Street Food In Chiang Mai – 5 Places you Must Try
We would probably put eating street food as one of the top things to do when traveling in Thailand. Whether you are in the southern cities of Phuket and Bangkok, or on one of the magical islands off the coast, and even better, in the northern city of Chiang Mai, the street food is some of the best in the world. We're gonna break it down and give you the top five spots for trying Thai food on the streets of Chiang Mai.
As far as places we've traveled to so far, Thailand street food takes the cake. Yes, Shanghai has some great snacks on the street. Other places like Vietnam may have signature foods sold on the streets like Bahn Mi. However, when it comes to getting a great meal with a lot of menu options, street food in Chiang Mai definitely is top notch.
These places are modest and not much at first glance. With aluminum fold-able tables covered with a plastic tablecloth advertising a product, short wiggly stools, and self-serve water stations, they still manage to satisfy as well as any top restaurant.
The short order cooks prepare all the cooked to order dishes super quick and everything comes out fresh and hot. You'll wait all of about 5 minutes for your meal, but don't expect everything to come out at the same time. If you're with other people, you may have to start eating before they receive theirs as items get cooked one at a time.
What To Eat – Thai Menu Items You Should Try
- Grilled or Fried Chicken – Gai Yang (ไก่ย่าง) or gai-tod-ไก่ทอดin Thai. Whichever style you do choose, you MUST have it with sticky rice.
- Green Papaya Salad – Called Som Tam in Thai (ส้มตำ ) is shredded unripe green papayas as the base with tomatoes, onion, small chunks of cashew added in together with a lime dressing, this salad can be made as spicy as you want it.
- Chicken With Cashew Nut - Gai Phad Med Ma Muang Himmapan (ไก่ผัดเม็ดมะม่วงหิมพานต์). This stir fry dish is hearty and full of vegetables.
- Chicken With Wide Noodles – Pad see ew (ผัดซีอิ๊ว ) is great for those that love Chinese food. This dish will not be spicy and has a Chinese flavor thanks to the oyster and soy sauce that the noodles are stir-fried in.
- Northern Thai Egg Noodle Soup – Khao Soy (ข้าวซอย) It's a curry and coconut based soup that can be made with any meat option or vegetarian style along with rice or egg noodles.
- Garlic Chicken – Gai Pad Gra Tiam(ไก่ผัดกระเทียม ) consisting of chicken, pepper, and garlic (sometimes green onion is added)
- Basil Chicken – Gai Pad Grapao (ผัดกระเพราไก่) consists of chicken and Thai holy basil.)
So, without further ado, here are our favorites. Take a look and try some out the next time you are staying in Chiang Mai. Now, this is not a complete list by any means, so if you have a favorite we haven't mentioned, let us know in the comments below.
Street Food In Chiang Mai - Top 5 Places To Try
Chang Puak Gate Food Stalls
Or as we affectionately refer to it, "North Gate Stalls" have got us hooked on their amazingly delightful Thai dishes served up nightly. Located in the north of Chiang Mai City and on the outer part of the moat, the stalls are set up around 5 in the evening and are usually open until midnight.
You will have a huge selection of menus to choose from. All of the food stalls here provide a menu in English. They may even have signs in English and Chinese (there are a lot of Chinese tourists here in Chiang Mai). Additionally, some of the menus also provide pictures of each food listed. They make it real easy, but the hard part is choosing as there are so many fantastic options.
There is everything from noodle soups to grilled seafood available here. You can start at one stall and grab a soup and head over to another for pork satay appetizers, followed by the main dish with rice at another location and then finished with some sticky rice and mango at the end (if you still have the room!).
Since there are so many stalls here with so many offerings, this area is great for families and big groups. On several occasions that we have been here, we have even seen large tables of locals enjoying dinner together. Usually, the dishes can be shared by two people, and you do have to order rice separately. If you do go with a group, we suggest ordering a few different dishes to try together.
Chiang Mai Gate Street Food Stalls
On the opposite side of the city, in the inner part of the moat on the south end, there are food stalls set up nightly as well. During the day, this area is a market where locals shop for their meat and produce, and on Saturday nights there is also a huge night market on one of the streets leading to Chiang Mai Gate from the south. In a nutshell, you should go here at some point during your visit to Chiang Mai.
A bit different than it's northern counterpart, the food stalls here are more in the snack category. Now, I'm not saying you will end up going home hungry, no way. I would organize this area into two parts. Directly next to the moat is the pot for noodles. Bowls of noodles with egg or white noodles served in broth, or "dry" can be found here. There are several of these stalls to pick from, and all have English menus. Each stall also provides it's own "section" of tables for you to enjoy your food at.
