I always thought pàt tai was a strange name for a dish. Pàt means fry. Fry Thai? But then I thought about french fries. Perhaps not so strange after all. . .
Chiang Mai food!
CM Gate Market is for early risers. Working Thais grab breakfast and lunch (for later) and many other goods such as flowers, fabrics, produce and meats. It’s very busy both inside and street side. Colorful tapioca treats, banana leaf-wrapped rice and steamed egg with coconut milk, or sticky rice with banana and fresh fruit is what I usually grab for breakfast. Yes, I have a sweet tooth.
In the evening (around 5 pm), the market starts up again but this time with food vendors. I don’t think a bad meal is possible around here. But I don’t venture here often since I live on the other side of the moat. I can vouch for the pàt tai guy on the far left (if you are looking at the market from the street or facing north); the portions are generous and it’s some of the best I’ve ever had 25B. The soy milk lady across the street is nice too 5B for a warm mug. And the roti couple next to the pàt tai guy is very good as well.
Somphet Market is located in the north eastern corner and is for the late risers. I don’t think this market really gets going until 10 am. If you arrive earlier it will be sparse with vendors still setting up. The papaya salad is good here. Make the meal complete with the roast chicken lady next to her and rice conveniently next to her. Did they plan this? You won’t see kâao nĭeow (sticky rice), but you’ll see the steamed rice. Just ask for it 5B or 10B bags.
This market is where the cooking classes take you. I see the tourists with their little baskets learning about the local produce almost every time I am here. Even those it is smaller than CM market, Somphet is closer to me and I can find most of what I want here anyway: fresh fruits, vegetables, warm soy milk, rice treats, nuts, etc.
Warorot Market is basically Chiang Mai’s Chinatown. (outside the moat) It’s a different animal during the day and night. During the day it’s a busy maze of produce and everything else. At night the food and clothing vendors set up shop. Food choices are easy at night as only the good ones are here. Mostly noodles. (I haven’t tried the street sushi)
The Northwest: I live in the least touristy part of the moat so if you are looking for a more pedestrian feel head over here. There’s not much to look at unless you really like wats. But there are also several schools in the area which in my experience means cheap eateries.
At the old Siam TV Plaza location is a Chinese noodle shop. Once Siam moved out I wondered if this restaurant would move as well but it has a loyal clientele so I think it is going to stay. * I order the geeang mŏo neung chaam (One bowl of wonton pork soup). Normally I don’t eat pork but wontons are a childhood favorite and I don’t have a choice in this matter. **
*Many businesses come and go. I hesitate to even recommend places because who knows if these places will be here when you decide to visit/live.
**I think being flexible is important when experiencing different foods. And when practicing paa-săa tai you’ll sometimes receive the wrong dish. Or the dish you thought you were ordering is not what you get.
Around the schools you will notice little frying pan stands and eggs in cartons. For 10 to 20B you can get a nice meal of rice and egg omelet (kai geaow).
Across from Wat Dub Phai is a new business consisting of a coffee shop and food stand in a very colorful setting. This area is not only cooler and more ascetically pleasing than your average street side restaurant, the staff is friendly and the food is good. Vegetables! (Lunch only)
On the Nancy Chandler map by Cacti Bicycle (the owner is really nice by the way), Wat Montien and in front of the Vietnamese Food Hut is a noodle stand run by Pi Lee. Her pàt see ew gai (soy based flat noodle dish with chicken) is 20B, tasty and just the right amount.
Across from the old Siam TV Plaza is a large restaurant with an excellent minced chicken salad. This meal easily serves two. Enjoy it with kâao nĭeow and fresh cabbage and assorted vegetables. The owner speaks English and there is an English menu (of sorts).
The Bird’s Nest is the only farang food in this corner of the moat and is located past Wat Pra Phrao Nai. There is always a chess game being played and hippies with their bare feet on the cushions. There is supposedly free Wi-Fi but I’ve never gotten it to work. Never had a bad meal off of the menu.
Fern Forest Cafe is a neat little garden with a friendly staff, descendant desserts and an assortment of fruity and coffee drinks. Hi-so (high society) Thais frequent as does the occasional tourist who has stumbled upon the place.
The Best of List:
Best Vegetarian: Tien Sieng by CM Gate look for yellow signage (facing north or with the gate behind you, it will be on your right). It is clean surprisingly spacious once you step inside and cheap. Kâao dtom (rice soup) is recommended.
Best Mexican: I go to Miguel’s Tex Mex (outside the moat, northeast corner). I don’t think it’s possible to have a bad meal here. My credentials are I lived in the American SW for 7 years and California for two. The Salsa Kitchen on Huey Kaew is also good. Fish tacos!
Best Japanese: (Lunch) Japanese expats frequent Sakura’s located down the soi past Starbucks outside the moat. If you are facing east and standing next to this viciously expensive coffee joint, take your first left and walk past the used books stores and Sakura’s will be on your right.
Tsunami’s is located on Huey Kaew and is just past Canal Road on your right. Open only for dinner, the prices are just right and the food is delicious. After dinner walk towards Doi Suthep and wander around the markets in the CM Uni district.
Best Breakfast: Bake ‘n Bite off Nimmanhaemin on Soi 6, popular with expats, friendly staff and hearty portions.
Best American Italian: The Duke’s by the river (reputedly the location at the Night Bazaar is more expensive). Spaghetti with meatballs, pizza pies, lasagna and salad with REAL salad dressing. Their big cookies are so good too.
Best Sandwich: Amazing Sandwich (duh) across from Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Mall. Build your own. Supported by expats (mostly single white men).
@the walking street markets: Best place to eat at the Saturday walking market beyond CM Gate is CM Gate Market.
At the Sunday walking market by Tha Phae Gate head to Wat Pan On. Inside the walls are plenty of places to sit, recycle bins (!), trash cans and food vendors like the shawarma guy.
At the Night Bazaar, the food court is clean and large with plenty of seating and slightly interesting stage performances. The Indian food here is tasty and a heck of a lot cheaper than Le Spice Restaurant (although Le Spice has nicer ambiance).