Strange Delicious Food From Northern Thailand

Food Northern Thailand Chiang Mai

Hey everyone, I’m in Chiang Mai, Thailand for three months to help out my parents. It’s great to spend some extended time in my hometown from childhood. Of course, everything is different now. Life is so much busier in Chiang Mai than when I was young. It’s still quite nice, though. I’m very comfortable financially and things are cheap here compare to the U.S. I can live it up a bit more than usual. Anyway, today I’d like to tell you a bit about some strange food from Northern Thailand. Some of these are quite different than what Thai restaurants in the US serve. Most of those dishes are from the central area of Thailand. All right, are you ready?

Larb – raw beef tartare

Actually, you can find Larb in most restaurants in the US, but it won’t be raw. I’ve had the raw version before and it’s really good. The texture is like beef tartare, but the taste is completely different. They add various herbs and spices to give the dish a nice flavorful kick. If the place is really authentic, you can order it bitter as well. This dish is quite flexible.

  • Raw or cooked – To be safe, probably should stick with cooked. Although, the raw is better, smooth.
  • Beef or pork – Most Thai people don’t eat raw pork larb. It can cause deafness. Although, some people love it. They’ve been eating it all their lives and their hearing is fine.
  • Spiciness level – mild to very spicy.
  • Bitterness level – They use bile and other juice to give the dish a bitter taste. I’ve only had this once and it’s surprisingly good. (In the clip below.) The bitterness comes and goes really quicky. It elevates the dish somehow.

You can see how they make this dish at the end of this clip (6:20). Oh, they also added tripe in this one. I really enjoyed it and I hope to go back before I leave. But I’ll probably order it cooked next time.

Take out food from the market

Kang Hoh, Sai Ua, and fried pork chop. You eat all these with sticky rice.

Kang Hoh – Originally, this is what you make from the leftover curry. Just add some curry paste, vegetables, and bean noodles and you’ve got another meal. However, it got so popular that they now make it from scratch. I posted a recipe for Kang Hoh a while back.

Sai ua – Chiang Mai sausage. Yum. I love sai ua. This sausage is famous in Thailand and you can find it everywhere these days. However, I’ve never seen it in the U.S. It is so good, full of herbs like kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. You can’t miss this if you’re in Chiang Mai.

Fried pork chop – These are kids’ favorite. You can eat it with sticky rice or add a spicy dip.

Clockwise from the bottom – fried pork rinds, sticky rice, cooked larb, eggplant dip, and jackfruit dip.

Fried pork rinds – Mmmm… crunchy. The pork rinds here are so much better than in the U.S. because it is fresher. The ones in the U.S. are in chip bags and cooked weeks or months ago. These are cooked that morning or just yesterday. They sell quickly in the markets.

Sticky rice – Oh, I love sticky rice. These are the best rice. Usually, I try to eat only a little rice because I want to avoid carbs. But when there is sticky rice, I always eat too much.

Cooked pork larb – This is the cooked version from the market.

Eggplant dip – This is made from long eggplants. They seared the eggplant and chilies. Add a bunch of herbs and spices then smash them all together in a big mortar.

Jackfruit dip – This is similar to the previous dip, but they use young jackfruit instead. Both are really good with sticky rice.

Traditionally, you eat sticky rice and sides with your hand like this. But you could use a fork if you’d like.

Khoa Soi – curry noodles

Rice noodles in papa soi.

Mmmm… I love khoa soi. This is a noodle dish from Northern Thailand. But did you know it was adapted from a Yunnan (Chinese) dish? The Shan people live in the hills of China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. This dish originally has no coconut milk or curry paste in it. From what I understand, many of the Shan immigrated from China. Most of them live in the mountains, but some moved to Chiang Mai. They opened restaurants and served a noodle dish – papa soi. This is a Halal dish because they are Muslim. At some point (in the 60s and 70s?)they became a target because of anti-communism sentiments. Many of them closed up shop and left. The Thai workers continued the business and adapted the dish to their liking by adding coconut milk and curry paste. They also changed the noodles to egg noodles. The result is a great curry noodle dish – khoa soi. The best one I’ve had so far is at Khoa Soi Lung Prakit. It was awesome. There is a place in Chiang Mai that serves the original version, but they are closed temporarily. I heard the original version is really good too.

That’s it for now. There are many other northern Thai dishes that I’m planning to try. I’ll write part 2 when I collected more pictures. I don’t know why, but I enjoy these northern dishes so much more than the usual Thai food we get in the U.S. Maybe it’s because I rarely get to eat them. Mrs. RB40 really likes these too. Have you tried any of these dishes?

Top 3 Grilled Chicken Places in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Cost of Living 2022

*Sign up for a free account at Personal Capital to help manage your net worth and investment accounts. I log in almost every day to check on our accounts. It’s a great site for DIY investors. They have a really good retirement calculator.

The following two tabs change content below.
Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.
Get update via email:
Sign up to receive new articles via email
We hate spam just as much as you

15 thoughts on “Strange Delicious Food From Northern Thailand”

  1. FYI in Seattle, Bangrak Market (in Belltown) has Chiang Mai sausage! 🙂 I’ve had better khao soi and my favorite khao soi place in Seattle has closed…so I’m back on the hunt!! I went to Thailand in Feb 2020, right before the pandemic shut travel down, and I still dream about the food…

    Reply
  2. You’re making me hungry with these pictures. 🙂

    Would love to try some of these in Thailand one of these days.

    I’ve had beef and horse sashimi in Japan before. Delicious!

    Reply
  3. I discovered Khoa Soi when I traveled to Thailand in 1994. Immediately, it was my favorite dish there. Most Thai restaurants in the states don’t have it on their menus, so whenever I see it, I order it. Still probably my favorite. Happy travels!

    Reply
    • I love Khoa Soi too, but I can’t eat it too often these days. There are a few places in Portland that serve Khoa Soi, but I think they charge around $15. Chiang Mai has way better khoa soi and is much cheaper too. Usually, less than $2 each.

      Reply
      • Same in Vancouver. We look for it on the menu at all the Thai restaurants we come across in Vancouver. I’ve only found a couple of places here that has it on their menu and similarly, it’s typically $15 or more yet isn’t close to comparable to what I’ve had in Thailand.

        Reply
  4. How’s the weather in Chiang Mai? Being in the north mountains, I assume it’s a bit cooler and drier? What is like in both the summer and winter seasons? Climate-wise, is there a place in the U.S. you can compare it to?

    We may plan a trip to Chiang Mai in the future. What do you think would be the best time to visit (for the best weather)?

    Reply
    • The weather is a bit cooler than Bangkok. I think the best time would be November to January, during the cool season. It’s still in the 80s. In the hot season, it’s still quite hot. Compares to the US? I don’t know. Maybe Hawaii? Depends on the time of the year.

      Reply
  5. This all sounds so good! I love chicken larb from our local Thai place so much that I’ve tried making it myself a few times, but I never know there was an uncooked variant. In DC we’ve got a staggering concentration of Ethiopian expats (there’s a restaurant on the same block as my house) and what you describe sounds a little like kitfo, a beef tartare prepared either raw or rare with a spiced butter; it’s delicious. The farthest east I’ve ever been is Prague — you’re piling up a lot of reasons to visit northern Thailand sometime…

    Reply

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.