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What to Eat in Chiang Mai - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand – A Chiang Mai Food Guide

In Food Travel Guides, Thailand by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch19 Comments

Chiang Mai food forged a place in our hearts with its deep flavors and liberal use of chili peppers. Check out our favorite Chiang Mai Thailand food and coffee spots.

Nam Prik Ong - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

A month in Chiang Mai was just enough time for us to fall in love with Northern Thailand’s quirky city filled with temples, night markets and expats. Although the expats can rightfully take credit for the abundance of trendy eateries and third wave coffee shops, the Chiang Mai food scene remains true to its flavorful Thai food roots.

This is a city where people step over cracked sidewalks to reach food served under tin roofs and atop folding tables. Flavors in Chiang Mai food are intense and deep thanks to the liberal use of ingredients like lemongrass, chilis, turmeric, makrut limes and coconut.

Although we rented an Airbnb apartment with a kitchen for the month, we ate out a lot. There are a lot of great things to eat in Chiang Mai. Plus, let’s face it, the Chiang Mai street food is so cheap that it doesn’t make sense to cook at home.

Chiang Mai has seemingly endless cheap, good food at places as varied as malls, markets, shacks and restaurants. As a bonus for travelers, the best places to eat in Chiang Mai are relatively reasonable by western standards, making splurges easier to justify. However, Chiang Mai isn’t a city for fancy dining. Save those meals for countries like France and Japan and instead spend your time eating some of the best street food in the world.

Khao Soi at Khao Soi Khun Yai - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

We ate this Khao Soi at Khao Soi Khun Yai, a Chiang Mai restaurant located in a shack near the city’s North Gate. Who says that good food has to be fancy? Not us.

Roll up your sleeves and grab your spoon, the Thai eating utensil of choice,  as we share the ‘musts’ on what to eat in Chiang Mai.

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2foodtrippers Chiang Mai Food Guide

Although there are many reasons to travel to Thailand, food was our top motivation for spending a month in Chiang Mai, a city where food takes center stage and tempting aromas drift through the air. We traversed the city with a Chiang Mai map and ate it all in this Northern Thai foodie paradise. The following dishes win our votes for the best food to eat in Chiang Mai:

Khao Soi

Khao Soi at Khao Soi Nimman - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

Bowls of Khao Soi at Khao Soi Nimman showcase the available proteins for the popular Chiang Mai dish.

If you only have one meal in Chiang Mai, it should be Khao Soi. If you only have two meals, then you should eat Khao Soi again. Hopefully, you have at least three meals because Chiang Mai has three ‘not to miss’ spots to eat Khao Soi. In other words, Khao Soi is the one dish that you absolutely must eat in Chiang Mai.

For the uninitiated, Khao Soi is a soup flavored with yellow curry and coconut milk, loaded with boiled noodles and then topped with fried noodles. Although Khao Soi is traditionally prepared with chicken or beef to comply with Muslim dietary rules, newer Chiang Mai restaurants, like Khao Soi Nimman, add various proteins like seafood and pork. Each one has a unique version based on the cook’s upbringing and preferences.

Khao Soi at Khao Soi Lam Duan - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

Bowls of Khao Soi at Khao Soi Lam Duan are cheap in price but rich in flavor.

Pro Tip: Be sure to add condiments to your bowl of Khao Soi. Popular sides are chopped shallots, pickled mustard greens, spicy roasted chili paste and lime juice.

Watch our video to learn more about Khao Soi.

Khao Soi Lam Duan is located at 352/22 Thanon Charoenrat, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Khao Soi Khun Yai is located at Sri Poom 8 Alley, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand.
Khao Soi Nimman is located at Nimmanhemin Soi 7, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Khao Kha Moo

The Cowboy Hat Lady - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

The Cowboy Hat Lady is famous in Chiang Mai both for her hat and her tasty Khao Kha Moo.

Khao Kha Moo is a popular Chiang Mai dish, and nobody does it better than the famous “cowboy hat lady” at the Chang Phuak night market. We dare you to find a better value for a dollar than this plate of succulent stewed pork leg served over rice with an egg and flavorful sides like pickled mustard greens and garlic chili sauce. If you can find it, we will eat it, even if we need to get on a plane first.

Watch our video to learn more about Khao Kha Moo.

