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Chiang Mai food: 5 dishes every visitor needs to try

When it comes to Thai food most people are familiar with popular ones like Pad Thai, Tom Kha Gai, and green curry.

But, Chiang Mai is home to a different type of Thai food called Lanna cuisine. Lanna comes from the ancient kingdom that once ruled here. With influence ranging from Myanmar to Laos, Lanna contains unique characteristics that are not found in the southern regions of Thailand.


Though Chiang Mai is most famous for its stunning ancient temples, striking mountain backdrops, and the tribal villages that call it home, it has made quite a name for itself in the culinary world. It's where visitors can realize their foodie dreams in the city's small yet robust cultural hotpots.

Exploring Chiang Mai with your palate is an absolute must. The following 5 dishes are the ones you absolutely should not leave without sampling.

1. Khao Soi

Khao Soi is an exotically-flavored creamy soup with a chicken stock base, thickened with coconut milk. With both dried and fresh chilis, coriander seeds, anise, and turmeric, this sumptuous broth is poured over egg noodles. It typically features either chicken or beef and is one of the most renowned dishes in all of Chiang Mai. Some versions you’ll find may even come with roasted pork, but if you’re not a meat-eater, you’ll also be able to find some meatless versions to pleasure your palate.

Khao Soi Khun Yai
One of the best places to get Chiang Mai's epic dish. You’ll find it tucked between two temples in a courtyard next to the moat. Try both the beef and chicken versions, each a little over $1 per bowl. Get details in FindJones
2. Som Tum

Som Tum will make you want to eat salad every day. It’s a raw salad made with shredded unripe papaya and other ingredients. Many places and home cooks have their own versions though you’ll usually find the papaya mixed with slices of tomatoes, peanuts, dried mini shrimp, fresh garlic, and raw yardlong beans(also known as asparagus beans). The sweet, tangy, yet salty sauce of lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar adds the perfect finishing touch. You can eat Som Tum purely on its own, though it is best enjoyed with sticky rice balled up with a scoop of this salad inside it.

Toy Roszab
The only Chiang Mai food stall featured in Urban Adventure's Street Food Awards. For 20 years, Toy has run her small restaurant with pride. It’s a welcoming place for locals and visitors alike. Get details in FindJones
3. Khao Kha Moo

Influenced by Chinese cooking methods and elevated by Thai seasonings and herbs, Khao Kha Moo, a Thai-style braised pork leg over rice, is one of the best foods you’ll have in Chiang Mai. The pork leg is braised until the meat falls off for a melt-in-your-mouth experience. It is served with a Thai chili sauce that adds a zingy tang with a bit of spice for the ultimate complement in flavors.

Khao Kha Moo Prai Sa Nee
If things are too busy at the North Gate Cowgirl stall, you can always trot the south side of old town to this local gem. It’s a quieter spot in front of the Phra Sing post office with equally as amazing Khao Kha Moo. Get details in FindJones
4. Kai Yang

Sometimes spelled Gai Yang, you’ll find this grilled chicken dish to be spectacular. There are two types – one with bones, and one sans bones. It’s all a matter of your preference. This grilled chicken is served with dipping sauce, which will vary from place to place. The chicken is marinated before grilling and often has a mild yet sweet and tangy taste.

Cherng Doi
The best for the boneless version of Kai Yang. It’s very juicy and cooked right on the grill for an intense smoky flavor. Inside, it’s juicy while outside, the skin is crispy and beautifully flavorful. The tamarind dipping sauce they serve it with is out of this world. Get details in FindJones
5. Khanom Krok

Satisfy your sweet tooth with Khanom Krok. These sweet dumplings will have your heart. Traditionally, they are made with rice flour and coconut milk. They’re filled with things like pumpkin or sweet corn and then cooked in a pan that resembles a waffle iron. If you’re craving dessert, you’ll have to grab some of these.

Sum Meut Market
Also known as the Hiding in the Dark Market, this market probably has the best Khanom Krok of all. Just outside the Tops grocery store, it’s open three nights per week. Get details in FindJones

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