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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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
Also for sale: Nam Pla Raa, used in hard-core isarn food!
Som Tam lady in the back
The pork udder thingy.. :)
Map Location
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.

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