Khao Kha Moo Chang Phuak is located by the North Gate at Thanon Manee Nop Parat, Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Noodles

Pad Thai - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

Pad Thai is the most famous noodle dish in Thailand, but it is just one of the many rice noodle dishes served in Chiang Mai.

We could eat rice noodles every day and never tire of their taste and texture. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but we’re willing to accept such a challenge in Chiang Mai where rice noodles are a staple served with all kinds of herbs, vegetables and proteins.

It’s easy to find Pad Thai in Chiang Mai. Though more of a Bangkok specialty, the national dish is also popular in Thailand’s second biggest city, especially at street vendors and fast dining establishments. It’s hard not to like Pad Thai, which is basically stir fried noodles with peanuts and shrimp. However, while in Chiang Mai, we expanded our noodle repertoire to include Pat Sii-Yew made with wider rice noodles and soy sauce as well as Pat Kii Mao, a spicier noodle dish with veggies.

Noodles are available everywhere in Chiang Mai – yet another reason that we love Chiang Mai.

Roast Chicken

SP Chicken - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

SP Chicken roasts petite chickens on a vertical charcoal rotisserie with garlic and lemongrass. If this dish is good enough for Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker, then it’s good enough for the 2foodtrippers too.

In many cuisines, chicken is a bland, one-note dish. This approach is not the case in Chiang Mai where cooks flavor chicken as much as any other protein with cooking styles that vary by restaurant and by technique. We found our favorite Thai roast chicken dishes at Cherng Doi Roast Chicken, Kiet Ocha and SP Chicken.

Khao Man Gai at Kiat Ocha - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

For a break from Thai roast chicken, try Khao Man Gai at Kiat Ocha where line cooks elevate chicken and rice to the next level.

Watch our video to learn more about Thai Roast Chicken.

Cherng Doi Roast Chicken is located at Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai, Thailand in the Nimman neighborhood.
Kiet Ocha is located at 41 43 Intaworos rd., Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
SP Chicken is located at Samlan Rd Soi 1, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand.

Elevated Street Food

Arroy Dee - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

Cooks at Arroy Dee use plenty of oil when making omelets and other popular Thai dishes.

Eating in Chiang Mai never bored us with the city’s variety of good food and eateries. We stumbled into Arroy Dee for Pad Thai on our first night and then returned several times to enjoy other delicious Thai food, with our favorites dishes being the Khai Jiao (crispy omelets deep-fried in oil) and the loaded Tom Yum Soup. Any time we wondered where to eat in Chiang Mai, we came back to this shack for some of the best food in Chiang Mai. Arroy Dee translates from Thai to delicious or yummy, which is no exaggeration here.

Watch our video to learn more about delicious Thai food at Arroy Dee.

Aroy Dee is located “under the tree” on Sirimangkalajarn in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Night Market Food

Pai Night Market Vendor - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

This night market vendor was actually in Pai where we did a two-day excursion from Chiang Mai. We loved Grandma and her Nutella-filled pancakes!

Night markets are wildly popular from the huge weekend Chiang Mai night bazaar inside the walls to Chang Puak by the Elephant Gate where the “Cowboy Hat Lady” sets up shop every night. We tried a lot of the Chiang Mai night markets, and our favorite was the Sum Meut Market a/k/a Hiding in the Dark Market. Open three nights a week, this smaller market outside of the Tops grocery store has it all including two of our local street food favorites – meat on a stick and Khanom Krok.

Pro Tip:  Take a break from the hustle bustle of Chiang Mai with a weekend trip to nearby Pai. In Pai, you can chill on a hammock or enjoy coffee with a view. Popular with the backpacking crowd, Pai has numerous food stalls like the one pictured above. Check out options for traveling from Chiang Mai to Pai now.

Meat on a Stick

Meat on a Stic - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

Meat on a Stick, Chiang Mai Style

We love to eat meat on a stick when we travel. Each cuisine takes this grilled staple and adds its own twist. People in Chiang Ma typically grill sausage so that it’s spicy, sour and full of flavor.

Khanom Krok

Khanom Krok - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

It’s ironic that the little coconut pancakes known as Khanom Krok turned out to be one of our favorite Chiang Mai foods since we don’t normally like fresh coconut.

We stumbled upon Khanom Krok at the Sum Meut Market for the first time. The vendor laughed when we asked for hot sauce. It turns out that Khanom Krok are coconut rice pancakes and are best eaten as dessert. The version that we liked best incorporates sweet corn into the coconut pancake.

