After experiencing the Loi Krathong celebrations in Sukhothai , we took the bus to Chiang Mai on the 17th of November to see the Northern Thai version Yi Peng. The standard advice during these high tourist times is to book a place to stay ahead of time, which I always ignore. There's always a place right? Not this time. I went to Soi 9 where there are many cheap guesthouses and they were all full. We dropped our bags at a guesthouse cafe, and I went searching for a room. Two hours later after going up and down every Soi we still had no place to stay. I even checked more unusual spots like laundry places and tattoo parlours that had little "we rent room" signs. Eventually I found a quite expensive hotel in the Nimmanhemin area. By that time it was 11pm and we had missed this:
|photo from http://www.photoextract.com/photo/424386.html|
As it turned out the next day was also part of the festival and we spent a nice time down by the river participating in the lantern lighting and general party atmosphere. Really fun stuff. I highly recommend if you plan on visiting Chiang Mai, time it to coincide with this important Thai festival.
There is lots to do and see in Chiang Mai and we ended up spending a week walking around, sitting in cafes, and going to see live bands at night. My focus is to always try to find a unique regional dish to try, and in Chiang mai it's khao soi.
Khao soi is a coconut milk based curry noodle soup usually containing chicken or beef. Unlike most thai noodle dishes the noodles are made of wheat, not rice. The noodles are served both in the broth and fried crispy and placed on top as a garnish. A side of spicy pickled vegetables, raw shallots, and lime always accompanies the soup.
I tried khao soi in several places. The lead photo is from Kao Soi Fueng Fah, a Muslim restaurant near the night bazaar. It offers some other dishes you might not get to try, like Thai style biryani and nice samosas. I had the chicken version it was quite mild in spice but the pickled veg really kicked it up.
My favourite spot was a place that came recommended on Travelfish. It's a very unassuming place between the temples of Wat Monthian and Wat Kuan Kama near the North Gate. It's not properly signed and is only open until 2pm. Look for this entrance:
This time I had the beef khao soi. It was much richer and spicier than the other versions I tried, and even though the "pickles" were kind of lame the dish stood out, and "grandma" was really sweet.
khao soi is not a particularity difficult dish to find. You see it on menus all over Thailand, but in Chiang Mai it's worth seeking out and finding your favourite spot.
Austin Bush, a quite well known food writer based in Thailand, seems to have an obsession with khao soi. He has a recipe on his blog, and if you wish to make this yourself, try his "How to Make Khao Soi" recipe. It looks like a winner.
|"Grandma's" Beef Khao Soi|