For the Chiang Mai leg of my trip to Thailand, I was really looking forward to trying the city’s famous street food. Particularly the khao soi, a bowl of egg noodles in a delicious coconut milk curry based broth that the city is famous for. It’s not really something you find on Thai menus in the States. I’ve only come across it in two places in NY, Uncle Boons and Pok Pok, which is a shame, because it is a very delicious and accessible dish. Who doesn’t love slurping the rich, soupy runoff from a curry dish? This isn’t a guilty pleasure, it’s a legitimate dish!
There are a ton of stands that sell khao soi, and many proclaim that theirs is the best. After consulting several blogs and guidebooks, I found that the two clear khao soi front runners were Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham and Khao Soi Khun Yai. We decided to stop by Lam Duan, given that it was closer to our hotel and its operating hours were longer. It was a little bit out of the way, and the address wasn’t all that clear or obvious, but once we said “Lam Duan” to our driver, he knew where to go.
We tried three different bowls of khao soi, the chicken, pork and beef. The chicken, which I preferred, was the most neutral in flavor and tasted the most similar to the Western versions, whereas the beef broth tasted like sweet bulgogi juice. The pork meat was a little tough and the savory factor of the broth was in between the chicken and the beef. But basically it was worth the detour and definitely should be on anyone’s food bucket list in Chiang Mai.
Another popular food stand is SP Chicken, which cranks out juicy rotisserie chickens at all hours of the day. The chicken meat is served with two dipping sauces, a sweet chili sauce and a more savory one that almost tastes like a fermented bean paste. We also tried some other things, a papaya salad, a minced chicken larb dish and a side of stir-fried morning glory greens. It was a nice balanced meal, and what I liked was that it wasn’t too spicy. My friend said that cuisine in the north tends to be more mild. Which was great, because I don’t know how much more heat I could stand while eating outside in 90+ weather. Something that always helps is a cold can of Chang beer.
We also visited two stands in the North Gate Night market to try some more obscure things. The first was the famous Cowboy Lady’s khao kha moo stand, also known as Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak. Like the name indicates, this stand is run by a pretty Thai lady wearing a cowboy hat cooking khao kha moo or braised pork leg. I was worried that I might get some toe jam or pig feet jelly on my plate, but the texture of the meat was perfectly fine, similar to shredded pork shoulder. The meat was very tender and fell off the bone, and it wasn’t sweet, mostly savory.
Just a few stands down was Suki Koka, which serves suki haeng, a stir-fried pork and cabbage dish, as well as suki nam, the soup version. Eating the suki haeng was one of the best discoveries on this trip. The stir-fry has that ideal balance of the sweet, salty and spicy, and I couldn’t get enough of it. The soup version was a bit bland and lacked the oomph of the stir-fry version. I’ve never seen suki haeng on any Thai menus in the States and hope that this Thai sukiyaki gets imported soon.
What’s also great about street food eating is that each dish is roughly 30-60 baht, so less than $2 a plate. You can eat a meal fit for a king and have several cans of Chang beer and bottled water without coming even close to breaking the bank. You’ll probably spend more money on the cab or songthaew rides since these places are hard to find. But eventually you’ll get there. And if not, you’ll probably have a cheap decent meal someplace else!
Khao Soi Lam Duan, ถนน เจริญราษฎร์ Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50000, Thailand
SP Chicken, Thanon Samlarn Lane 1, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak and Suki Koka – Both are located at the North Gate or Chang Puak Gate night market. Addresses were not available, but you can’t miss the cowboy lady in her hat and the lines for the stir fried pork and cabbage.