Thailand


One night, there was talk of going to a cultural show to have dinner and see some dancing. I can’t say I was particularly thrilled as my experiences of these “experiences” have never been good. However, when I learned that these dinner/shows are also frequented by Thai tourists, I realised that perhaps it wouldn’t be so geared towards foreigners. Off we went. It was a definitely a slick operation as they’d sent minibuses to pick us up from the hotel.

When we entered the room, we were led to a large table since we were a large group; those who arrived earlier were seated around lower tables on the floor. This Khantoke dinner was presented to us as soon as we’d settled in – this style of eating is a traditional northern Thai (Lanna) form of eating. A low round tray is set in the middle with a number of dishes laid out on it and people sit around it. Sticky rice is eaten alongside the food and everything is usually eaten by hand. We stuck to forks and spoons though! Servers came around during the meal to refill any dish that we’d finished.

Khantoke Dinner

Clockwise from the top, we have: fried chicken, mee krob (fried rice vermicelli in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce), fried bananas, green chili and aubergine dip, Burmese pork curry, stir fried cabbage, chili and tomato and pork dip, fried pork rinds (to dip), and in the middle, raw vegetables (also to dip). There was also a vegetable soup to start, both steamed and sticky rice to eat with, and fried sweet crispy rice cakes for dessert. Nothing was spiced too heavily, I’m guessing for the palates of the foreigners but there were still a few dishes that stood out for me. They were the Burmese pork curry (very nice – deeply savoury and good with sticky rice) and the chili, tomato and pork dip (mmm….dippy goodness). I found this surprising as I don’t usually expect much from mass produced food.

Further information about khantoke dining can be found in this article.

Oh, and the entertainment was good too! Photos from the shows can be found on my Flickr photostream.

Old Chiangmai Cultural Center
185/3 Wualai Rd
Chiang Mai, Thaia

Just before I left for Chiang Mai, I found this video online of Anthony Bourdain spending time there for A Cook’s Tour. He went to visit a number of eateries but what really caught my eye was his time at Aroon Rai, a restaurant where he said that everything’s good. With his stamp of approval (and his going on and on about how delicious everything was! And our tailor also giving it a thumbs up!), this place was chosen for dinner the next night.

No coconut for me this time; instead I started with some iced lemon tea. This led to a bit of an addiction to lemon tea during my entire visit.

Iced Lemon Tea

Along with orders for both steamed rice and sticky rice, we ordered som tam (the famous Thai green papaya salad),

Som Tam

pork larb (A classic northern Thai salad. We actually asked for this dish to be spiced as for a Thai person since this was off the Thai specials page in the menu. What arrived turned out to be very mildly spiced. I guess they didn’t take us seriously…luckily this was still very good, with some chili powder and toasted rice powder mixed in with the meat),

Pork Larb

pork and chili paste (I thought this was the best thing on the table! Not very spicy but such complex flavours),

Pork and Chili Paste

spicy Chiang Mai sausage (not bad. I know it looks burnt but it definitely wasn’t. And I had so many different kinds of “Chiang Mai sausage” during this trip that I don’t know if there’s actually a specific style that’s local or just the whole sausage thing that’s from Chiang Mai),

Spicy Chiang Mai Sausage

a number of curries including this creamy, coconutty, chicken curry,

Chicken Curry

seafood tom yam soup (this was a very large bowl that easily fed the whole table – and it was nice and spicy),

Seafood Tom Yam

and a few vegetable dishes to round things off.

While the presentation wasn’t as impressive as at The Good View, I found this meal to be the most memorable. It’s true – everything was extremely good and I know that if we had been able to convince them to add more chilies to the food, the meal would have been even more memorable (maybe not in a good way!). Highly recommended!

Aroon Rai
45 Kotchasarn Rd
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Looking for a restaurant for a group of people can be difficult in any city. Finding one in a city that you’re unfamiliar with is extremely difficult. Luckily I had found a number of positive restaurant reviews online before my trip and suggested one of the larger ones to try that first night with a number of colleagues and new friends. The Good View by the river seemed like a nice place – it was a little empty when we arrived but soon after it filled up with a mix of both locals and tourists.

The menu is quite long and very confusingly laid out, though somehow we did manage to select a number of dishes for us to share. Firstly, I ordered a coconut to drink. It’s a young coconut with soft jelly-like flesh and so it’s also served with a spoon to scoop away at it. (This was probably the most photographed coconut in existence! Everyone at the table whipped out their cameras when this arrived!)

Young Coconut

The mixed northern Thai starters were mainly variants on spicy pork sausage and the famous chili and vegetable dips with raw vegetables to dip into them. The green dip on the left hand side is aubergine and green chili and traditionally, fried pork rinds are eaten with it. I quite enjoyed this taste from the north of Thailand – I’ve never seen any of these in London. I had to use flash for this and subsequent photos – it got dark very quickly.

