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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Sunday, 13-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
The Chiang Mai Vegetarian Center

Chiang Mai Vegetarian Center
Self service these days, but pay the granny at the cashier desk
Spent a solid 2 minutes making that decorative arrangement
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The Vegetarian Center on Mahidol road has recently changed it's format from a coupon-based food-center style system to a semi-buffet style, where you can pile dishes on to your plate yourself, but then go to pay the cashier for everything individually. So it's not a buffet in the 'all you can eat for a fixed price' sense. That said, prices are seriously cheap. Two vegetable or curry type dishes over brown rice go for 10 baht. And because you serve yourself, portions can be rather generous depending how hungry or modest you are.

The Vegetarian Center has been in operation for a very long time, and is also firmly on the tourist/traveler map, it's in the Lonely Planet guide as well as some tourist maps of the city. I think the food is not quite as good as at some of the Chinese-Buddhist oriented vegetarian places like Mata Restaurant (See link). It's a bit hit & miss really. Also this place feels far more like an 'alternative' health-food kind of place. There's a small shop as well that sells things like buckwheat, lentils & lotus seeds and all the other things them macrobiotic yoghurt weaving health-nuts eat. I really love Thai 'Jay' vegetarian food but at times this place reminds me a bit of the vegetarian fare a rather radically 'green' auntie of mine used to make.. No arguments about how healthy it is though..

But I still want to mention this place, the thing that swung the balance back in favour were the very nice fried spring-rolls you see on the 4th photo here. They go for 6 baht (11 for baht for two), and you can take them home in a totally environmentally sound & sustainable 'hot dog tray' made out of banana leaves.. Just needs some ketchup and onions.

Saturday, 12-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Lemon Tree Restaurant

Lemon Tree Restaurant
Bright yellow all around
Yam Phak Tamlueng, a hot-sour Thai 'salad' with tamlueng leaves
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Here's a long running little gem of a Thai restaurant: Lemon Tree on Huay Kaew road near Central Department store. It's fairly small, being a typical shop-house with tables set up both on the ground floor as well as upstairs. It's airconditioned and everything is painted very bright yellow. The menu is big and very varied, there are some wonderful dishes there to try out. Prices are moderate, most dishes cost around 60 baht.

Lemon Tree actually have a secon branch that's very well hidden inside the International Center building of Chiang Mai University. (Not inside CMU but in pretty much the last soi of Nimmanhaemin Road on the left, so closest to Suthep Road. This is the soi that gets closed half way down at nighttime.) Still the Huay Kaew branch is probably the better choice, it just feels a bit brighter and more popular. Service is good and very fast.

It's on Huay Kaew road, close to Central but on the opposite side of the road, close to the U-turn in front of the Shell gas station. Parking a car can be a bit of an issue there, either park in the soi where the Suki restaurant is, or park at the "12 Huay Kaew" (Sipsong Huay Kaew) entertainment mall. Parking there is not free, but with the parking ticket you can get the full amount deducted from your bill at Lemon Tree.

Friday, 11-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Fruit Shake

Phrae Ice Cream, Dessert & Fruit Shakes
Fruit shakes at 10 baht for a big glass or plastic bag full!
"Fai" food market inside CMU
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Not many road-side food stalls can be described as 'cute', but check this one out! It sells ice cream, Thai desserts of the type I reviewed further below, and fruit shakes. Let's dwell on fruit shakes a little more. It seems that even in recent issues of the eternally popular Nancy Chandler's map of Chiang Mai, (you know, the one coloured like Nancy was on a pretty wild LSD induced hallucination), Daret's Guesthouse at Thapae Gate is still touted as a great place for great fruit shakes. (nancy's map) Daret of course is a great place for watching Songkran, with 'acceptable' fruit shakes but with a rather limited choice of fruits.

Just about any road-side fruit shake stall has a wider variety and gives you more shake for less baht. Many of the nighttime food stall areas have such a fruit shake cart, Chang Phuak, Hai Ya Gate, and this one on Suthep Road, South of Chiang Mai University. Visually this one wins hands down, kind of like something out of a Dr. Seuss book (or Nancy Chandler card) And variety is much better, with more kinds of fruit and vegetables. You can ask for any combination of fruits as well. In terms of quantity & taste, the fruit shake outlet at the 'Fai' evening food market inside Chiang Mai university also deserves a right honourable mention. I include an otherwise unrelated picture from Fai as well, mostly for its aesthetic value.

