Chiang Mai: the mecca for all things food throughout all of Thailand…at least that’s my opinion anyway. A few weeks ago, I found myself perusing the streets of this great Southeast Asian city, on a quest for the finest Northern Thai cuisine I could find. In addition to cooking classes and tracking down the best Koi Soi in the area, like any good globetrotting American, I looked to my number #1 travel dining resource for advice: Anthony Bourdain.
In an old episode of Parts Unknown, Bourdain was joined by Andy Ricker – owner of Portland’s Pok Pok, or as Bourdain describes him, “that white guy that makes awesome Thai food” – on a booze-fueled and [literally] tuk-tuk-driven culinary tour around the Chiang Mai province. At first glance, most of Bourdain and Ricker’s time was spent around the city of Chiang Mai itself. I quickly found out that this was not the case…
After struggling with a handful of blog articles that highlighted the “Anthony Bourdain Chiang Mai Food Trail” and even less reliable Thai addresses that were definitely not Google Maps-friendly, I did the last thing I could think of: I shot a tweet over to Ricker himself for some first-hand advice:
— Chris Luecke (@CWLuecke) November 23, 2015
— Andy Ricker (@pawkhrua) November 24, 2015
— Andy Ricker (@pawkhrua) November 24, 2015
Looking back, those Instagram pin drops were the only thing that prevented me from missing out on some of the best eats of my recent Southeast Asia trip….
…so as a first-world-problem-solving service to future travels of Chiang Mai looking to replicate Bourdain’s journey, I have created an unofficial “Anthony Bourdain Chiang Mai Food Map” of the immediate Chiang Mai city region. While not all of these locations are accessible via a cheap tuk-tuk ride around the old walled city, with enough time and creativity, you’ll be able to hit them all.
Khao Kha Muu (“Cowboy Hat Lady”)
Must-Haves: Khao Kha Muu
Location: Chang Phuek Night Market on Thanon Manee Nopparat, right near the Chang Phuek Gate
We’ll start with an easy one. The famed “Cowboy Hat Lady” is far and away the most convenient spot to access, and not to mention most taxi drivers will know her location by this nickname. If not, they’ll definitely know where the “night market” is. If you’re looking to navigate it yourself though, it’s on the north side of the street near the Chang Phuek gate, and just short 100m walk west of there. You should probably be ending most of your bar-hopping nights here, because a plate of Khao Kha Muu (Thai-style stewed pork leg) for roughly 30 baht ($1 USD) is the perfect chaser for a dozen Chang Beers…
Kai Thawt Thien Kheun (“Midnight Sticky Rice”)
Location: Just southeast of the walled city, along Soi Kampang Din between Soi Ragang 2 and Soi Sri Don Chai
Must-Haves: Fried Chicken
I take back my previous statement…THIS place is also a pretty damn good Chang-chaser. After all, it doesn’t open until 11pm, and is open until about 4am. Go here if your crew isn’t already twisting your arm to visit the Cowboy Hat Lady. This place might have been my personal favorite. A deep-fried meal is just what I needed late at night following some Loy Krathong festivities. Get the deep-fried pork, the fried chicken, some softboiled eggs, and a bunch of sticky rice at the very least. Don’t forget the nam prik noom (chile relish) for some added spice.
Laap Kao Cham Cha
Location: Basically the intersection of Soi Bamrung Rat and Rattanakosin Road, at the northern touchpoint of Prince Royals College and Payap University
Must-Haves: Laap (raw pork)
Don’t be fooled by the other eateries just a block or so east of this tucked-away joint. You’re really looking for a place called the “Rain Tree,” and you’ll know you’re in the right spot if the menu has this aforementioned logo. Laap Kao Cham Cha is an easy and cheap tuk-tuk or songthaew ride away from the walled city. I’d highly recommend going with a group of 2 to 4 people, so that you can really cash in on a couple varieties of laap, and every part of a pig you can imagine…pig intestine ALL…DAY…LONG!!
Pa Daeng Jin Tup
Location: Northwest of the city, near the intersection of Highways 1367 and 121 (Chiang Mai Outer Ring Road, in Ban San Sai Noi)
Must-Haves: Hammered Meat
Now we’re getting a bit further beyond the immediate Chiang Mai area. Pa Daeng Jin Tup is northwest of town, and probably something you’d want to seek some assistance in order to get to. Here you can get meat – beef, pork, or chicken – hammered to their liking. I can’t attest to the quality on this one, only that I would most definitely make the effort to journey out here the next time I’m in Chiang Mai. This place is open in the evening as well.
Location: 50km east of the city, on Highway 1229 (in On Klang)
Must-Haves: Pig’s Blood Soup
Admittedly this is another location we did not personally make it to, but know that if you are going to try to make the trek, make an afternoon out of it and plan on renting a motorbike to get there. This is a loooooooong haul. Fortunately when you make it there, you will be rewarded to a smorgasbord of things you would never eat otherwise: pig’s blood soup, pig’s brain, pig tail…you get the idea.
Bonus: Ladyboy Cabaret
Location: Anusarn Night Market…but just ask your tuk-tuk for the Ladyboy Cabaret…they’ll know where to go
While this is not an eating establishment, it was most definitely on Bourdain’s Chiang Mai itinerary, and great entertainment for anyone. Grab your travel buddies, 300 baht (which gets you a ticket + 1 drink), and leave your dignity at home for this show that, all-around, is good clean fun.
For any corrections, updates, open/close times, or additional information, please leave a comment below. Also, make sure to follow Chef Andy Ricker on Instagram and Twitter (links provided, and his handle is @pawkhrua at both) to get you own food-seeking advice, and to see lots of his posts about his cats (no joke). Oh, and while you’re at it, grab another piece of deep fried pork for me at Midnight Sticky Rice. Bon Appetite!