Head to Chiang Mai University on Suthep Road for a culinary adventure.
We were in search of what we had heard was the best street food in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
After the sun set, Wally and I flagged down a tuk-tuk and headed east of the out of the Old City to the back gate of Chiang Mai University on Suthep Road. At night the street transforms into a massive cluster of open-air kitchens, lined with food stalls as far as the eye can see. When we arrived around 8 p.m., it was buzzing with students, some arriving by moped, others on foot.
Don’t Be Afraid of Street Food
We have found street food to be the perfect embodiment of authentic local culture. The flavors are more pronounced — a far cry from bland Westernized pad Thai and spring rolls.
If you’ve never visited one of these types of markets, know that it’s perfectly normal to be overwhelmed. There’s an incredible variety to choose from: grilled skewers, larb, noodles and curries, all made to order. Each stand offers more food than one person could hope to enjoy. What’s great is that they’re all very affordable, so you can try a sampling at various stalls, and it’s not the end of the world if you buy something you don’t like.
Wally and I walked past a few stands, stopping to watch the cooks prepare their specialties. We bought some grilled chicken skewers to munch on before settling on our main course.
At one end of the street, we found a vendor we liked. Many of the tables were packed (which we took to be a good sign), but we didn’t have a problem finding a seat. We sat on plastic chairs and ordered from the menu. Most have English menus with descriptions of the food, so you can either point to or say what you want to eat quite easily, without worrying about a language barrier.
None of the stalls served booze, so while we waited for our food, Wally made a quick run to a 7-Eleven across the street to pick up a couple of beers. (He says it was worth risking his life in the insane traffic.) We drank them as we each feasted on spicy pad prik gaeng with long beans served with rice, all for the equivalent of a couple of bucks — a delicious one-plate meal. Anthony Bourdain would be proud. –Duke