Cafe Food

Rustic and Blu - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

We liked Rustic and Blue so much that we attended one of their special farm dinners. This soup dish was just one of the courses that we enjoyed while dining under a tent adorned with twinkly lights.

We didn’t look for western food to eat in Chiang Mai, but it’s hard to miss the many cafés sprinkled throughout the expat neighborhoods. Since there’s only so much spicy food that we can eat, we eventually drifted into local favorites that cater to westerners with dishes that we would normally find on brunch menus back home. Many of the best cafés in Chiang Mai are located in the Nimman neighborhood close to our Airbnb apartment. We recommend both Larder Cafe & Bar and Rustic & Blue for their cool vibes and authentically prepared western comfort food.

The Larder Cafe & Bar is located at 3/9 Sukkasem Rd | Suthep, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand.
Rustic & Blue is located at Nimman Soi 7, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand.

Drinks

Longan Juice - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

We never drank longan juice until our recent Chiang Mai visit. We liked it. We really liked it.

Drinks are everywhere in Chiang Mai from juice to beer and everything in-between. Though we drank our fair share of lager beer in Chiang Mai, we fell in love with the city’s coffee and smoothies.

Coffee

Cappuccinos at Akha Ama - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

Cappuccinos at Akha Ama are both stylish prepared and enjoyable to drink.

Since there’s a happening Chiang Mai coffee scene, we originally planned to try different a coffee bar every day both for the experience and for our Chiang Mai food guide. We started our noble venture at Akha Ama and were pleased with our cappuccinos. However, we hit trouble at Ristr8to Lab. Ristr8to’s coffee drinks were so good that they tainted our visits at other coffee bars. Though we found some other excellent Chiang Mai coffee bars like Ming Mitr Coffee, Nimmanian Club and Nine One Coffee, we eventually abandoned our plan and just went to Ristr8to Lab every day for guaranteed coffee bliss.

Satan Latte at Ristr8to Lab - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

At Ristr8to Lab, coffee artists execute drinks to order like this Satan Latte.

Watch our video to learn more about Chiang Mai coffee.

Akha Ama is located at 9/1 Mata Apartment, Hassadhisawee Rd, Soi 3, ถ.หัสดิเสวี ซอย 3, Changphuak, Muang ช้างเผือก, เมือง, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
Ming Mitr has multiple locations in Chiang Mai.
Nimmanian Club is located at Nimmanhaemin Soi 13, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Nine-One Coffee is located at Moo 2 30 Tumbon Pamiang, Doi Saket 50220, Thailand
Ristr8to Lab is located at 14 Nimmanhaemin rd soi 3 Suthep Mueang เชียงใหม่ 50200, Thailand.

Smoothies

Coffee and Smoothie - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

Why settle for just coffee when you can enjoy a coffee and a smoothie like this beverage combo at The Larder Cafe?

We kind of love smoothies. How happy were we when we realized that not only are they readily available in Chiang Mai but they’re also cheap? After taste testing several, and by several we mean a lot, we can report that mango is the official smoothie flavor for the 2foodtrippers.

Smoothies are available all over Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Cooking Class

Cooking Class at A Lot of Tha - What to Eat in Chiang Mai Thailand - A Chiang Mai Food Guide

Scenes from our Cooking Class at A Lot of Thai in Chiang Mai

Taking a class at a Chiang Mai cooking school is a great way to delve into a city’s cuisine while traveling. The folks in Chiang Mai have clearly embraced this concept, and a cooking class is one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai. Based on an enthusiastic recommendation from new friends Bec and Drew Robbie and a menu that included Khao Soi, we spent a day cooking and eating Chiang Mai food at A Lot of Thai. During the class, Chef Siripen Sriyabhay (known as Yui) patiently demonstrated and taught local cooking techniques while sharing stories about Thai culture and her fascinating life. We enjoyed the small group setting and vibe of this class and would recommend it to anybody wanting to learn more about Chiang Mai food. You can make a reservation for a cooking class here.

Things to Do In Chiang Mai

There’s more to do in Chiang Mai then just eat! Here are some great ideas for what to do in Chiang Mai from professional travelers.

