Chanchao's Chiang Mai Food Review
Reviews of restaurants and Thai food stalls in Chiang Mai, Thailand
By: Chanchao in Chiang Mai

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Tuesday, 30-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
The Mother of All Thai Buffets, all you can eat at 30 Baht!

Phitsanuloke "30 Baht" Buffet
Loads and loads of trays to choose from
Food is as good or better than many hotel buffets..
View all 9 photos...
Today even I was surprised. A lot of the places I post on here are re-visits of places that I liked initially, but then didn't visit for a couple of months because they happen to be located half way to Burma. Buffet Phitsanuloke is such a place. It was located near the provincial government offices on the Middle Ring highway, close to the new jail at the intersection with the Mae Rim road. It was packed every day at lunchtime, and for a reason: an incredible variety of pretty much every kind of Thai food, all you can eat for 30 baht. Even drinking water and desert thrown into the price.

But let me rant a little bit about shops selling pre-prepared food in general, often called curry & rice shops. You often see these in small shophouses, where you can point to various dishes in trays and order it over-rice. Often these trays have been around for a while, and no attempt is made to keep food warm. Fair enough, however almost invariably these places charge every bit as much as the 'made to order' (taam sang) food stalls and restaurants, where food is prepared for you while you wait and is of course always hot and fresh. One of the great mysteries of Thai food.. You can find made to order for 15 baht, but your average curry over rice that has been there perhaps for more than a day comes at 20 or 25 baht. [End of rant]

Enter Thai buffet-food style places. These used to be the domain of bigger hotels, that threw breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets where mostly also non-guests can come and eat. Prices are often between 100 and 200 baht per person. But then Phitsanuloke Buffet started.. and charged just 30 baht.. Pretty much the price of a single serving of two dishes over rice plus a bottle of water at all the small rice & curry shops. It became hugely popular, and apparently the business model worked: They moved to a MUCH bigger place!

The new place is still on the Middle Ring Highway, but now in between the Ping River bridge and the Mae Jo Road. If you come from the Mae Jo road, it's on the left hand side before you get to river.

And what a place it is! It's HUGE. And it's STILL full with people! Variety is as good as ever, not just standard Thai favorites but also tables with salad, chilly dip & som tam, khao soi, khanom jeen, sweet deserts, several kinds of fried rice and phad Thai. Just look at the pictures, it's amazing. (9 pictures today, be sure to view all of them.). This is about the greatest intro to Thai food on the planet, and at less than one US dollar!

Monday, 29-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
It's a wrap: Springrolls, Vietnamese Style

Fresh Spring Roll Food stall
Preparing spring rolls to-go.
Comes with chopsticks, chillies and sauce
View all 4 photos...
Spring rolls come in two basic varieties: the crispy fried one and the 'fresh' one. The latter you usually find in Vietnamese restaurants. And also at this particular roadside food stall which does the dish really well, giving 'proper' Vietnamese restaurants a real run for their money!

Fried spring rolls in Thai are called "po pia thod", the cold variety "po pia sod" (sod=fresh). This turns it into a kind of sandwich-roll / sandwich-wrap with all kinds of ingredients. This stall does a particularly nice variety, using a pancake/burrito like wrap with crab meat on top. Really delicious! They go for 20 baht for two or 30 baht for three, and come with a sweet sauce and disposable chopsticks..

Location: Finally something in a touristy area of town! On Charoen Prathet road, on the left side before you get to the Porn Ping Tower Hotel and Diamond Riverside hotel. This one is on the left side of the road when going in the direction of the one-way traffic, in front of a noodle restaurant.

Looking at the first picture only now do I notice the bottle of French's Mustard on the cart...! Would people actually order fresh spring rolls with mustard?! It's a highly touristed area so it wouldn't really surprise me.. And it could be worse of course.. could have been tomato ketchup..

Sunday, 28-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Phuket Laikhram

Phuket Laikhram Restaurant
Southern style khanom jeen and yellow curry over rice
View all 5 photos...
A couple of days ago I talked about Khanom Jeen, the cold, white spaghetti-like noodles that are popular in pretty much all regions of Thailand, but then with their own particular style of sauces to go with it. Without a doubt this place does the Southern style best, like you find in Phuket and Trang provinces. I also have a feeling that this style would be most favored by Westerners, with a touch of coconut in a curry sauce.

