A walk around the city of Chiang Mai at any time of the day will reveal several vendors selling their specialty street food. Here’s a small, and I really mean small, sampling of the choices you have when walking the streets of Chiang Mai.
I’ll start with what is most common, which is the abundance of meat. In all it’s forms.
I’m nearly a vegetarian, so none of it appealed to me. But G is a carnivore and loved the options, especially the ones on a stick.
Pressed, formed, colored and then stuck on a stick. The street meat in Chiang Mai is nothing short of a mystery.
There was more recognizable things, like seafood.
Grilled or fried right there, as you wait. It’s a fresh option.
But if you want really, really fresh fish…then a local market is the place to be.
Then there was this stuff, breaded and fried and looking ever so crispy. It was tempting, but I didn’t go for it. It may have been the most delicious fried chicken balls ever, but more than likely it wasn’t. There was fried sardines, hotdogs, shrimp and who knows what else.
Stepping out of the meat arena, next you’ll find an abundance of noodle dishes.
Being a bit of a health nut, we asked if there was MSG in it. Our question was returned with look of misunderstanding. MSG in Asia is a common ingredient. When in doubt, just know that it’s in your food. MSG free food will normally be marked and it’s nearly impossible to get away from it entirely in Asia (except if you eat only raw food).
Oh, I nearly forgot about all the dried seafood. I didn’t try it. Something about continuously chewing on seafood jerky didn’t appeal to me.
The mysteries continue with grilled eggs, what looks like intestine and delicious pork ribs.
If that’s not your style, there is the popular fried quail eggs that look more familiar and are found nearly everywhere in Thailand.
The above street food I didn’t really go for much, even the tasty looking noodle dishes. Instead, I opted for a few fresher options.
My Street Food Picks
The first option is a surprising one, as it’s normally thought of as impeccably clean restaurant fare. It was fresh and delicious. And at only 5 baht per piece, it was the cheapest meal of sushi I’ve ever had. Anytime we would see sushi as street food, we devoured it.
Our next pick is Gyoza. These pillows of stuffed cabbage and vegetables were delicious. We had our favorite vender at the Sunday night market that we kept going back for more. The girls were right behind him stuffing the gyoza while he cooked it up. Five for 20 baht (60 cents) was a great, cheap snack. Or, if you are like us and keep on eating them, they make a great dinner too.
So far, some of the tastiest sweets we’ve had in SE Asia has been at the Chiang Mai street food stalls. These mini cakes were perfect for on the go and eating with a little spoon. The kids loved them and they were not overly sweet or creamy. Just right.
We also enjoyed very good donuts. Quite a few times.
Our favorite vendor was the Crepe Man. His banana & chocolate crepes were crispy, chewy, sweet and oil free. Normally, he puts a ton of chocolate on it but we ask for VERY little chocolate.
Last, but not least, there are plenty of fresh fruit juicers and smoothies on the streets of Chiang Mai. This is one of the best and healthiest options for street food and could certainly account for a sizable snack. Some use fruits and water in their blended drinks, others use only fruit. We found a few great vendors and drank a lot of fruit smoothies.
At the end of the day, there is the clean up to do, even in street food. Five gallon pails of wash water and clean water sit on the curb, ready to clean up the plates.
It may not look sexy, but at least it’s not disposable plates that are being used to contribute to the trash.
You won’t go hungry
You won’t go hungry in Chiang Mai. There are plenty of restaurants that cater to every palette, but street food continues to be some of the freshest and, sometimes, tastiest food you can find.
Towards the end of our trip to Thailand, Mr. King couldn’t stand looking at street food anymore. We wanted his pampered life of a personal chef back. Although I love having the option of street food, I had to agree with him.
Come on…what would you try? Anything on a stick?