Chiang Mai’s Street Food Scene

Asia has the best street food in the world. Thailand has the best street food in Asia. Chiang Mai has the best street food in Thailand. SO INDULGE YOURSELF!

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Aside from its friendly people and varied wildlife, food remains one of top attractions in Chiang Mai. Everything you could ever want is here, from sticky rice to delicious herb sausages, and from crepes to papaya salads, I can assure you from personal experience that you’ll never, ever go hungry!

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Luk Chin Ping are grilled meatballs on skewers
Luk Chin Ping are grilled meatballs on skewers

Meatballs are pretty common everywhere. I have tried them in Malaysia and Vietnam and they always fill the belly! In Thailand, these meatballs are skewered and known as Luk Chin Ping. The meat can be pretty much anything, even pork, but one thing is for sure, it is always grilled and then skewered. Chiang Mai is known to be pretty big on its luk chin ping, and you can find them pretty regularly in the city’s night markets.

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Khanom Khrok are an underrated Chiang Mai gem!
Khanom Khrok are an underrated Chiang Mai gem!

Perhaps one of the most surprising snacks I found in Thailand was Khanom Khrok. While this is not a traditional Chiang Mai food, it was nevertheless the place where I first tried them. These are little coconut cakes that are cooked in a griddle by the vendor. These Khanom khrok are insanely cheap; so cheap in fact that you can find yourself eating way too many of them!

Weird-shaped dough sticks
Weird-shaped dough sticks
Khanom Bueang
Khanom Bueang
Kluai Khaek are fried bananas...where have I seen these before?
Kluai Khaek are fried bananas…where have I seen these before?
I think that is Tom Yum Soup
I think that is Tom Yum Soup

Khanom Bueang is a street food that I only saw in Chiang Mai. It took my eye because it reminded me of the Banh Xeo crispy crepe from Vietnam. Khanom Bueang is quite crispy in itself, and unbelievably it only takes a minute to cook in the pan, even with ingredients. This is what I call a true Thai street snack! Kluai are bananas in Thailand, and I saw some being deep fried in a wok in one of the night markets in Chiang Mai. They look exactly like Pisang Goreng from Indonesian cuisine – but they cannot be as tasty, surely?! Everywhere you look in Chiang Mai’s markets, you can find familiar Thai foods, such as Tom Yum (I didn’t try any this time), but also some novelty items such as large dough sticks that are shaped like animals or insects!

This woman was selling Som Tam AND Pla Pao - and offered me both!
This woman was selling Som Tam AND Pla Pao – and offered me both!
Seafood with my Som Tam
Seafood with my Som Tam

Som Tam is the famous Thai papaya salad. In Chiang Mai, a city which is known for its love of adding spiciness to food, the som tam can become very hot – but with the strange addition of seafood, which I had never encountered before! This combination was certainly something very unique – only vendors in Chiang Mai would surely try to sell this to tourists – but I didn’t like it too much. I think next time I will stick to a regular som tam with no fishy extras.

Sai Ua is a speciality of Chiang Mai
Sai Ua is a speciality of Chiang Mai
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Can’t you just smell it now?

The famous Chiang Mai Sausage, known locally as Sai Ua, is undoubtedly the top attraction in night markets all over Chiang Mai, and over northern Thailand as a whole. You cannot come to Chiang Mai and not enjoy one of its eponymous sausages (or two…or three)! I was not expecting it to be quite as hot and spicy as it was, but hey, this is Thailand and I should have guessed it would be spicy! Still, anything can be cooled down by a bottle of Singha…

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Overall, I would have to say that Chiang Mai is certainly the street food capital of Thailand. Much in the same way Mumbai is the street food capital of India, and perhaps Padang is the culinary centre of Indonesia, Chiang Mai is certainly the place in the Kingdom where you would go for some authentic Thai food!

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