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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Saturday, 20-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Chinese-Thai shophouse.. stuck in time / Wikulpanich Salapao

Wikul Phanich Salapao Shop. Lottery ticket seller in front
Not much has changed since I first came here in 1947
Salapao bun and Khanom Jeeb
View all 6 photos...
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty definite that this is the best place for Salapao, the Chinese steamed buns with either a savoury pork filling or a sweet bean-paste filling. You often find these sold by vendors on a motorcycle with sidecar. None are as tasty as the ones from this shop. Also the dim-sum-like "khanom jeeb" are pretty good. Just look at the pictures, this place seems stuck in a time-warp.

Tip for eating salapao: They're usually stuck to a piece of paper on the bottom. They taste a lot better if you remember to remove it first.

The shop is called "Wikulpanich" (Wikoon-phanit, locally just called 'Raan Wikoon'). It's on Charoen Muang road, a road with mostly shophouses selling mechanical/industrial supplies and tools, as well as car accessories shops. After crossing Nawarat bridge coming from Thapae Road, go straight on to Charoen Muang and you will find this shophouse on the right hand side. The sign is in Thai only.

Friday, 19-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Love at First Bite

Love at First Bite
Lovely service
Cakes & pies
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Thailand is pretty much the last place to go for cakes and pastry of any kind. If you ever joined a Thai birthday party you will likely remember the margarine-like paste that passes for whipped cream more than anything else. At the more fun & rowdy birthday parties this paste is then used to smear on other peoples faces, indeed a better use for it.

Fortunately, all this is changing. Little cake & coffee shops are mushrooming all over the place, and are becoming very popular among the young and middle class, as well as foreign visitors of course. One of the nicer of these places is Love at First Bite. Their motto is: "To be happy for an evening, get drunk. To be happy for a week, get married. To be happy for life, visit Love at First Bite."

They do a good variety of cakes and pies. You can get takeaway, or eat in the very clean and bright airconditioned garden house or in the garden itself. This nice setting for an afternoon tea makes it one of the better places in my opinion. The cakes at the Sheraton Hotel bakery probably have the edge, but this place wins hands down on atmosphere and cheerful service.

If you're ordering for a birthday party then you probably want to order a whole cake in advance. Or you can get it by the slice, most cakes go for 50-60 baht. The place is on the Old Chiang Mai - Lamphun road soi 1. When crossing the Nawarat bridge coming from Thapae Road, turn right onto the Chiang Mai - Lamphun road, then it's the first soi on the left, before you get to the Chiang Mai TAT office.

Thursday, 18-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Ban Som Tam

Ban Som Tam
Som Tam & Sai Ua

Update 2 March 07: Place is closed. Good riddance.

Update 16 May 04: I no longer recommend this place. Reason is that fairly recently they now use a separate English menu and Thai menu, and... the prices on the English menu are 25-50% higher for every dish, even the drinking water!! This practise is not very common at all in Chiang Mai, I don't think I can think of any other restaurant in Chiang Mai that uses blatant double pricing. (I've seen some cases in tourist beach resorts) Many restaurants offer English menus of course, but I personally always also get the Thai version mostly because it tends to be more accurate and is sometimes more extensive than the English menu. Up to now I never found any discrepancy in pricing.. until today at Ban Som Tam. In my intro at the start of these food reviews I write there will be no "typical food-critic sour slagging off of places I didn't enjoy (unless they really deserve it)", well, this place found a way to really deserve it! Even after pointing out that one of their dishes was just 35 baht in their Thai menu, they went and corrected the charge but still left the double charge on the drinking water.. Amounts involved are not so that they're going to make me any poorer, but charging double for drinking water is just sad, and let's leave it at that, and the hope that karma and the wrath of the Gods of Som Tam will catch up with them and may they be pounded in Satan's mortar for eternity! With extra chillies and pla ra please!! I leave the original review in place below:

Make no mistake, "Ban Som Tam", the place I review today, is by no means a candidate for any title of 'best som tam' in Chiang Mai. It's worth mentioning because of the more up-scale setting. Som tam is typically sold by vendors from some food stall or tiny little shop for 15-25 baht. Thai friends refer to Ban Som Tam as 'Som Tam High-So'... "Upper class som tam"! Indeed it's pricey for som tam, but given the nice setting and larger menu this may be justified. Som tam sells for 40 baht, and most other dishes are also in the 40-50 baht range. What I didn't like is the common trick of giving you your own bottle of water AND bucket of ice for which they charge 15 and 10 baht respectively. Won't break the bank of course, yet I like places more that just serve free water without fuss. I ordered a pretty baby-vanilla-style som tam: "Tam Thai" = "(Central) Thai Style", so sweet-sour and with just 3 chillies thrown into the mix. Can't judge a place on that alone of course, but I have the feeling that if you bring an Isarn person here he/she will not be impressed. One thing I can recommend is their version of Sai Ua, the Northern sausage. They do a nice variety with some herbs in it you normally don't find in this dish. (See picture)

The place is in a soi off Kamphaeng Din road. Coming from Thapae Road and walking on Kamphaeng Din past the AIS / Shinawatra building, it's the first soi on the right.

So the quest for the ultimate som tam continues.. Might as well go looking for the holy grail, as there seem to be as many preferred styles of som tam as there are people. Yet it would be a worthy cause: "The Quest for the Holy Khrok" (=mortar) so to say..

Wednesday, 17-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Khao Larm

Mengrai Khao Larm
Three different kinds of varying fillings/sweetness
Peel open the bamboo to reveal the rice snack..
View all 4 photos...
Today not an actual restaurant but more of an outlet for a famous Northern snack that's also often brought back by Bangkok people after travelling to Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai. I'm talking about Kho Larm: rice cooked inside a bamboo stick. Khao Larm may vary in sweetness, mostly it's sweet, but not overly so. Coconut milk and some type of bean is often added, and you can get Khao Larm from various kinds of rice, including the dark reddish 'black rice'. You often see stalls selling Khao Larm along major highways in the North. None of those are as good or even as cheap as the Khao Larm from this outlet opposite the Sheraton Hotel (formely Westin Hotel). It's just across the bridge over the Ping river on the left side of the road, so opposite the Sheraton. Varrious kinds go for 10, 12 or 15 baht per 'stick'. Try it! Note that this place also sells the paper hot air balloons (khom loi) that are released in great numbers around the Loi Krathong festival. This place sells them throughout the year, not just a few weeks before Loi Krathong.

Tuesday, 16-Mar-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Muslim / Halal Food

Suthasinee Restaurant
Menu on the wall
Khao Mok Kai (Chicken Biryani Rice)
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There's a sizable community of Muslim people in Chiang Mai mostly around the Chang Klan area. Also many small Muslim eateries in that area, which are a nice change from regular Thai lunch fare. None of these restaurants are particulary fancy. This one I review today stands out because it combines so many different types of food in one place. They do khao soi (noodles in curry soup), chicken and mutton(!) biryani, 'honey grilled duck' dishes, some curries over rice, and chicken and beef sateh skewers to name a few. Also on the off-chance that you ever went looking for goat-milk in Chiang Mai: they have that too. Most dishes go for 20-25-30 baht, with the mutton biryani (khao mok phae, see picture) going for 50 baht. The restaurant is called Suthasinee; it's a nice friendly place, on Chang Klan road (Night Bazar road), but well South of the Night bazar on the left side before you get to Chiang Mai Land.

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