The food in Laos was really underwhelming, and while Cambodia was a little better, I think I can say with authority that Thailand has the best food in the world (yep, the world. Or at least of all that I’ve been exposed to, it’s my favorite)
We landed in Chiang Mai and immediately got on a bus to Chiang Rai, where we have friends who are teaching English. Chiang Rai is a nice, relaxing small town with a night market that is a LOT calmer and less crowded than the one in Chiang Mai.
One of the first orders of business was to locate some Khow Soi, which is not too tough to do in Northern Thailand.
I have already written about my love of Khow Soi here, but it’s so good I think it deserves some more attention.
The red curry and coconut soup with yellow noodles and crispy noodles on top is good on its own, but simply isn’t complete without lime, shallots, and pickled cabbage.
The next day was Thanksgiving, which started out with a typical Thai meal of sticky rice and papaya salad. We heard rumors that there was a turkey dinner at an American-owned restaurant called Don’s, which is a few kilometers out of town, so we hopped on mopeds to go check it out.
There was no turkey dinner, it turned out, but there was HOT SAUCE!
I got macaroni and cheese (which unfortunately wasn’t very cheesy) and drenched it in hot sauce. It’s been a long time since I’ve had anything with chipotle!
After Chiang Rai, we took the bus back to Chiang Mai. It was great to be back, and we had a really fun (and tasty) night hanging out in our old neighborhood.
I spotted a cart with the ingredients for what I called “fried rice ball salad” because I never knew the name in Thai.
It turns out, it’s called naem khao-tod, and it comes from Laos (but I never saw it there). It’s crumbled up rice patties, mixed with peanuts, fresh ginger, chiles, green onions, lime juice, and fish sauce. It usually comes with sausage mixed in, but I prefer it without.
I’ve always loved green papaya salad (som tham), but during this visit to Chiang Mai, green mango salad (yum mamuang) seemed to be more readily available all over the city. It’s a little sweeter, and this version came with dried anchovies, which were incredibly salty.
At the Saturday night market on Wualai Road, we found a few things we’d never tried before. these grilled sticky rice patties were slightly sweet, with a crisp exterior and soft rice inside.
Black jelly, which I’d seen but never tasted (until now), has a strong smoky black tea flavor. To serve, it’s shaved off the giant block and mixed with ice and sugar.
There were also tons of giant steamers filled with all kinds of dim sum (which is technically Chinese, but is common street food in Thailand)
There’s a saying that you haven’t been to Chiang Mai until you’ve had Khow Soi and been to Wat Doi Suthep. On this, our third visit, we finally made it to the wat (we’d already eaten plenty of khow soi!). It’s about 16 kilometers out of town, on a hillside with a fabulous (but slightly hazy) view of the city.
A lot of the inside was covered with scaffolding, but it’s still a beautiful temple.
We had a great time eating our way around Chiang Mai for a few days…then it was off to Bangkok on the night train!