The restaurant is a standard shop house and has been in operation at this location for as long as I can remember. Also the upstairs area has restaurant tables. Phuket Laikhram actually do more than a few dishes really good, including their Phad Thai and Khaa Moo - Khai Phalo combo. (pork meat stew and eggs with Chinese herbs). Also they do Southern curries over rice. Southern curries are usually seriously spicy, but I think Phuket Laikhram is probably among the milder ones. By Southern food standards that is. We tried the yellow curry over rice which is quite nice, made with fish and sweet-sour pickled bamboo shoots; thought it was pineapple at first. (Don't confuse this Southern yellow curry with Kaeng Karee, the milder Indian chicken curry.) Ordered this 'over rice' with some Moo Wan (sweet pork). With Southern food it's usually a good bet to order a mild, slightly fatty and/or sweet dish along with any curries to help fight the heat.

Phuket Laikhram actually is mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide, one of the very few 'places to eat' they list that I too agree are very good. And for Southern style Khanom Jeen, it's the best without a doubt. In Chiang Mai of course I should add, or I will be getting upset e-mails form Trang. 0)

The restaurant is located on Suthep Road near the back-entrance to Chiang Mai University. When driving on Suthep road, go straight at the intersection with the Canal Road and you will find it on the left hand side, just before you get to the first accessible CMU gate (Pratu Kaset I believe it's called).
Prices are a tad higher than usual, with the khanom jeen, which is a small portion by any standard, at a whopping 20 baht and also other 'over rice' dishes going for 30 baht. But then again, even this would be in line with the price level in Phuket.

Saturday, 27-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Spring rolls meet Dim Sum: Tube Noodles (Kuaytiow Lod)

Kuaytiow Lod Vendor
Also steamed Khanom Jeeb on offer
Take-away in a styrofoam box.. Sauce & chopsticks included!
View all 4 photos...
I'm getting ahead of myself.. The challenge was to try a different place every single day of the year but I'm currently running nearly two a day. This is the entry for Saturday 27th, but am writing this today on Wednesday 23rd and already have the pictures for Sunday and Monday.. Soon the year will run out of days before all the restaurants and food stalls do! 0)

Today's entry is a bit of a first because I actually never had this particular food before. I only stumbled upon it while waiting for the huge crowd at the nearby noodles restaurant (see below) to subside. And I have a weak spot for market women wearing this traditional Thai straw hat.. At first I thought she was selling Vietnamese style cold spring-roles, but they turned out to be something different, very tasty and vegetarian to boot: Tube Noodles (Kuaytiow Lod). These are steamed rolls of wide noodle wrapped around a filling that includes various vegetables, bean sprouts and tofu. Comes take-away in a styrofoam box with two different sauces, a sweet one and a soury one, similar to the sauce served with dim sum. The whole dish is of course more or less a variety on the dim-sum theme, but cheaper and a lot more filling..

Location of this particular stall was near the Three Kings Monument, where there are many food stalls and small restaurants operating around lunch time.

Friday, 26-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Noodle shop.. Good business? / Yentafo Sa-Aad

Yentafo Sa-Aad Restaurant. At lunchtime it's this busy every day
F A S T food indeed
Clean, fast, efficient, consistent. Definition of fast food.
View all 5 photos...
You may be surprised at just how much money noodle shop owners are making. Some small stalls may be struggling and working long hours to make ends meet, but there are also shops, usually quite ordinary looking, who's owners afford the biggest Mercedes Benz's and who can send their kids to top foreign universities. The noodle shops near the Three Kings Monument are in the latter category. Years ago the local government offices were located in this area, which provided guaranteed lunch-time business. These have since moved to the outskirts of town on the Mae Rim road, but the noodle shops remained, and are popular as ever. I got there about 12:15pm yesterday, and almost all restaurants were completely full, apparently even with people waiting for a table to vacate. Keep in mind this is not for some gourmet food, but the most basic of lunch dishes: Noodle soup. It's worth visiting these places if only to watch the lightning speed at which the staff prepare and serve food. This is not fast food, this is hyperspeed express-food. Even with a near full restaurant it took them less time to serve my order than it took me to shoot some pictures of them making it! Whoever thought of Thai workers as slow and lazy hasn't seen these people at work.

The place pictured today is Raan Sa-Aad ("Clean Shop") often called Yentafo Sa-Aad after their most popular noodle variety: Yentafo which is made with plenty of different kinds of meat and fish-balls and with red/pink sauce, giving the dish it's characteristic pink color. It's next to the Three Kings Monument area, on a stretch of road that has many food shops and food stalls. Can't miss it.

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