Chiang Mai Food Guide: How to Eat Like a Local

Thai cuisine is versatile, aromatic, and colorful. It’s a mouthwatering blend of Eastern and Western influences, often with a balance of five flavor profiles– salty, sweet, spicy, sour, and savory. But beyond the usual favorites like pad thai and the quintessential dessert mango sticky rice, Thailand has a lot more to offer. In Northern Thailand, particularly in Chiang Mai, dishes are mostly less spicy compared to other Thai dishes. Simply put, you get a different style of Thai cooking in Chiang Mai, but still equally delicious. 

To start off your culinary expedition, we’ve created a list of must-eats in Chiang Mai. Eat a la local and delight your taste buds with these authentic local dishes!

Khao soi

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Khao soi is a Northern Thailand comfort dish. It’s essentially a curry noodle soup, but rather it uses a combination of boiled and fried egg noodles. It’s served with braised chicken and topped with fresh herbs and spices, making it fragrant but not spicy. Some restaurants serve it with beef or pork too. The soup is usually creamy, which can be compared to laksa. If you prefer it spicy, top it off with some roasted chili flakes.


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Khantoke is not just a dish– it’s a tradition in Northern Thailand where people commune to sit on the floor around a small table, and be served traditional dishes which typically include curry, vegetables, relishes, and desserts. Once the food is complete, they are done in cups or bowls to be placed on khan toke trays. While dining, traditional dancers will perform Lanna performances and folk music to complete the cultural experience. 


Gaeng Hung Lay (aka Burmese curry)

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There are many versions of gaeng hung lay, but it’s a must-try whenever you’re in Chiang Mai. This curry dish has pork belly as its main component, which is slow-cooked in a blend of herbs that make it aromatic. The dish is believed to have originated in Myanmar, with Northern Thailand’s border being close to the country. This Thai stew has a taste combination of spicy, salty, tangy, and slightly sweet. It’s a hearty dish that’ll make you want to get another bowl of rice!


Nam Prik Ong

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Aside from the usual curry dishes, Chiang Mai locals love their dips. Nam prik ong, their version of chili dip, is a tasty treat you’d enjoy with its spicy and savory flavors. This dip is made of soybean paste, ground pork, and fish sauce to provide the salt and savor to the dip, then comes the chilis and charred tomatoes which give it the spice and sour element. Nam prik ong resembles a taco filling, but locals love to use it as a dip for boiled vegetables or with fried fish. 

Guay Jub

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Also known as rolled rice noodle soup, guay jub is a comforting noodle dish that’s a must-order in Thailand. At first glance, it’s a simple dish but once you get a taste of it, you’ll easily want to get another bowl for yourself. Unlike the typical noodle strands, the noodles they use are rolled which gives it a chewy bite. It’s accompanied by innards, boiled eggs, crispy pork, and tofu. The soup base is made with a blend of spices and herbs, that mixes harmoniously with the meat of the dish without being too overpowering. If you’re not particularly a fan of innards, you may ask to have it removed and get crispy pork instead. Guay jub is usually served during breakfast, so head to the nearest eatery to have a slurp of this tasty soup dish.


Sai ua

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Sai ua is a homemade Thai sausage made with minced pork and a medley of herbs like galangal, lime leaf, and lemongrass. It’s light and packed with flavors, slightly grilled for a smoky finish. Locals usually eat it with sticky rice, but these sausages can also be eaten as a snack on a stick or as an appetizer before a meal.

Tam Khanun

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Tam khanun is a staple salad specialty in Chiang Mai. It’s a blend of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors made from stir-fried pounded jackfruit, shrimp paste, ginger, lime leaf, cilantro, and sauces. It’s refreshing to the taste and perfect for appetizers. It’s usually eaten with sticky rice or pork cracklings. Tam khanun is also highly nutritious,  and did you know that Thai people believe that jackfruit brings good fortune? 


Khao Kriab Pak Moh

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Dumplings are also present in Chiang Mai cuisine, often served as street food snacks. However, this particular type of dumpling uses tapioca starch and rice flour for its wrapper which similarly tastes like noodles. For the filling, they use minced pork, ground peanuts, and a combination of seasonings. Topped with toasted garlic and chili on the side, it’s a yummy snack that you can eat while strolling around the streets. Locals love to eat it like lettuce wrap too. 


Chiang Mai cuisine is best experienced by going on food tours. Explore more of Thailand’s rich cuisine by booking an activity on KKDay!