After our short stay in Bangkok we headed up north to Chiang Mai, a popular travel destination, and more importantly, home to my friend Mike for the last seven years!
Mike lives in the cool university district and wasted no time showing us around. While there is a lot to see in and around Chiang Mai, we were exhausted from the last month of nonstop travel and opted to relax. Our decision was made even easier when we had a minor motorscooter accident and I injured my foot. More on that later!
We decided to take full advantage of the fact that Mike had been living in Chiang Mai for so long and knew where all the best restaurants were, what to order, and of course where to get the best street food. Let’s just say we ate extremely well for those five days!
Our first night, we went to Khun Churn on Soi 17, Th Nimmanhaemin. This restaurant is all vegetarian, which makes it a great option for those not into strange meats. Plus, it’s delicious! We went for dinner, but they apparently have an amazing all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. We started with some beautiful fresh spring rolls, which just scream Thailand to me:
We also had a delicious mushroom and fried tofu dish, filled with several different kinds of mushrooms, including shiitake and hen of the woods.
On Mike’s recommendation we ordered the Lad Na, a kind of thickened vegetable soup. The broth is so thick it’s more like a jelly than a soup–but I promise it’s good!
For dessert we went to the nearby I-Berry (Th Nimmanhaemin lane off Soi 17) for yummy ice-cream. I tasted the durian flavor but it really was gross! If you haven’t heard of it, durian is a popular but controversial fruit in SE Asia. It smells terrible, but many people swear it tastes delicious if you close your nose. We opted for safer flavors like blueberry mango and caramel.
Somehow, later that night we were hungry again so we stopped off at a mini outdoor area with some food carts for some pad see ew, my go-to favorite whenever I have Thai food at home. Not surprisingly, this was way better. It had a lot more of a complex flavor instead of just the sweetness the dish has in America. And the Chinese broccoli was super fresh.
The next day Manor and I went to lunch at the restaurant right across the street from Khun Churn. I couldn’t resist ordering the black pepper mushroom and tofu dish and Manor decided to see what Pad Thai tastes like in Thailand. The answer is: delicious.
And of course I had to order a Thai iced tea, which was rich and tasty.
One of the best thing about Chiang Mai is the night markets. There are several in various locations and at various times, but one of the best is the Sunday night market starting at Tha Phae Gate. We found some of the items for sale to be kind of cheesy, but the food on offer is fantastic. The best stuff is found inside the temples. We snacked on fried quail eggs, a pad Thai omelet (pad Thai noodles cooked inside an egg–yum!), green curry, and some mango with sticky rice and taro flavored ice cream (that was rectangular!) for dessert. We also got to try some exotic juices, our favorite was bael juice. One of the best parts of the market is that most dishes are served in banana leaves–a great way to save paper!
We had some really great fruit while we were in Chiang Mai, but our favorite new discovery were rose apples. They’re kind of bell pepper-shaped, and they have a similar consistency to apples, but are much juicier. Strawberries were also in season, and they were super juicy and sweet. Even the dried ones we bought from a market were fantastic–not actually “dry” tasting at all, they were gooey and super sweet.
Fresh strawberry juice.
Aside from the markets, there are food trucks and carts everywhere. The most ubiquitous cart is for rotis. Unlike Indian rotis, these rotis are dessert: fried dough that can then be topped with various selections. Our favorite was bananas with chocolate and sweetened condensed milk. AMAZING. Mike also told us about a special bun cart that hangs out near Wat Suandok on Suthep Road. We had the black bean and custard. The custard was so good we went back for seconds! We also tried fried bananas one night. They don’t look so exciting but they make a great late night snack–the ultimate greasy post-drinking food. We’ve learned that bananas outside of America are much more flavorful. They are often smaller and juicier (yes, bananas can be juicy!). I guess Dole and Chiquita bananas are all about the looks and not the taste, unfortunately.
Shahrukh Khan followed us from India! Many of the roti carts are run by Muslims and I guess they love Shahrukh Khan too!
One morning when we were out on our bike we rode past a local market, so of course we stopped in. All we ate where some rose apples, but we loved checking out was for sale.
Our favorite meal was at the vegetarian restaurant Pun Pun, which is in the back of a temple called Wat Suandok on Suthep Road. The temple itself is quite beautiful, and the restaurant is in a lovely corner behind it. Mike insisted we order the edible flower salad and we were not sorry. Aside from being beautiful, it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, chock full of fried leaves and flowers alongside fresh vegetables.
We also had excellent fried spring rolls and a fantastic red curry. I washed it down with a black sesame shake that was out of this world.
Other tasty tidbits: okonomiyaki (a Japanese savory pancake) from a sushi restaurant and tofu nuway, a traditional Burmese tofu soup.
Honestly, I could go on and on about the food! We ate so well; thanks to Mike we didn’t have to do any guesswork about what to order and where to go. I’m salivating just thinking about all this….