Food in Chiang Mai

The local Chiang Mai noodle dish - Khao Soi - at a tiny restaurant called Khun Yai at the northern gate

The local Chiang Mai noodle dish – Khao Soi – at a tiny restaurant called Khun Yai at the northern gate

One of the best parts of spending a month in Chiang Mai was exploring all of the different food they had in the city. In addition to the typical pad thai and fried rice dishes, you could find an assortment of awesome curries for about $1.50 a plate. The local speciality is Khao Soi, which is a coconut-based noodle dish. I ate it at least 20 times at different places. Then of course there are the Saturday and Sunday night street markets, where you can try lots of different dishes for fifty cents each and get stuffed in the process.

I also took a cooking class with Zabb-e-Lee, which was an incredible experience. I made a ton of delicious food, including the best fried spring rolls I’ve ever eaten. The recipes were much more accessible than the fancy food I made at my cooking class in Laos and I actually think I could repeat some of it. I just need to buy a wok!

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Learning to Cook Lao Food

At Tamarind's cooking school, decked out in an apron

At Tamarind’s cooking school, decked out in an apron

Cooking classes are extremely popular in Southeast Asia and I made it a goal to take at least a few while I’m in the region. While I didn’t do one in Vietnam, I did take advantage of a cooking class in Luang Prabang with Tamarind, a Lao-Australian owned restaurant. It was not the cheapest day, as the course cost $35, but it was well worth it as I learned a lot about Lao food and eating customs.

The day started with a visit to the market, where we sampled some local snacks and learned about the produce we’d be using throughout the day. Then we were taken to Tamarind’s cooking school just outside the city, which was a peaceful garden with ponds and flowers.

We cooked three main dishes – chicken, fish, and buffalo meat – as well as sticky rice and an eggplant dip. We also made amazing purple sticky rice with coconut for dessert. I met some great fellow travelers, although as usual I was the only one going solo, and tested my culinary skills with some brand new ingredients. Learning how to stuff lemongrass with chicken was particularly challenging!

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