closed, but replaced by candle lights. Very down to earth and very cheap place to eat.
Moo-Tod and Nam-Prick at Varoroj Market (หมูทอดและน้ำพริก ) I don’t remember the shop name, but it is located inside Vororoj Market. Once inside the market, it is hard to miss since the owner of the shop, a fairly big older lady, usually sits in the middle of her freshly made fried pork chop near a very large frying pan with hot oil. This place sells ‘the best’ fried pork chop, variety of traditional Chiang Mai Nam-Pricks, sticky rice, and banana leaf wrapped Moo-Yor (หมูยอห่อใบเตย ). This is a must-go and pick up when traveling to Chiang Mai, and if you are looking for some things to bring back to your friends or love ones, can’t go wrong with this. They will nicely pack the food for you for those who traveling by plane or train if buy in a decent amount.
Noodle shop near Suthep Market behind CMU campus (ก๋วยเตี๋ยวลุงว้าก ) Yes, we call the owner and the main guy loong-wak (screaming uncle) since he is always screaming and yelling. This vender is located near Suthep Market in the night food court. Every single CMU kids knows this place since it is famous for spicy noodle soup with pork, fish and you name it. Loong-Wak is a bold-headed older guy who looks pretty intimidating, but actually very kind. Let’s say you are in with parties of ten. He will take the order, memorize everything by head, then screaming at the cook. And I kid you not, he can remember every single thing you’ve ordered. It doesn’t matter how complicated your orders are (no pork, no soup, extra garlic..etc), he has it all. It also doesn’t matter how many customers he has in the shop. Loong-Wak has them all in order. My friends and I have challenged him with extremely complicated orders in the past, he never fells. You know your foods will be taken care of. Did I mention he is the only one who takes orders in there?
Huay Kaew Ice Cream (ไอศครีมห้วยแก้ว ) If I remember this right, this ice cream shop belongs to one of the Royal projects. This shop is on Huay Kaew Road, located right across the street from Chiang Mai Zoo. Strawberry, Chocolate and Vanilla are only flavors it offers. Why I like this place? The ice cream is very fresh.
Ong Pochana (อ๋องโภชนา ) No, the name only tells one thing—this place sells food located near Pratu Chang Puak (ประตูช้างเผือก ). Anyway, Ong (I figure it’s the name of the owner) is known for fish balls noodle with pork-based soup. Weird combo, huh? Fish balls here are very tasty and they come in super small sizes. (Think Bua-Loy บัวลอย ) The restaurant is off the road and opens nightly between 8pm through 4am. In college, I often stopped by the restaurant during very very late hours for two reasons: the soup (real good) and the waiter (real cute, and happens to be Ong’s son.) Speaking of the waiter, he is the only one in the restaurant who does all the math. Note: Ong’s son talent during check bill time—he will look around the table (approximately 10 seconds) and tell you exactly how much you owe him with no calculator, pen or paper. Never miss it.
Well this will be all for now. Some more to come. I will post more on the next blog. One thing I forgot to mention earlier, this is not traditional Chiang Mai eatery food find since I am honestly not a big fan of northern food (even though lots of folks out there are loving it.)