Mixed Northern Thai Starters

A catfish salad was just fluffy fried catfish with a tangy and Thai dressing on the side. This is my kind of salad! The fluffs didn’t really taste of fish but were a nice crispy base to soak up the delicious dressing.

Fried Catfish Salad

A golden mushroom (enoki) and prawn salad also was dressed in a tangy dressing involving fish sauce and lime juice. For the veggie eaters, there was tofu fried with basil. Nothing much to report here; they weren’t very exciting but were tasty enough. A pineapple fried rice was served, as expected, in a pineapple. Still delightful though!

Pineapple Fried Rice

From the specials menu on the table, we ordered a fried tub-tim fish (the internet says this is a tilapia) with turmeric. This was very meaty and very tasty! And yes, that is ketchup on the side.

Fried Tub-Tim Fish with Turmeric

There were a couple of other dishes that I forgot to photograph, one of them being a plate of stir fried greens. Of course, there was also sticky rice to eat with all this – I took to this rice very quickly and I’m hoping I can cook it well at home.

While the Good View isn’t the cheapest place to eat in Chiang Mai, it did seem like good value to us. With many other drinks (beer too) ordered round the table, this came out to 240 baht each for the six of us. And there’s a good view (hehe) and live music (they weren’t too bad and you can make requests).

Finally, a bit of a tip when eating anywhere by the river – put on lots of insect repellent! My legs became a bit of a mosquitoes’ buffet when I didn’t realise that with a Deet spray, a top up is probably required halfway through the day.

The Good View
13 Charoen Raj Road
Chiang Mai, Thailand

We knew there had to be food around. We were in the middle of the very touristy night market in Chiang Mai and were wandering from street to street looking for a place to sit down and taste some of the local dishes. Eventually, we happened across the Anusarn market and all the outdoor seafood restaurants at the back. We chose one at random and placed our order.

An order for pad thai resulted in this very fancy display. The noodles were wrapped in a paper thin omelette and on the side were chopped peanuts, beansprouts, a lime wedge, and some chives. This pad thai equaled the best pad thais I’ve had in London (no ketchup involved here!), but at about 1/5th of the price.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai Innards

With instructions to eat lots of morning glory ringing in my ears, I had to order this dish of them stir fried with bean sauce. They were soft and slippery with still a bit of crunch and the bean sauce gave a hint of saltiness and savouriness that had us hooked! This was a new dish to me as in Malaysia, I always had it cooked with fermented shrimp paste (belacan) and chili.

Stir Fried Morning Glory in Bean Sauce

The meal was rounded off with some pork fried rice. Tasty stuff it was but it’s hard to go wrong with fried rice. During this trip, I became particularly enamoured of the hot little chillies in fish sauce that came alongside a lot of one dish meals or were part of the communal accompaniments in the centre of the table. Now that I’ve had a lot of it though, I can’t look at chillies in fish sauce for a while.

Pork Fried Rice

With a Thai iced tea to drink, I was happy and full. Of course, I wasn’t too full to try some of the desserts from the other stands around. A chocolate banana roti and a mango with sticky rice went down pretty well too!

Anusarn Market
Chang Khlan Road
Chiang Mai, Thailand

I’m back! I had a little over a week away in Chiang Mai, attending a workshop and having a bit of a holiday. Before my trip, I was very worried about my lack of Thai and how I would manage to get around town but I managed just fine. Everyone was very friendly and really did their best to help out if you’re having a problem. I saw more temples than you can shake a stick at and more dogs at those temples than I expected. And needless to say, I ate lots of Thai food! Of course, I’ve got to start my travel posts with the inflight meals that I ate; well, more like picked at.

The first leg of my journey was an overnight Qantas flight from London to Bangkok – about a 12 hour flight. Supper for me was pork medallions with a mustard sauce and sauerkraut. Not too bad. Not great either; hey, it’s airplane food. The highlight of the meal was the Bundaberg ginger beer that I got to taste – pleasantly gingery without the raw ginger taste.

Pork Medallions

Bundaberg Ginger Beer

In the morning, breakfast was served. I chose not to have either the muesli or the omelette that was on offer, opting only for the tray with fruit and juice. The fruit wasn’t very ripe and juice that comes in those funny little tubs always tastes strange. So, not much to report.

Breakfast

The second leg of the journey was Bangkok to Chiang Mai on Thai Airways. My transit at Suvarnabhumi Airport was an absolute nightmare as I was getting conflicting information about whether to go through immigration, which desk to go to, where to go. In the end, I had to sprint to make the check-in for my flight before it closed. The only good thing that came out of that horrific connection was that I met Katherine, who was going to the same workshop that I was attending. Hello, Katherine!

On the 1 hour 10 minute flight, we were served snack boxes with a mystery meat sausage roll and some juice drink. After my bit of exercise at the airport, I was ravenous and scoffed it all.

Juice and a Pastry

Luckily, we made it to Chiang Mai in one piece, checked in to our hotel and then went out for a first bite in Chiang Mai…

(I want to thank Boots in the Oven for their very helpful tips for my trip – thanks so much, Rachel!)

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