Chiang Mai Street Food

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.

noodle prep at khao soi lham duan
noodle prep at khao soi lam duan
a bowl of chicken khao soi
a bowl of chicken khao soi

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.

roasting chickens at sp chicken
roasting chickens at sp chicken
an order of a juicy bird
an order of a juicy bird
minced chicken larb
minced chicken larb
stir-fried morning glory
stir-fried morning glory
green papaya salad
green papaya salad
the entire spread
the entire spread

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.

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the cowboy lady tending to her pig legs
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khao kha moo with egg over rice

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.

the suki koka stand
the suki koka stand
the stir-fry version
the stir-fry version, suki haeng
the soup version, suki nam
the soup version, suki nam

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.

Hipster Thai at Uncle Boons

Uncle Boons is a fun name to say out loud. Like saying the words boom, boondoggle, or T. Boone Pickens. An uncle named Boons wouldn’t be dull or boring–he would be the life of the party, someone who would pull coins out of your ear and give you some ice cream money. Imagine your delight when your fun uncle from Thailand just informed you that he would be moving to NYC!

Uncle Boons, or rather his restaurant, has set up shop in Nolita. I’ve been to Uncle Boons’ house, and it is beautiful. If you’ve ever been to the Jim Thompson house in Bangkok, it basically looks like that, except on a smaller scale. Like the bar and basement section of one of the six houses in that massive complex. Which is fine, because it makes for a much more intimate and familial setting.

And Uncle Boons is cooking up some good food at his house! Well, let’s give credit where it’s due. It’s not really Uncle Boons who’s doing all the work. His niece Ann Redding and her husband Matt Danzer are doing the actual cooking, and their menu features recipes from the whole family. We decided to kick things off with an order of the lon pu kem, and then dove right in with two larger plates, the kao pat pu and the khao soi kaa kai.

The lon pu kem is a cold dip made of salted black crab, ground pork and coconut cream. It’s served with various vegetables such as Thai eggplant, snap peas, sliced mangoes and radishes. I really liked the pungent fish flavors that came through in the dip, but I wasn’t a big fan of eating it with the raw vegetables. I think something like nori crackers or bread might have showcased the flavors a little better. Ruoxi thought that it tasted like tuna salad. You can safely assume that we thought the dip was good but not great.

uncle boons - lon pu kem
lon pu kem – dip flavored with salted black crab, ground pork and coconut cream, served with vegetables

While I wouldn’t go on a second date with the lon pu kem, the kao pat pu (crab fried rice) and the khao soi kaa kai (golden curry with egg noodles and chicken) had me at hello. Especially that crab fried rice. I could eat this everyday, for reals. Move over Mission Chinese’s salt cod rice, there’s a new fried rice queen in town! It really does taste homemade–made at home by an awesome member of the Uncle Boon family!

Going off on a tangent here, but Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese was eating dinner next to us at Uncle Boons. I wonder if he felt shame knowing that his celebrated fried rice is a sham and Uncle Boons’ is so much better? I tried to let him know through telepathic messages.

uncle boons - kao pat pu
kao pat pu–this crab fried rice is the bomb!

The khao soi was unbelievable too. The curry was creamy and savory, without being overly heavy or salty like at a lot of American Thai restaurants. This dish came with a small cup of spicy chili oil on the side; just a smidgen gave the perfect amount of heat to the curry. Little Serow, take notes! The crisp egg noodles nicely absorbed the moisture and flavor of the curry, and the tender curry-soaked nuggets of chicken were delicious. I regret not ordering a bowl of jasmine rice to soak it all up. This dish was breathtaking, and not in a Seinfeld sort of way.

uncle boons - khao soi kaa kai
khao soi kaa kai – the golden ticket of curry egg noodles!

The only bone I have to pick with Uncle Boons is the pricing. For two entrees with modest origins, a small appetizer and two beers, our meal came out to $50 a person. Uh yeah, that’s a little steep. I think $30 a person is more appropriate, but maybe the two owners’ Per Se upbringing is shaping their pricing decisions. The $25 price tag on the crab fried rice is stopping me from ordering it as take-out all the time. The food here is quite delicious. I just wish rich Uncle Boons would be a little more generous!


Uncle Boons
7 Spring St. (at Bowery)
New York, NY 10012
(646) 370-6650