One thing though about ordering any kind of fruit juice or fruit shake in Thailand, especially lemon/lime juice and orange juice: Specify not to add any salt!! This may sound like it goes without saying, like who would mix fruit and salt... Simple answer: Thais would! Especially for sour fruits, and pineapple already qualifies as soury, a little pinch of salt is added to reduce sourness. Typically most Westerners don't like this. I forgot about this yesterday but fortunately the fruit shake girl was assertive and experienced enough to ask if I’d care for some salt in my shake.. Not bloody likely.

This stall looks pretty mobile, but for the time being it's open nightly on Suthep road on the stretch between the Canal Road intersection and Doi Suthep mountain, so the area near the back entrance to Chiang Mai university. 10 years ago or so this was already a bustling food market area, but then all the stalls were cleared in favor of orderly looking sidewalks.. Now many have returned, and it's again a very interesting area to go hunt for food!

Thursday, 10-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Cheapo Dim Sum

Toey Dim Sum
Lots to choose from
55 baht for the lot. The crab-shell thingies looked interesting
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Dim Sum is one of those things that often come at a premium price, especially in Chinese restaurants or at 'Dim Sum Lunch Buffets' at hotel restaurants. Just recently I read an ad in a local Thai newspaper about the 199 baht dim sum lunch at the Empress Hotel.. May give that a try sometime, as I'm still looking for 'really good' dim sum. I only found out how good dim sum can really be when I went to Hong Kong, and sadly I've never found anything in Thailand that gets close. Very close indeed got the up-market Chinese Suki restaurant that I reviewed here, though the owner told me he will open a dedicated dim sum place at the Airport Plaza mall and stop selling a big variety at the main restaurant. That one is on my list as well.

Until that time, let's settle for 'pretty ok' dim sum but then 'really cheap'. This can be found at this shop, 'Toey Dim Sum' (no English sign) on Kamphaeng Din road. The basic stuff like 'khanom jeeb' dumplings goes for 10 baht, the rest for 15. The bill for what you see pictured above came to 55 baht. The setting is of course rather basic, with a small shophouse restaurant area inside, and a wood & thatch road-side area outside. I think it's open late, so a nice stop on the way home after a late night out. Another place that's good for a late night meal that (also) has dim sum would be Aong Thipparot noodle shop on Phrapokklao Road, just South of Chang Phuak Gate opposite the Shell gas station. This is a very popular place for noodles in the evening and late at night.

Toey Dim Sum is on Kamphaeng Din road, the stretch SOUTH of the intersection with Sridonchai road. You will find it on the left side of the road.

Wednesday, 9-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Indian Food / Galare Food Center

Naina Indian food at Galare Food Center
Tandoor for baking nan breads on the spot
Dal curry, spinach & chicken massala
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I'm receiving quite a bit of positive feedback on these pages, however one point that has been made a couple of times was that many of the places are so far away, and/or hard to find for someone who's only visiting Chiang Mai. To help locating these places I now including little map-location images with (almost) every entry. And I can of course just review some more places that are closer to the tourist trail.. I used to almost consciously avoid reviewing those, as I figured that most people stumble upon these places all by themselves, and the most 'authentic' and 'best value for money' kind of places tend to be a bit outside of the tourist center.

Yet many places on the tourist trail are definitely worth mentioning, and I've started to add these with places like Mango Tree, Jerusalem Falafel, Upper Crust Cafe and so on. Especially for international food, many of the best places are of course located in touristed areas.

And it doesn't get more touristed than this: The Galare Food Center at the Night Bazar! Like the more common food centers in department stores, this is a collection of separate food outlets that uses a coupon system to let you buy dishes from as many outlets as you like. See this review of the Carrefour Food Center for an example. Galare offers something extra though in the high season, which is a free show of traditional Thai and Lanna dance performances on a stage near the open-air eating area. This makes it a fun thing to do for dinner, you get a lot of variety and it doesn't break the bank.

One outlet in particular deserves a special mention because the type of food it serves is so hard to find elsewhere in Chiang Mai: Cheap Indian Cuisine. There are several Indian restaurants in town, most of them also in the general Night Bazar area, but most of them are rather up-market ‘white tablecloth’ proper restaurants, a la The Whole Earth. I have a friend who is a very recent immigrant from India, and apparently none of it tastes like home. So might as well pick one that’s the most affordable and informal, which I think is this one called ‘Naina Indian Food’. The menu is actually pretty large, and they also make their own nan breads in a clay oven right there at the counter. Prices are very friendly, with many of the simpler curries going for 30-40 baht, up to 70-80 baht for some of the meat dishes. There’s a vegetarian-only section as well. For vegetarian Indian food another place that I could mention would be the Sikh-Indian deep into Moon Muang Soi 9. I include a couple of pictures of that place too, though I think the Night Bazar is tastier, faster and has a much bigger menu.

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