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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Friday, 9-Apr-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
3 Baht Noodle (Kuaytiow 3 Baht)

Restaurant is at the end of this little soi. Note the signs.
When she was young, ALL kuaytiow was 3 baht!
3 Baht noodle + 10 baht Khao Soi + free ice water
View all 5 photos...
If you've read some of my reviews of Thai food before on this page then you may have noticed that I have a weak spot for inexpensive places. Indeed in Thailand there often seems to be no relation between the quality & tastiness of the food and the price. Price relates more directly with 'ambience' than with the actual food served; like a restaurant that is in a prime riverside location, features live music, air-conditioning, plenty of waitresses, a large menu, table cloths and so on will be priced higher than a small road-side food stall or mom & pop restaurant with plastic plates and forks and spoons so thin they bend out of shape by merely looking at them. Really, anyone can be a Uri Geller at these places! Kidding aside, the actual food at these cheaper places may very well be as good or even better than at the posh pub-restaurants.

No such claims about 'the best' for this place today, but MAN is it cheap! "Kuaytiow Saam Baht" (Three Baht Noodle) restaurant does exactly what the name suggests: Sell noodle soup at prices from Grandmother's era. Admitted, the portions are seriously small, but then again sometimes you don't want to eat all that much food, and it's excellent when you're on a diet. Or you can add some variety and add more servings or dishes, as they also do Khao Soi (Yellow noodles in a curry soup). What a difference the size of this Khao Soi bowl is with the shop that I think does the best in Chiang Mai, see: Khao Soi Techno College (Mae Jam Paa)).

Anyway, when you're paying a grand total of 13 baht for lunch, then who's complaining. This shop, 'Kuaytiow Saam Baht' is on Doi Saket Kao road, that's the road that runs North of, and more or less parallel to Kaew Nawarat road. If you come from Rattanakosin Bridge then you will find the shop on your left hand side. Or when coming from near the Arcade Bus terminal and doing a right-left at the first traffic lights on to Doi Saket Kao road then it's on the right side of course.

Thursday, 8-Apr-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Ancient Ice Coffee

Old style coffee shop
Note the cotton filters that are used for making strong coffee
Poor strong coffee in a bag with ice, add sweet condensed milk
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I was planning on showing Southern Thai food today, but still no luck finding a place that's really exceptional in that area in Chiang Mai.. Stay tuned for that one. So instead let me opt for the best Ice Coffee in Chiang Mai.

Most of the time when you order coffee in Thailand you will be served Nescafe instant coffee, with some Coffeemate creamer. This is changing now with more and more 'real' coffee & cake boutique shops opening up. But Thailand has always had places selling real coffee, often very strong and sweet. This is called 'Kafae Thung' (coffee from a bag) or 'Kafae Boran' ('ancient' coffee, or old style coffee). The bag here is a cotton re-usable filter that's used to make filtered coffee.

It's less sophisticated than the new air-conditioned Starbucks copy-cat shops, but definitely worth trying, and also quite inexpensive at 5-10 baht for a cup or glass of hot or iced coffee. Thais do like it sweet though!!

Old style filter coffee can be found in many places, often near markets or food markets. This place is located outside a curry & rice restaurant on Charoen Muang road, on the right side before you get to the railway station. It's just after a Shell Gas station. You can order take-away in a bag with ice and a straw..

Wednesday, 7-Apr-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Kaen Chai Isarn food & the Quest for the best Som Tam

Kaen Chai North Eastern Thai food
Basic but functional semi-outdoors interior
This place does one of the best Som Tam in Chiang Mai
View all 7 photos...
Here's one of the best places for Isarn (North Eastern Thai) Food, including a very good Som Tam green papaya salad, perhaps the most famous and also most common of Isarn food. Som Tam is a traditional North Eastern (and Northern) spicy salad made with green papaya. It can be more or less on the sour side, sweet-sour side or salty side, but almost always seriously spicy. Thais, especially those from the North East, can be very picky about their som tam. Many people from the North Eastern (Isarn) region of the country complain about the som tam in Chiang Mai.. they have a seriously hard time finding a vendor that can make it the way they prefer. A very reliable way of spoiling a North Easterner's day would be to feed him/her bland sweetish baby-som tam.. stirred, not pounded.. Som tam can be completely fine-tuned according to taste, even the average Westerner's taste, however it takes considerable skill to be able to prepare just right according to the customer's particular preference.

Kaen Chai here is definitely in contention for the title of best som tam.. But the place does far more than just som tam, it has a large variety of North Eastern dishes, including many curries and 'larb isarn' of course. And it has some, erm, more interesting things on the menu. Isarn food is always a good bet for the culinary adventurous, and Kaen Chai did not disappoint me today.

