Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chiang Mai Street Food - Part II

Some of the street food in Chiang Mai can be found not on the streets but in the markets. Many of the markets here have large cooked food sections - kind of like the food halls in a modern supermarket, except that here the offerings are decidedly local. I can imagine putting together a family dinner with some freshly bought ingredients, some grilled meats, and some nice chili dips - an easy and convenient way to a great meal.

These looked like little crab shells filled to the brim with yellowish roe. I normally can't resist crab roe, but these were raw and I was weary of getting a "Chiang Mai belly".

Nice selection of cooked dishes to take home. The one right in front is a pork gelatin which is one of my dad's favourites. It is made by boiling a pork leg and chilling the broth to form the gelatin, kind of like a terrine.

Nice looking Teo Chiew braised ducks and other stewed meats.

Colourful sweet cakes and snacks.

At the night bazaars too there are always lots of food stalls, and most of what they sell are different from the day time stalls - more light snacks and sweets compared to the more substantial fare in day time stalls.

I don't know what these are. They look like sweet glutinous rice desserts. Not really my cup of tea.

This young girl is selling a soup with pork rind and pig's blood. It is like a Chinese hot and sour soup. Very delicious.

Very colourful Thai desserts. They look really pretty, but I am a little bit worried about the amount of food colouring used in them.

This noodle salad is really nice. Made with vermicelli with sliced fresh vegetables and a sweet and spicy chili dressing. One of the best street foods I had in Chiang Mai. This stall is at the Saturday Night Bazaar.

Sampling the street food in Chiang Mai is quite an adventure. The variety is endless, and some are really delicious. Don't miss the sausages and the spicy noodle salad.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chiang Mai Street Food - Part I

Like other Asian cities, street food is very much a part of the culture in Chiang Mai. Road side stalls are everywhere, and you wonder whether people actually bother to cook at home. Its so convenient just to grab something on the way home, but the health effect of a daily diet on street food is another matter.

From what I can see, the most popular street food here is the sausage. Its no wonder, as they are delicious, cheap and easy to eat while you are out and about. There are also many types to choose from - spicy sausages, big fat sausages called "Moo Yor", small baby sausages filled with pork and sticky rice, etc. They are all very good and you shouldn't miss these when in Chiang Mai.

Another very popular item - meat balls which come in different colours and sizes. They are usually deepfried. Quite tasty and very crunchy. You can't really tell what they are made of - I suspect a mixture of fish meat, pork, chicken and whatever they can get their hands on.

Something very familiar to anyone who has been to Thailand - Som Tam. Here you can have the green papaya version, or the green mango version which I had. It was salty, sweet, and spicy - just the way it should be. Crushed peanuts were added to give it an extra crunchy texture, and for a deluxe version you can order one topped with crunchy pork rinds.

There is quite a large Chinese population in Chiang Mai, and it is not unusual to find Chinese food served on the streets - like these steamed meat buns and siew mai.

In Chiang Mai they take their grilling seriously and even the road side stalls have "proper" grilling contraptions. The meats are usually grilled to perfection and very tasty. Another not-to-miss item here.

A busy street food cluster at Suthep Road opposite the Maharaj Nakorn Hospital ( part of the University Medical Complex).

Mr. Willeam - a colourful personality selling instant gourmet coffee. The coffee's not bad.

Another very popular item in Chiang Mai - the banana pancake. It is like the Malaysian Roti Chanai with banana. Here the sweetness is taken up a few notches with sweetened condensed milk.

There are quite a lot of stalls selling cooked food meant more for take home. I tried the deep fried pork - very good. The fish was a bit dry. The spicy sausages were very good.

Street food is a big part of the Chiang Mai experience, and with so much variety its not possible to try it all. I have some more coming up in my next post.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Eating in Chiang Mai - Lunch at Kafe Bar & Restaurant

As I started my walk in Chiang Mai Old Town, it suddenly began to drizzle. Since it was lunch time, I decided to take shelter some place where I could grab a bite. Kafe Bar & Restaurant happened to be nearby and it looked interesting, so I gave it a try.

As I entered the place, I realized it was geared more towards tourists. The menu had an endless list of both local and western dishes. An overly long menu is usually a bad sign - either they don't know what kind of restaurant they want to be, or the kitchen has no chance of mastering any of the items offered.

Since this was my first meal in Chiang Mai, I decided to stick with the Thai dishes. I ordered the Khao Soi, Deep Fried Pork Ribs and an iced coffee.

I've read quite a lot about Khao Soi - the popular Chiang Mai curry noodle. Some devotees like it so much it borders on obsession. This was my first taste of it - and I liked it a lot. Basically noodles in a light curry gravy, with strips of chicken and topped with crispy noodles. The curry gravy is very aromatic, not too spicy and slightly sweet. Like the Kuching Laksa, I could probably eat this every day.

The Khao Soi came with a side serving of some pickles and a chili paste. You could add the chili to the Khao Soi to spike up the heat.

The Deep Fried Pork Ribs were also good. Very simply marinated, the ribs were tender and had the clean sweet taste of fresh pork.

All in a good first taste of Chiang Mai, and in a touristy place to boot. Kafe B&R has a laid back and cozy feel to it. Good place for a light snack - recommended. It is located at Moon Muang Road near Tha Phae Gate.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chiang Mai - Sompet Market

Sompet Market is located at the North-Eastern corner of Chiang Mai Old City. It is one of the most popular local markets, though not the biggest. Robyn Eckhardt of Eating Asia recommended a visit, so I made it a point to go there on the first day. Read Robyn's excellent walking guide to Chiang Mai here.

Markets in South-East Asia are quite similar in a way. Most markets are divided into the meat section, fish section and vegetable section. In Thailand where pork is one of the favourite proteins, it warrants a large section of its own. Here in Chiang Mai, there is also a very sizable cooked food section selling prepared food for take-home. You will find stalls selling sausages, grilled meats, snacks, sweets and the essential Nam Prik - a spicy meat and chili dip which is normally eaten with raw vegetables.

Vegetables are always fresh and plentiful. Prices can fluctuate wildly with the seasons though.

Rice is the main staple of the Thai diet. Here you can find many varieties and grades.

Essential spices, conveniently packed.

Dried and salted fish.

Lots of cooked food.

Even the "farang" are tempted to check them out.