Chiang Mai foodstuffs, 12-16 Dec

We are still basking in the glow of the elephant park, it was that special.

In the meantime, we are returning to our gluttonous mission in Chiang Mai with lots of delicious food. I’m going to pop up some pics of what we’ve found here, it’s been a great food city, with Issan influence, some Burmese, and the local specialty, Khao Soi.

First, the Thapae gate night market. An amazing array of booths, with interesting offerings. Here’s the grilled quail

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50 baht for each. ($1.50), delicious, but a little dry. The soy/chili/vinegar dipping sauce that it comes with was adequate compensation.

Here’s the winner for best green papaya salad of the market. He gets bonus points for the tiara.

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The market is pretty busy, there are all kinds of vendors, and plenty of massage chairs. It looks pretty swamped in this pic, but as the night goes on, it gets much more crowded, or so we are told, crowds are not our thing at all. We sampled lots of other things we didn’t get pics of, mostly because my hand were super sticky, and I used up all my tissues. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, and I probably will again, but definitely bring your own TP, and carry tissue packs with you. You never know.

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On Saturday the 14th, we headed to the famed Khao Soi Lam Duan across the river. Only about a 20 minute walk from our hotel, it was indeed the richest broth we’ve had yet for this dish, really deep and satisfying. We got one pork and one chicken, both outstanding. I tried to get the satay, which is also supposed to be great, but it wasn’t available for reasons I didn’t fully understand. A postprandial walk along the river was a good prelude to a nap.

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For dinner we took a tip from another blogger and went to Huen Phen in the old town. This was probably the best meal we’ve had all trip. The prawns from Chote Chitr still rank as best dish (and tonight we take the sleeper train back to Bangkok, and I suspect that we will be returning), everything about our meal here was a delight.
Here’s the view from the street, it’s set back so you have to keep an eye out:

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Chili Dip with Pork- there were many options for chili dips, Brent picked the porky one. I know it’s not much to look at, but the flavor was spicy, the texture creamy and the blanched veg provided a mild crunch. 70 baht.

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Pomelo Salad. This was a great deviation from the many somtum, or green papaya salads we’ve had. There were large chunks of pomelo, thinly sliced lemongrass. We are going back here for lunch today…. 60 baht.

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And eggplant with sliced pork. Again, may not look exciting, but you put it in your mouth and your eyes fly open with surprise, and you start trying to think of ways to keep it all to yourself. Or at least that’s what I did. 70 baht, we should have ordered another.

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There are two things that I’ve been on the lookout for since we’ve been in Thailand, and I found them here in Chiang Mai: 1) Burmese tea Leaf Salad- since trying this at Mandalay in San Francisco, and learning to make it (thanks Molly B, for making and providing the fermented leaves!), and 2) Miang Kham, which I had at a now defunct restaurant in Seattle while attending the ACS conference a couple of years ago., and just cannot find in the US.

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This version had a lot more cabbage than the SF version ( which actually has none), but the flavor of the leaves was the same, and there was the fried garlic and peanuts for crunch, and tomatoes for juiciness.

Miang Kham is served in restaurants on a plate as little piles of goodies- coconut, palm sugar, limes, shallots, etc. and you assemble yourself. It’s also a popular street food, pre-wrapped and threaded on a skewer. It’s a nice little bite, especially when most street food is very meat-centered, it’s good to have a little produce.

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There are 2 kinds here- the bottom one is with the raw la lot leaf, and the upper one is with a blanched leaf. The raw leaf was better, we both agreed. 10 baht for 4. I know the pic has only 3, but what can I say, we are pigs.

One stop we had to make was SP Chicken. It was the inspiration for a restaurant in Portland, OR called Pok Pok. The chicken is stuffed with lemongrass and garlic and roasted, and served with dipping sauces. It wasn’t the best roast chicken I’ve ever had (Zuni cafe still holds that place, and RIP Judy Rodgers), but it was damed good. I like that they use small birds, and while we sat waiting out a rainstorm were able to watch the whole process of threading birds onto the 3 pronged skewer, placing on the vertical spit, turning, patting, basting.

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Salted crab somtum was a great accompaniment.

We have to check out of the hotel now, we are headed back to Huen Phen for lunch and more pomelo salad, then the overnight train to Bangkok. We opted for the 2nd class with no aircon so we can open the window, which you can’t do on the aircon trains.

I apologize for any typos and weird autocorrects- I’m rushing out the door!

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