In fact it was a bit embarrassing even. The guy at the restaurant excitedly told me that today they had 'nom moo' on the menu. Pig milk? I wondered.. So.. how is this used/prepared then? Even after he explained it I couldn't quite picture it, but then again, at 30 baht, and aspiring to be culinary adventurous, and for the benefit of the kind readership on this page here I said "oh well, if one doesn't try it, one never knows." And consequently I fell into the nom/nom milk/breast trap, hook, line and sinker. As you may know, 'nom' in Thai means both milk as well as breast (of a woman or other female mammal). Nom moo in this case turned out to be pig udder! Cool. 10 years in Thailand and I STILL managed to fall into one of the oldest cases of Thai-English language confusion there is! Needless to say it tasted perfectly nice. I doubt people would have guessed what it was unless I told them.

Anyway, I can recommend this place for nice North Eastern food. Most dishes are priced between 30 and 60 baht. Kaen Chai is located opposite of the Siam TV / Electronic plaza building on Singharaj Road. To get there you could for example drive along the moat on Sri Phoom road going West, passing Chang Phuak gate and then Singharaj Road is the first proper road on the left. Turn into it, and just 100m further you find Siam TV on the right and this restaurant on the left.

Tuesday, 6-Apr-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark

Start out with a small ball of dough and spread it out
Flip it around pizza bakers style
Straight on to a hot plate for frying
View all 6 photos...
Here's one of the all time street-food favorites: Roti 'pancakes'. It's one of those things you will ONLY find on the street, and never in any 'proper' restaurants.

Roti pancakes in one form or another are found all over South and South East Asia. I'm not sure where they originate, but it could very well be an Indian thing. (comments/suggestions welcome on this one). While roti in many countries are a savory bread/pancake eaten with spicy curries, the roti you find on street food stalls in Thailand are pretty much always the sweet variety: pancakes with sweet condensed milk-syrup, sometimes with egg and/or banana added. They're not really pancakes, the dough is formed into a very thin round shape, pretty much like Italian pizza. The dough is then fried on a hot plate until it's done and nice and a bit crispy. I've tried to capture this on 'film', using only my phone-camera so the picture quality is just a wee bit short of National Geographic standards.. : It does show the process though.

Plain roti's are typically sold for 5 baht, and up to 10 or 15 baht when adding egg and banana. Believe it or not, but I didn't eat roti for quite some time because I considered 5 baht to be overpriced... 0) Yes, really. This because I used to spend some time in Sukhothai, and there at the bridge over the Yom river was a truly excellent roti stall, run by a very nice lady who sold plain roti with sweet condensed milk for just 2 baht.. Then when going to Chiang Mai I found them at 5 or even an extortionate 7 baht and consequently considered this was WAY overpriced.. Fortunately for me I'm over this now. Anyway, while in Sukhothai I became one of this Roti lady's best customers, and she even let me try to make roti myself at her stall, flipping the dough around to spread it out and create a thin pancake. Almost needless to say, I sucked at it. People, making roti is seriously difficult! Better to invest the 5 baht I'd say.

Location: Roti sellers are mostly of the nomadic kind, so I can't really give one fixed location to find this one, or even any one roti seller in the city area. So you will have to locate one yourself.

Monday, 5-Apr-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Pop Am Restaurant

Pop-Am Restaurant
Airconditioned interior.. popular for lunch and dinner
Khao Ob Saparot, baked rice w. yellow curry powder and pineapple
View all 7 photos...
With the hot season now seriously making itself felt, airconditioned restaurants make more sense these months than ever. A long running and cheap & cheerful place is Pop-Am restaurant. It's like a restaurant cum ice cream parlor, however the food menu is very extensive and the food is excellent and inexpensive. Almost any dish on the menu is between 40 and 60 baht, the simpler 'over rice' or fried noodle dishes cheaper at around 30 baht.

Service is pretty fast too, and did I mention the place is air-conditioned? One of the dishes I like here (because I don't see it often elsewhere) is Khao Ob Mor Din: Rice baked in a clay pot with ham, mushrooms, raisins and so on. Also nice: Khao Ob Sapparot: Baked rice with yellow curry powder, pineapple, ham, raisins, peas, etc. These are simple dishes of course, but also 'proper' Thai cuisine they do very well, including Tom Yam with very big prawns and dishes that feature a whole fish. There is some Western (or Western-esque) food on the menu as well, like breakfast, hamburger and french fries. There's an ice cream and fruit shake / milk shake menu as well, but I think the ice-cream options are not quite on the same level as the food. A large part of that is that they use the margarine-like paste that so often passes for whipped cream in these regions.. I guess I'm nitpicking, especially at these prices.

Pop-Am restaurant is on Prapokklao Road, inside the old-city area close to Chang Phuak gate opposite the Shell gas station.

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