On the other side of the street, you'll find a lot of fried foods. Delicious finger foods like fried egg rolls (meat or veggie), potstickers (or gyoza), grilled pork on a stick, hot dogs, as well as grilled seafood are all lined up on the roadside. Once you've had your fill of these delightful snacks, wash it all down with a fresh smoothie.
There are a few different smoothies stalls here, and they are all super cheap and good. You have a choice of having a fruit mixed with yogurt for a more of a "lassi" texture and flavor, or just get the fruit or combination of fruits blended. You do have the option to ask for no sugar in your drink. Typically, they will add a mixture of sugary syrup for added flavor, but you can politely let them know if you prefer your smoothie without this.
On a side note, there is a little "hole in the wall" place here that serves a great chicken gyro wrap. It's located at the end of the strip of food stalls, across the street from the actual Chiang Mai Gate (where vehicles can make the u-turn).
While this area is a bit more trendy and upscale as compared to the Old City and east part of Chiang Mai, you are still able to get some great street food just strolling down the street here. We've listed some great restaurants and cafes in this area in some of our previous posts, but if you're in this area during the day, you will see food carts dotting Nimmanhaemin Road towards the evening hours.
The food you want to try here is the Norther Thai style sausage. You will find lots of carts selling these sausages on a stick in several different varieties. Be sure to grab one hot off the grill for the ultimate in flavor burst. It's an item you must try when in Chiang Mai since it is a unique food to northern Thailand.
One of our favorite go-to spots on Nimmanhaemin Rd. is a place for fried chicken and papaya salad. Fried Chicken Leaves Nimman has the best fried chicken, but what makes it so great is the added fried Kaffir lime leaves. You just grab a basket and use the provided tongs to pick the items you want from up front. They take the basket from you and cut everything up so that it's easy to eat.
You may also want to order up some sticky rice to go with your fried chicken. We would also recommend getting the papaya salad (som tam) or cucumber salad, but make sure you let them now if you can't handle too much spice!
The perfect place for window-shopping and people watching, Nimmanhaemin Road should be on everyone's list of places to see in Chiang Mai. We would suggest grabbing an adult beverage at Kamrai Shop after trying some savory sausages. This small liquor store is a self-serve place where you grab your beer, wine, or whiskey and enjoy it at one of the outdoor tables while you watch people pass by. A real chill spot!
On a side note, you should also try khao soi, which is another northern Thai dish. This special noodle soup consists of your choice of meat with egg noodles soaked in a curry broth topped off with some crispy dry noodles. You won't find this soup on the street, but if you are in this area, pop into Nimman Khoa Soi on Soi 7.
Sunday Night Market
The Sunday Night Market is undoubtedly one of the most famous things to do in Chiang Mai. Going to this market doesn't just accomplish shopping for your list of souvenirs to take back to friend and family. No, this place is great for street food. Heck, some might even just go to the Sunday Night Market to eat!
As you walk down Rachadamnoen Road starting at the famous Tha Pae Gate on the eastern side of the Old City, you will hit stall after stall of Thai street food and snacks. You may not even make it to walking down this Walking Street if you end up just walking through the stalls at the entrance of Tha Pae Gate. There is just so much to eat here that it can be overwhelming.
The fun is in just walking along the road and picking a bit of something to try here and there. Don't worry if you wanted to try something and missed it as you walk along. Chances are, you will come across another identical stall further down.
The perfect dessert to have here is sticky rice with mango (or durian, if you prefer). Come hungry, because you'll want to try it all here.
Saturday Night Market
Like it's counterpart above, this night market has made quite a reputation for itself with tourists visiting from all around the world. The Saturday Night Market starts at Chiang Mai Gate, on the outer side of the moat (across from the food stalls we mentioned before).
Maybe it's our imagination, but it seems that this market may have slightly more food available than the Sunday Night Market. Either way, walking down this street or branching off to any of the smaller alleys, you can't miss all the great food available here. There are areas where tables are also provided (on the side streets) so you can grab a bunch of different items and be able to enjoy them sitting down.
Well, we hope that we've provided you a nice list of street food to try while you are in Chiang Mai. As we mentioned before, this is by no means a complete list, but it's a darn good start!
Cost Of Street Food In Chiang Mai
Oh, and did I mention that the street food in Chiang Mai is also super cheap. By cheap, I mean economical, as in low, low cost! The places we list below range from ฿40-฿100 THB ($1-$3 USD) per item. Keep in mind that snack items and smoothies, generally, cost around ฿20-35 THB. So, basically, you can have all these great foods and still stay way within any budget while traveling in Thailand.
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!