Chiang Mai Food Guide: How to Eat Like a Local

It’s no exaggeration to say that Chiang Mai is a food paradise. As the city is situated in north Thailand, the food showcases an evident influence from China and Myanmar. Based on its climate and fertile jungles and forests nearby, you’ll find the local food scene a rich abundance of seasonal vegetables and herbs from the mountain. Not to mention locally grown garden produce, fragrant sticky rice, and more savory meaty delicacies!

Chiang Mai’s culinary is as vibrant as its art, history and culture heritage. Wander around this laid-back and ancient city, and you’ll see food and  people eating everywhere (even while driving on the motorcycle!). To help you navigate the mountain city, here’s a food guide to help you capture the essence of Chiang Mai’s authentic cuisine.

1. Khao Kha Moo / ข้าวขาหมู

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Khao Kha Moo, meaning “Pork leg on Rice”, is a Chinese-influenced dish elevated by the Thai. It is the most iconic street food, which is also loved by the Thailand Prime Minister (who is a celebrity chef too!). The pork leg is slowly brewed until the tender flesh and fat is so tender, it’d  melt in your mouth. The brewing soy sauce is a blend of all kinds of flavorful spices— garlic, cinnamon, peppercorns and Chinese five spice powder.

Recommended Food Stall: Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak

Your trip won’t be complete if you don’t meet the legendary cowboy hat lady, and try her sumptuous Khao Kha Moo! It is a located at Chang Phueak, the north gate in Chiang Mai, inside a cluster of food stalls.  It won’t be easy to miss as the stall is owned by a lady with a cowboy hat, and it’s always crowded with foodies. Greet the grinning and energetic lady who doles out finger-licking pork legs over rice, and dig into the tasty plate that’ll surely make your day!

  • Address: Thanon Manee Nop Parat, Amphoe Mueang, Chiang Mai
  • Opening Time: 5:00pm – 2:00am daily

2. Sai Ua / ไส้กรอกอีสาน

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This northern Thai sausage is not only a common delicacy from the northern province, but also popular in the rest of Thailand. Unlike sausage found anywhere else, Sai Ua is stuffed with fresh herbs, lemongrass, rice noodle pieces, and red curry paste! Sample the sausages which can be found every corner in Chiang Mai, as it’s one of the street food this city is most famous for.

Recommended Food Stall: Khun Yai Thai Style Sausage

Opens from 4 or 5 in the afternoon, this tiny sausage stall is so popular that you have to take a number to wait for your turn! While you wait, the barbecue aroma will turn you into a drooling fool. The grilled sausage is stuffed with rice noodle, which has  a special herb flavor. You’ll be impressed by its soft and crunchy texture!

    • Location:  On Nimmanhaemin Road, close to Soi 7
    • Opening Time: 4:00pm or 5:00pm

3. Khao Soi / ข้าวซอย

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You might have tasted Thai green or red chicken rice curry, but what about curry soup noodles? Khao Soi is another staple food in Myanmar, Laos and northern Thailand. You’re able to find the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai, the largest city in Northern Thailand! It‘s fried egg or rice noodles cooked in rich and mild coconut milk based curry, paired with  a tender chicken drumstick. The curry broth is often poured on the fresh undercooked noodle at the last minute before it’s served to keep noodle’s perfectly al dente consistency.  

Recommended Diner: Khao Soi Mae Sai

What used to be a low-key diner hidden in the alley just can’t shy away from travelers anymore. You know that you can’t go wrong on a dish that’s so deeply loved by the locals! Spend only  35 baht and you get a generous bowl of curry noodle soup. Don’t forget to order a milk tea to complete your Thai dining experience!

    • Address: 29/1 Ratchaphuek Alley, Tambon Chang Phueak, อำเภอ เมืองเชียงใหม่ Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
    • Opening Time: 8:00am – 4:00pm

4. Grilled Fish / ปลาสำลีเผา

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Despite being a city surrounded by mountains, the seafood here is still  top notch, especially grilled fish. The whole fish is often skewed and grilled until the skin is crispy while the flesh is soft and juicy, then seasoned with lemongrass and salt. Usually, food stalls provide spicy or savory sauce to go with it. The highlight? It tastes out of this world yet it won’t burn a hole in your wallet!

Recommended Diner: Lert Ros

This highly-praised diner earned the “Certificate of Excellence” awarded by Tripadvisor in 2015, and that says a lot! Upon arrival, you’ll see the chef grilling rolls of fish on hot coals at the entrance, allowing the irresistible scent to lure foodies in. You won’t be disappointed by the tender grilled fish stuffed with a whole stick of aromatic lemongrass and sweet shrimps, along with their famous and refreshing mango smoothie!  

  • Address: Soi 1 Thesaban Nakhon Chiang Mai, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai
  • Opening Time: 12:00pm – 9:00pm

5. Milk or Banana Roti / โรตี

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This highly addictive local snack that has to be on your must-eat list. While banana roti is what visitors are more familiar with in Thailand, Milk roti is a thicker type or roti glazed with condensed milk and sugar. The sweetness and slight saltiness of this delightful snack will get you hooked for sure! You can find them at Chiang Mai Gate or around any night markets.

