Like its art, language and cultural heritage, Chiang Mai food is distinct from its cousins to the south and east. A much more pronounced influence from Burma and China is evident in northern cuisine, resulting in milder curries and the heavier use of ginger and turmeric. Khao Niao (sticky rice), instead of steamed rice, is the main staple at every meal and goes very well with a range of nam prik (chilli dips) unique to northern cuisine.


1. Khao Soi (Egg Noodle Curry)

Rich and savoury yellow curry noodle soup, served with spring onions, pickled cabbage and slices of lime. The egg noodles are of the flat variety, with a small handful of deep-fried portion added on top and also crushed into the broth for a toothsome texture. Choose from chicken, pork, or beef Khao Soi. Usually the portion is quite small, so you might end up ordering another bowl to fill up your stomach.

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2. Sai Oua (Grilled Herb Sausage)

A fiery starter dish, sai oua is northern-style sausage made from ground pork, dried chilies, garlic, shallots and a range of pungent herbs and spices. It looks very similar to northeastern-style sausage when seen on a charcoal grill but tastes drastically different – sai oua is more meaty and rich with herbal aromas as well as chilies.

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3. Nam Prik Ong/Nam Prik Nume (Red/Green Chilli Dip)

This green and red chilli dip duo is the most well-known among all the northern-style chilli dips. Made with roasted chilli spur peppers, the green chilli dip, or nam prik nume, is fiery and will leave your tongue burning after only the first bite. The red chilli dip, or nam prik ong, tastes slightly milder, with a tomato-based paste mixed with ground pork, chopped coriander, spring onion and dried bird’s eye chilies. Both are usually eaten with crispy pork skin, steamed vegetables, or sticky rice.

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4. Gaeng Hang Lay (Burmese-style Sweet Curry)

A yellow curry with a tamarind-based soup, pork chunks, shallots and shrimp paste. Its origins are in Burma, but the adapted northern Thai version uses less oil. With no coconut cream as the ingredient, the texture is less thick than green curry and rich with spices. Some might find gaeng hang lay an acquired taste.

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5. Kanom Jeen Nam Ngeow (Rice Vermicelli with Soybean Curry)

Perhaps the most exotic looking among all the kanom jeen (spaghetti-like noodles), this popular northern dish consists of the kanom jeen in a pork-soybean curry (nam ngeow), served with fresh vegetables, kaeb moo (crispy pork skin), dried bird’s eye chilies and a range of local condiments. The soup tastes rather light and refreshing, unlike other rich, coconut cream versions found in other regional kanom jeen dishes.

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