Khao Soi is the one dish that you absolutely must eat in Chiang Mai. For the uninitiated, Khao Soi is a soup flavored with yellow curry and coconut milk, loaded with boiled noodles and then topped with fried noodles. Rich and savory 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.
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.
Khantoke dinner is named after the table it is served on, traditionally the table used for dinner in Lanna, a Kingdom that ruled over North Thailand from the end of the 13th century until the 18th century. A Khuntoke is a small round wooden table, adorned with carvings and finished with lacquer. In the old days wealthy families had their Khantoke tables decorated with gold. Khantoke dinners were held for special occasions as festivals and weddings, or ordination of a son into monkhood.
A traditional finger food, miang kham is a fun, do-it-yourself starter dish. One serving consists of fresh betal leaves (for wrapping), sweet syrup and a variety of fillings, usually sliced shallots, fresh red or green chilies, diced ginger, diced garlic, diced lime, dried small shrimp and roasted grated coconut. One bite can have all or some of the fillings – it’s totally up to you.
Tam Khanun (Young Jackfruit Salad)
Refreshingly spicy, nutty and flavorsome, this healthy northern dish will wake you up from any slumber. The young, green jackfruit is boiled until tender, then shredded and stir-fried with a garlic-dried chili-shrimp paste base and a handful of herbs. Take one bite and the rich sweet, sour, salty and nutty tastes will explode in your mouth.
Larb Kua (Pan-fried Spicy Meat Salad)
Larb in northern Thai cuisine has more spices in it than the northeastern version. Beef, fish, pork or chicken meat is chopped up together with blood chunks and innards, then a quick stir in heated cooking oil (oil roasting), along with dried chilies, larb curry, blood chunks and a handful of herbs and spices. The dish goes best with warm sticky rice.
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.