A Culinary Journey Through North Thailand

  • Dinnertime at Baan Rai Yarm Yen

    Dinnertime at Baan Rai Yarm Yen

  • Roasted green-chili dip with deep-fried pork skin at Haan Tung Jiengmai

    Roasted green-chili dip with deep-fried pork skin at Haan Tung Jiengmai

  • Set in an old Lanna-style wooden house 20 minutes from downtown Chiang Mai, Huen Jai Jong is noted for its authentic northern cooking

    Set in an old Lanna-style wooden house 20 minutes from downtown Chiang Mai, Huen Jai Jong is noted for its authentic northern cooking

  • A vegetarian stir-fry at Raan Jay Yai

    A vegetarian stir-fry at Raan Jay Yai

  • Raan Larb Pa Than specializes in laab flavoured with dashes of beef bile

    Raan Larb Pa Than specializes in laab flavoured with dashes of beef bile

  • The same restaurant serves unctuous curried egg noodles (khao soi)

    The same restaurant serves unctuous curried egg noodles (khao soi)

  • A street-side table at Huen Phen

    A street-side table at Huen Phen

  • A stupa at Wat Chedi Luang, in the heart of Chiang Mai's moat-ringed Old Town

    A stupa at Wat Chedi Luang, in the heart of Chiang Mai's moat-ringed Old Town

  • Aunt Priew cooking up a storm in her Chiang Rai kitchen

    Aunt Priew cooking up a storm in her Chiang Rai kitchen

  • Crispy pork in gravy on rice (khao moo krob) is the main draw at Guay Jam Sam Kasat in Chiang Mai

    Crispy pork in gravy on rice (khao moo krob) is the main draw at Guay Jam Sam Kasat in Chiang Mai

  • A dining terrace at Baan Suan Rim Ping, a riverside restaurant designed by architect-owner Chulathat Kitibutr to envoke a northern Thai village

    A dining terrace at Baan Suan Rim Ping, a riverside restaurant designed by architect-owner Chulathat Kitibutr to envoke a northern Thai village

  • A pork-satay stand in Chiang Mai

    A pork-satay stand in Chiang Mai

  • Stir-fried water spinach (and cold beer) makes a regular appearance on tables in northtern Thailand

    Stir-fried water spinach (and cold beer) makes a regular appearance on tables in northtern Thailand

  • Thailand Northern

    Thailand Northern

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From curried egg noodles and grilled pork sausages to any number of minced-meat salads, the food of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai offers some of the most complex and intense flavors in the kingdom.

By Chawadee Nualkhair
Photographs By Jason Michael Lang

Stir-fried water spinach (and cold beer) makes a regular appearance on tables in northern Thailand

ASK 10 PEOPLE IN CHIANG MAI WHERE TO GET a great meal, and you’ll receive 10 different answers. Who makes the best pork sausage? Where are the best shallots grown? What’s the right amount of coconut milk for khao soi? All this is fodder for hour-long discussions over the dinner table in northern Thailand, where matters of the stomach are taken very seriously. So when I’m told about midnight Fried Chicken, I make sure to check it out—which is how I find myself prowling the streets of Chiang Mai late one night, scanning Kamphaeng Din Road for any sign of life.

A pork-satay stand in Chiang Mai

It’s when I get to a clutter of sidewalk benches fronted by a long stretch of hungry Thais waiting for a seat, that I know I’ve arrived. The food stall, which opens like clockwork at the stroke of midnight, is a magnet for local hipsters with little goatees and wickedly fast metabolisms. the food is the type to gallop straight for your thighs: deep-fried morsels of pork belly and chicken legs; grilled sai oua (northern-style pork sausage); dollops of roasted-chili paste and towering mounds of khao niew (sticky rice). an hour later, I waddle back to my hotel with the taste of fried garlic still in my mouth. One meal down; a gazillion more to go.

Such are the trials of researching a book on thai street food. When I embarked on the project, gathering the names of stalls from enthusiasts all over the country, I knew I would be in for a lot of eating. “Wow, that sounds like fun!” someone invariably says when I tell them about it. Believe me, chowing down at 10 stalls a day in the name of research can be anything but. Yet it’s different in northern Thailand. Here, I’m surrounded by the flavors of home.

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