Where to find Roti

    • Chiang Mai Gate: Chiang Mai Gate Phra Sing Chiang Mai Thailand, Tambon Phra Sing, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai
    • Saturday Night Market: Wua Lai Rd, Tambon Hai Ya, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai
    • Sunday Night Market: 141/6 Rachadamnoen Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai

6. Khan Toke / ขันโตก

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A Khan Toke dinner accompanied by music and dance might seem like something invented just for tourists. To the surprise of many, it’s a long-standing tradition in Northern Thailand, among Lanna people. Rather than a single dish, Khan Toke is an array of northern-style side dishes putting together in a wide bamboo tray.

Diners normally sit on the floor and eat them with one hand. It is a ceremonial dish seen in festivals, wedding parties, and other grand events! Nowadays, you can have Khan Toke while watching folk dances and music performances.

Recommended Restaurant: Khum Khantoke

To get the full cultural and Khan Toke experience, come to Khum Khantoke, also known as the reception room of Chiang Mai province. The Lanna architecture, performances and ambiance offer you a sneak peek of traditional northern Thai culture. The all-you-can-eat Khantoke won’t let you down either!


7. Naem / จิ๊นส้

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Naem is fermented pork sausage which has a sour flavor, typically served in north-eastern Thailand. Back in the old days before the fridge was invented, it was the local people’s technique to preserve pork. They would chop the meat, ferment it with sticky or steam rice, and add some garlic or Thai chilies to elevate the flavor. It is usually mixed with other kinds of food such as fried rice or stir-fried vegetables, perfect for those who adore sour dishes!

Recommended Restaurant:  Kaeng Ron Baan Suan

This restaurant provides you northern specialties for your authentic local food quest, including fried Naem Sour Sausage Slices, with fried peanuts, ginger, and some cabbage. Don’t stop there, however! Scope out other interesting dishes like sai ua, kepmuu (chicharon) or grilled pork neck to expand your palate!

  • Address: 149/3 Moo 2, Irrigation Canal Rd. | Chang Phueak, Muang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai
  • Opening Time: 9:00am – 4:00pm, 5:00pm – 10:00pm


8. Oliang / โอเลี้ยง

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Nothing can be better than strolling down the food markets with this ice cold beverage at hand. What’s so special about Oliang, also known as Thai black iced coffee? The coffee is spiced with chicory and green cardamom, and usually topped with a cloud of milk and some sugar, giving it an exotic tropical taste! Here in Chiang Mai, you’ll run into cafes in alleys around the Nimmanhaemin Road area. Have an oliang there and watch the world go by.

Recommended Cafe:  Ristr8to Coffee

It is the best cafe in Chiang Mai! The owner, Arnon Thitiprasert, has won the Thailand National Art Championship three years in a row. Over there you can admire their exquisite and captivating latte art or other kinds of coffee with intriguing flavors.

    • Address: 15/3 Nimmanhemin Road | Suthep, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
    • Opening Time: 07:08am – 06:08pm

9. Cha-yen / ชาเย็น

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Of course, we can’t talk about the best Thai food without mentioning the iconic Thai iced tea. The red orange-hued drink, milky sweet, rich and icy, has won people’s hearts from all over the world. It is normally made of a strong brew of Bai Miang, flavored with anise, tamarind seeds and cassia bark. The sweet and aromatic concoction is then sweetened to taste using condensed milk and served chilled. Quite a refreshing drink to combat Thailand’s hot weather!

Recommended Stall: Grandpa’s Thai Milk Tea

In front of the Wat Chedi Luang temple, spot a bright red tea stand and an old man with a friendly smile, and that’s the one! Countless locals and travelers looking for a cup of sweet Chan-yen has visited him, so grab one as well before you step in the Wat Chedi Luang.

  • Address (Wat Chedi Luang): Road King Prajadhipok Phra Singh, Muang District, Chiang Mai 50200


10. Thai Grill and Hot Pot / จิ้มจุ่ม

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The unmistakable feature of Thai hot pot is that you can grill and boil the ingredients in the delicious broth at the same time! In the middle of the hotpot sits a grill plate, which allows the meat juice from the grill to drip directly into the broth, adding extra flavors. If you are visiting Chiang Mai with a group of friends or with family, this is undoubtedly a perfect dining option!

Recommended Restaurant: Sukonthan Buffet

An all-you-can-eat Thai hot pot restaurant which offers more than 300 choices of ingredients, with a cost of only 229 baht. Sounds too good to be true! Located in the alley behind Huay Kaew Road, the restaurant is a giant venue with sheet metal roof. Despite its non-fancy appearance, the local gourmands absolutely love it. Dig in the delicious grill and hotpot and pick your own favorite ingredients—the only limit here is the space of your stomach!

    • Address: 46/1 Huai Kaeo Rd. | Chang Phueak Subdistrict, Chiang Mai 50300
    • Opening Time: 5:30pm – 10:00pm

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