With tourists finally returning to Chiang Mai, hopefully some will find these reviews* useful.
Chiang Mai’s signature dish is undoubtably Khao Soi. It is traditionally made with a chicken leg, but pork is pretty common too. The best khao soi places rarely serve more than one or two other dishes. Lately, several gourmet khao soi places have sprung up. The best of these is Khao Sud Soi off the Superhighway on the perimeter of the city. In addition to the standards, some of their special khao sois include a mixed seafood, Wagyu, sea bass, and a spectacular soft shell crab. These are all excellent because the soup base is rich and creamy, the yellow noodles are always perfectly cooked and the crispy noodles hold their crispiness.
There are many, many khao soi places spread around the city. Do try some of the well known ones doing traditional khao soi. Then try Khao Sud Soi for khao soi at the next level. At 32 baht to the US dollar, most dishes are $4 - $5.
*I used to post frequently to Chowhound. The Asia Board has always been pretty quiet here. Then the pandemic hit. Many of my favorite restaurants closed. But new ones have opened, even during covid. I’ve lived in Ching Mai for 17+ years. My wife and I eat out almost everyday. I love Thai food but can’t eat it every single day. Some of the reviews will be Thai food but many will be from cuisines around the world. Few of my reviews will be of restaurants in the most touristy areas. Most will be worth traveling for (Chiang Mai is a small, easily navigable city), some only if you’re in the neighborhood. I’ll try to post once a week or so and I’ll update posts when needed. I hope you find these entertaining, especially since my photography skills are terrible and my dining companions hate food photos. If you’re going to be in Chiang Mai and have specific questions, please feel free to contact me via H.O.
Interesting! I left Chiang Mai a couple weeks ago and visited my old favorite, Khao Soi Khun Yai and it was as good as ever. And still a bargain.
But it was so crowded i did not stop in after arriving there one time because every table was full. I would have liked to try out Khao Sud Soi.
Here is a photo of Khun Yai’s Khao Soi.
Chiang Mai will always be one of my favorite destinations! How is the air quality? Has the burning season started in earnest yet? I have never been there when it is bad but i have heard that it can get a bit smokey in February and March.
The two subjects guaranteed to elicit a long discussion among expats in Chiang Mai are the ever-changing visa rules and the seasonal air pollution. Khao soi maybe a distant third.
Khun Yai and Samerjai make most people’s top ten list. I’m not a fan of Khun Yai because they use the much thinner crispy noodles. The current favorite among young western tourists is Khao Soi Mae Sai with hour long lines from opening til closing. I’m not sure which influencer has promoted it but the long lines mean no Thai will ever go.
We’ve just had about 10 days with pollution that is worse than usual for this time of year. February has good days and bad days depending on wind direction and where the fires are. March is always the worst month of the year. April can be equally bad until the rains start. the pollution shouldn’t affect short term visitors unless they are here for outdoor sports, but it’s understandable that tourists try to time their trips to avoid it.
If you, or anyone else, makes it back to CM, I’d be happy to do a khao soi crawl that includes some of the lesser known places.
I will be the first of the Hungry Onion crowd to thank you for the invite! Eating with a local expert is always a huge bonus when it comes to getting a feel for an areas cuisine. I am still trying to wrap my head around day long, hour LONG waits for a Thai cafe. That is amazing. I thought Khun Yai was the outlier when I saw that there was a short line for a table. The comment about Thai people not being willing to wait in line for an hour for Khao Soi is another point in their favor.
It has been odd, but I have heard two groups of Thai people at dinner in the past week. One couple in Naxos and a family group sat next to me in Thira. I did not say anything but I was dying to thank my Greek waitress last night by saying Khaap Khun Kop to her and giving her a medium deep wai. But she might have taken it amiss. LOL!
I see both Ozone and PM2.5 are elevated way over where they were just a couple weeks ago and PM10 is up too, though not as much. Weather dot com has them at 129/115/53 respectively and they were 38/87/38 on the 20th when I left. I was tracking the numbers by doing a screenshot of the AQI every day I was there and it was pretty good the whole time.
Khao soi is intended to be a quick morning or afternoon meal. Even if KS Mae Sai really is the best, Thais will go to someplace else nearby even if it’s only 90% as good to avoid a long line.
Because you never know when the air quality will deteriorate during the dry season, many foreigners have an air purifier at home. No matter how bad the air gets, I know I’ll get 12 hours a day with clean air.