  • Check out five hedonistic things to do in Chiang Mai courtesy of Gordon and Paula from Contented Traveller.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous and want the ultimate Chiang Mai souvenir, consider getting a Sak Yant Tatoo just like Alice from Teacake Travels.
  • Click here to find out tips on Chiang Mai travel costs from Emily Luxton. Not to ruin the surprise, but Chiang Mai is highly affordable for western travelers.
  • Finally, should you decide to stay in Chiang Mai for an extended time, then get the lowdown from Alyson at World Travel Family here.

Headed to to southern Thailand? Check out our article about our luxury hotel experience in Bangkok.


Book Your Chiang Mai Hotel

Have we convinced you to plan a food-focused trip to Chiang Mai? Click here to find the best rates for Chiang Mai hotels.

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Most Recent Update: Oct 9, 2017 @ 7:14 am

Comments

  1. My husband has been to Bangkok many times, and he loves sampling the many local foods. Your post reminded me a lot of his cuisine tales! I seem to have inherited a tongue far less tolerant of the spicy additions to Thai food. Did you find it easy to control the amount of heat in your dishes when ordering street food? I guess it would take some courage, but I’d love to try the khao soi. The roasted chicken also looks and sounds superb!

  2. Mindi and Daryl, thanks for making me totally crave Thai food! Since I’m halfway around the world in Michigan, I’ll have to settle for eating at a local Thai restaurant in Grand Rapids this weekend. I absolutely love Pad Thai, but now I want to branch out and try something different. Maybe I can talk my dinner date into sharing, so I can try Khao Soi and still have shrimp Pad Thai. Someday I’m going to visit Thailand — it’s high on the bucket list because of the food obviously. Your post just added to that desire. Also, did you guys think the coconut rice pancakes were fried eggs? I totally thought they were! Looks like the right size for a quail egg!

  3. Great post and I loved all of your videos! You two are so fun and since I’ve not been to Thailand, I loved the introduction to Thai foods.

  4. As a vegetarian, I’d have to go for the coconut rice pancakes and smoothies! Looks like a lot of great food there. Keeping this bookmarked in case we make it to Chiang mai.

  5. Glad to hear someone talking about Chiang Mai’s coffee places. I always hear about the beer, never the coffee!

    Good coverage guys!

  6. The food looks good and there is such a variety out there. However, I would settle for some noodles with Vegetarian accompaniments and maybe a smoothie or a cup of hot coffee.

  7. I am such a foodie. Thai food being my absolute favorite. I was seriously drooling at all the food options and the pictures. Wewill be in Phuket and Bangkok next month, but for next time, Chiang Mai will definitely be on our list.

  8. I would definitely love to eat my way through Thailand. How amazing that you had a month to explore Chiang Mai alone. Since I will definitely have a shorter stay I really appreciate you narrowing down the places for me. Now, I really want to go to Thailand.

  9. We love Thai food and are so looking forward to our first visit to Chang Mai next March. Thanks for all the useful information and tips, just pinned your post for future reference!

    1. Author

      You will love Chiang Mai. We were recently there for a month, so let us know if you have any questions – food or otherwise.

  10. Hi Daryl and Mindi,

    Thanks for sharing. These pictures are great. It seems like you enjoyed a lot. I love noodles so I also enjoyed seeing your journey in bangkok. How much did you pay for the noodles?

  11. Hi Daryl,

    Thanks for sharing. Love the food here. It seems like you two enjoyed. What type of noodles were used for the ramen like dish?

  12. In December we visited Thailand for the first time. Chiang Mai was by far one of our favourite stop-offs and after spending close to a week there can honestly say that we had some of the best food of our trip in the city. There is so much choice that it is difficult to know where to start however, we stumbled across a fantastic little place just outside the walls close to where we were staying at the Thannatee Boutique that we would recommend time and time again. If you ever go back to Chiang Mai head down Ragang Road and you will come across two stalls opposite one another, head to the larger of the two an sample the food there. It has no name but was packed every night with locals making it cheap and also shows all international football games – a big bonus if you have a husband like mine who is a bit of a fanatic.

    1. Author

      This stall sounds right up our alley! We’re thinking of spending more time in Chiang Mai later this year and will definitely check it out.

  13. The picture under Khanom Krok seems to be fried quail eggs (another popular Thai street food), not coconut pancakes. ?

    1. Author

      When we saw these at the night market, we though they were savory. However, it turns out that they were the sweet treat known in Chiang Mai as Khanom Krok.

  14. Great post, thanks for sharing your discoveries, for sure I’ll try some of those places in my next trip

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