Oct 23, 2019

Thai Sense: Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand, full of misty mountains boasting a rich heritage and an even richer culinary scene, there’s no doubt it’s one of the popular destinations in Thailand.

Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand, full of misty mountains boasting a rich heritage and an even richer culinary scene, there’s no doubt it’s one of the popular destinations in Thailand. 

Northern Thai cuisine is one of the most traditional and ancient in Thailand, dating back to the centuries old Lanna Kingdom. The cuisine is seasonal and mostly follows the year’s harvest, making use of fresh vegetables and herb-rich curries. 

With its diverse range of flavors and rich culinary scene, Chiang Mai is the latest edition to the Michelin Guide 2020. 

A common condiment from this region is Nam Prik Noom, a combination of smoky, garlicy and spicy flavours all in one dip. It is usually paired with rice, fresh or boiled vegetables, sometimes even pork crackling! There are different combinations to making Nam Prik Noom, it can be with green or yellow chilies and even Thai green eggplants but a key ingredient that’s prevalent in Northern Thai cuisine is Thai green chilies to give it a signature kick. 

 

It’s not just the restaurants or Thai eateries where you can find authentic northern Thai dishes. The night markets in Chiang Mai are deliciously famous for their street food. Known as Sai Ua, the northern Thai spiced sausages can be found at almost any night market you go to. Looking like meaty coils, these pork encased sausages are famous for its spicy, smoky, punchy taste that you won’t find elsewhere. Like all northern Thai cuisine, it makes use of herbs like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal to bring out the flavors of the meat. 

A popular night market is the Sunday Walking Street, only open on Sundays, it runs from 4pm to midnight. There’s a variety of things you can do there other than eating, you can even get foot massages along the roadsides when your feet get tired, to getting your portrait painted by talented caricature artists. It’s the perfect place to shop and eat to your heart’s content!  

And when you’re stuffed from your food trail in Chiang Mai, treat your eyes to amazing views with a trek up Doi Inthanon National Park. It’s home to the highest mountain in all of Thailand. Known as the ‘Roof of Thailand’, the park boasts over 500 recorded bird species, and some mammal species like wild boars, gibbons, deer and serow. The highest point of the mountain is 2,565 metres tall with temperatures going as low as -8 degrees Celsius. Apart from rocky misty views, the park is also home to a 30-story waterfall. The highest and most beautiful waterfall in Thailand, enjoy breath taking views as you see the Mae Ye Waterfall up close. 

But if you’re more into the hustle and bustle, try visiting the Chiang Mai Gate Market, a perfect mix of heritage and modern world Thailand. By first light, it’s a bustling marketplace with truck loads and motorbike cart loads of fresh produce. From fresh herbs to poultry, it’s teeming with people hurrying to get their hands on the freshest produce. They close in the afternoon as the heat picks up, but by night, that’s when the party starts. The food stalls start opening and the quiet road transforms into a hub of movement. You’re treated to an array Thai hawker food, like fried pork knuckles, mango sticky rice and fresh fruit smoothies. 

The busy area closes early – around 9PM, so if you’re visiting, be sure to catch the them before they start closing shop, preparing the place to be turned into the wet market in the morning. An almost seamless cycle, the place never really rests. 

And that’s not all you can do to experience the unique Lanna culture and lifestyle. Unique to Chiang Mai, visit during January 17 to January 20 to experience the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival. It’s celebrated in January every year to pay homage to the efforts of local artisans, and to show their craft skills of these colorful parasols.  

Visit during February for a brilliant display of flora as the Chiang Mai Flower Festival takes place. It typically features yellow and white chrysanthemums and the Damask Rose – a variety only found in Chiang Mai. 

A cultural (and foodie) haven, Chiang Mai is a city you must visit to experience it fully. Made up of vibrant colors, rich, beautiful heritage, it’s not a place to skip out on when considering your next vacation in Southeast Asia.

 

Huen Jai Yong 

65 Moo 4, Buak Khang - San Kamphaeng Road, Tambon Buak Khang, Amphoe San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai, 50130, Thailand

It’s a dish that comes in many variations and there’s no one set recipe. Huen Jai Yong in Chiang Mai serves just that, and many other traditional foods like Pad Krapow and Laab Gai. 

Laab Gai has two versions, and the Northern Thai version includes many spices that are specific to that part of the region, such as cumin, cloves, long pepper, star anise, prickly ash seeds and cinnamon. 

 

Khao Soi Loong Prakid Gard Gorm 

53 Suriyawong 5 Rd, Haiya Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

Another iconic dish is Khao Soi, Thai Curry Noodles. You can find them just about anywhere, and it doesn’t always have to be pork, there are beef and lamb versions as well.  The use of herbs and spices give it a flavor akin to Indian cuisine especially because of the use of cardamom and turmeric but this smoky, coconut curry has a unique distinct taste. It’s a definite must-try if your ever in Chiang Mai!  

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