Northern Thai food – an adventure for the senses

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You’ve decided to head to Chiang Mai and points North for a great South East Asian adventure but of course you need some fuel to keep those energy levels up. Well you’ve come to the right place….

Thailand’s rightly famous around the world for it’s food but put aside the pre-conceptions of the food you’ve had in Thai restaurants at home, the North is the destination for an adventurous culinary treat. All the famous staples are of course accessible everywhere but for the true foodie adventurer there is so much more to get stuck into.

Here are a few dishes that you really must try on your Northern Thailand adventure

Khao Soi

A mild curry served with egg noodles and topped off with crispy noodles. You’ll usually have a big hunk of delicious chicken in there along with pickled cabbage, lime and chilli to add to taste. Simple, tasty, addictive and great at any time of day, even for a quick morning snack. Perhaps the North’s most famous dish for visitors and rightly so – don’t miss it and look for any street vendor / sidewalk making it that looks busy with Thai’s, it’ll be delicious. Fancy trying to make it at home? Here’s a great recipe for Khao Soi

Nam Prik Ong / Nam Prik Noom

A little more adventurous than Khao Soi and not initially something most visitors rush to order but a real classic Northern food and a real adventure for your taste buds. Both are chilli based dips served with a mixture of vegetables to pile the dip onto. Whilst the dips might not have the bright colours and glamorous reputation of many Thai dishes, give these a go and you won’t be disappointed. The balance of dip with the vegetables and, in many places, local pork scratchings, is to die for and a must for all adventurous spirits.


Again, something that probably doesn’t jump off the page as a must eat and certainly doesn’t grace too many Thai take away menus overseas. But, these minced pork with sticky rice sausages combined with garlic and chilli are fantastic and great part of any meal or even better as a snack to go with an ice cold beer. Tasting nothing like the sausage you’re probably used to at home, these are full of flavour, slightly sour and awesome eaten with a little bit of fiery chilli at the same time.

Gaeng Hunglay

A fantastic pork based ‘curry’ that has a very different taste adventure from the more traditional Thai curries you may be used to. Usually slow cooked so the pork dissolves in your mouth this curry has huge Burmese influence and is much mellower than many of the more fiery curries so prominent in Thailand. Only a real food writer could do justice to this dish but if you like good old home comfort cooking, hunks of pork belly dissolving as you eat them and a sensation for your taste buds then make sure you eat this at least once on your Northern Thailand adventure.

Random food in small communities

No, not the name of a particular dish (although that would be great wouldn’t it!), rather an encouragement to be truly adventurous and give anything a go. While every restaurant serves up pretty much the same dishes as everyone else, eating in a small rural village lets you see what people really eat. Recipes passed on through generations, added to here and there when certain herbs / leaves suddenly seem like a good idea or even just food based around what Grandma happened to find when out and about in the fields / forests – eating random food in small rural communities really is the way to go. Sure, the odd dish may be a stretch for your taste buds or you might not have eaten pork lung before but don’t pass up this opportunity if you’re lucky enough to get it. Is there a better way to end a day’s adventure and exploration than sitting with a group of local people who are cooking the dishes only they know best with ingredients freshly picked / found from the surrounding area? If there is, then we haven’t found it. And if you’re really lucky, the food may well be accompanied by some locally brewed fire water. Try remembering how the dishes were cooked after a few shots of that……

And to top off the great selection of food, there are some unique ways that Thailand has of getting the food to your table – have a look at this clip of brilliant Thai innovation.

Northern Thailand is full of adventure and has no shortage of amazing things to do and people do meet. But please make sure you give you taste buds the same amount of adventure. Get off-the-beaten-track and get ready for food that will ruin your Thai takeaway back at home.

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