The Essential Chiang Mai Food & Restaurant Guide for Foodies
First, before we talk about the Chiang Mai food and the best Chiang Mai restaurant, we should probably talk about where Chiang Mai is exactly. It is a beautiful city that is located in the mountains of Northern Thailand, just 435 miles north of Bangkok, Thailand.
It was founded in 1296 as the Capital of the independent Lan Na Kingdom until 1556 when the Lan Na began to decline, the city lost its importance, and was then occupied by Taungoo. However, it was not until recently that Chiang Mai was upgraded to a city municipality, this happened in 1935.
There is a rich history on show in Chiang Mai, from the various remains of walls and moats that encircle over thirty different temples, to the venerable temples that seamlessly blend in with the modern buildings around the city.
In addition to the amazing Chiang Mai food, the city has so many different activities for tourists to enjoy such as Thai massage, cooking courses, spas, visiting gardens and parks, unique museums to visit and so much more. There are also so many beautiful temples that are around the city, and you absolutely should visit at least one of them on your trip.
So, now that we have covered the basic history of the city and have looked very briefly at some things that you can do on a trip to Chiang Mai. Let’s not waste any more time, and let us get right into the important part. The Chiang Mai food part.
Must-Try Chiang Mai Foods
Food is a very important part of most cultures, and Chiang Mai is absolutely no exception to this. There are so many different foods that are available in Chiang Mai, with so many different specialties and dishes. So, let’s take a look at a few of them.
Khao Soi (Egg Noodle Curry)
Khao Soi is a specialty dish and probably the most famous food in Chiang Mai cuisine. It is a rich and savory yellow curry noodle soup, that is typically served with onions, pickled cabbage, and slices of lime.
Sai Oua (Grilled Herb Sausage)
Sai Oua is typically served as a starter. It is a northern-style pork sausage, missed with dried chillies, garlic, shallots, and a range of herbs and spices. While it may look similar to a north-eastern-style sausage, it tastes very different, as it is a lot richer and meatier.
Nam Prik Ong/Nume (Red/Green Chilli Dip)
Nam Prik Ong/Nume is a very popular in Chiang Mai food. Made with roasted chilli spur peppers, Nam Prik Nume (green chilli dip) is very spicy, while Nam Prik Ong (red chilli dip) is slightly milder, and is mixed with ground pork, chopped coriander, spring onion and dried bird's eye chillies. This is usually eaten with crispy pork skin, steamed vegetables, or sticky rice.
The Best Chiang Mai Restaurants
There are so many amazing Chiang Mai restaurants, and while you are probably going to want to go to all of them, it may not be very realistic, depending on how long you are staying in Chiang Mai. So, let us whittle it down to the top 3 restaurants in Chiang Mai, the ones that you absolutely must go to, during your trip.
Tong Restaurant and Bar—Popular Chiang Mai Restaurant
Tong Restaurant and Bar is also a very popular place to eat in Chiang Mai. It is an open-air restaurant that serves authentic Thai food, such as grilled pork neck, Nam Prig Ong (a Chiang Mai special chilli dip), a spicy chicken curry, and so much more.
Their menu is extensive so you will be spoilt for choice. However, a lot of their Thai dishes are very spicy, so if you aren’t one for spice then this probably is not the best restaurant for you. But, if you do enjoy a bit of spice in your life, then you should absolutely stop by because the food is great and reasonably priced; with their dishes ranging from 50 to 100 Baht (around £1-£2).
Anantara Chiang Mai Resort—View Restaurant in Chiang Mai
Another amazing restaurant that you should visit on your trip is the Anantara Chiang Mai Resort. This Chiang Mai restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner to both their hotel guests and visitors from outside of the hotel.
It is one of the finest five-star hotels in Chiang Mai, and not only is the hotel great, but so is the food. They offer three-course-meals, with each course offering customers a wide range of choice.
Their starter menu starts at 200 Baht (just under £5), and includes foods such as a watermelon gazpacho soup, and an Indian sampler plate. The main course menu has a wide range of cuisines, such as burgers, pasta dishes, steaks, and various Indian dishes.
So, if you are looking for a restaurant with great food and a wonderful view, then this place is for you, because not only do they offer amazing food it is also located on the riverside; with large glass windows for you to admire the view.
Food Markets in Chiang Mai
Street food in Chiang Mai plays a large part in the city’s culture, and it is also one of the biggest things that attract tourists to visit the city, and luckily there are quite a few different ones to enjoy.
Night Bazaar Market
The most popular market amongst tourists is the Night Bazaar Market. This market is located on the east side of Chiang Mai’s old walled city, and not so surprisingly, it is very popular during the nighttime; for the best experience, you should probably arrive after 6pm.
It is a fairly large market; it is nearly a mile in length and will take you a few hours to get around the entire place. There are also so many different food options at this Chiang Mai market, if it’s a street food you’re looking for then you are in luck. You can choose from many different things such as mango sticky rice, smoothies, spring rolls, noodle dishes, and so much more. But if it is a sit-down meal that you are looking for, then you are also in luck, because there are quite a few sit-down restaurants for you to choose from!
Muang Mai Market
However, if it is fresh food that you are looking for, then Muang Mai Market is the one for you. It is located just outside of the old city wall and is one of the main Chiang Mai market hubs for fresh fruits and vegetables. It is where a lot of farmers go to sell their goods. So not only are you guaranteed fresh, tasty food, but it is also quite cheap.
Chiang Mai Food Tours
Chiang Mai has so much to offer in terms of food, and that can be quite overwhelming if you are a first-time visitor. However, if this is the case, you can just hop onto a food tour and that way you don’t need to worry about whether or not you are visiting the best places, and whether you are missing out on the top spots. So, here are a few of the best Chiang Mai food tours to enjoy on your trip:
Small-Group Chiang Mai Evening Street Food Tour
This is a very popular food tour in Chiang Mai that can only be enjoyed in a small group of 8 people. You will be picked up from your hotel by a tour guide, where you will then be taken around two evening markets. On this tour, not only will you be able to enjoy all different kinds of foods that are special to Chiang Mai, but you can also learn about the popular foods, how to eat them, their ingredients. So that you can then enjoy the Chiang Mai markets on your own, without stress!
Chiang Mai Northern Food Tour by Truck
This Chiang Mai food tour begins at Wat Lok Moli, and from there you spend most of your time in the Muang Mai Market, and it will last around 4 hours. Like the previous Chiang Mai food tour, it is limited to 8 people, giving you more opportunities to ask your tour guide all about the different foods, and what to expect from them. Not only does this tour allow you to enjoy Chiang Mai food markets, but it also allows you to view small parts of the city.
About the Author
Catalin Geangos is the Founder and Editor of TravelTrained and a travel blogger who mainly focuses on nightlife, pub crawls and party experiences while travelling in Southeast Asia. He moved from Romania to the UK 6 years ago and since then he travelled in over 30 countries. Follow him on: Instagram Pinterest Facebook Youtube