One of the best things about living in Chiang Mai, Thailand is the food scene.
It’s absolutely incredible here from a number of angles.
You have the deliciousness of the food itself. You have the accessibility/availability of this food (practically at all times of day/night, across the city). And then you have the value.
You can find great food all over the world. And you can find great food at all times of day in some places. And you can even find low prices on food at certain locations/restaurants.
But it’s pretty rare that you’ll find all three occurring simultaneously like it does here in Chiang Mai, especially to the level I’ve experienced (all three are rather extreme).
In order to show you readers what this looks like, I’m going to include some pictures of my favorite Thai street kitchen, which happens to excel at all three aforementioned aspects. I eat lunch here almost every single day.
I’m using this particular market as a proxy for all markets across Chiang Mai (and Thailand in general, for the most part). This is my favorite market (based on my taste buds and how close it is to my apartment), but the information described herein could be applied to many different markets.
This particular Thai kitchen looks unremarkable from the outside.
But what’s fantastic about it is that it’s located literally right across the street from my apartment. It’s just a short walk away, making the accessibility fantastic. I can leave my apartment and then find myself eating delicious Thai food within just a few minutes.
The tables and seats are pretty simple (often made of plastic or thin wood) for a street kitchen/market. You’re looking at basic accouterments here. No white-linen dining, which is honestly way better for someone like myself.
The tables usually feature basic dining utensils (forks, spoons, chopsticks, etc.), napkins, and Thai condiments (like fish oil, vinegar, sugar, spices).
And you’re eating al fresco at these kitchens. The seating is usually tight, the kitchen is open and close to where you eat, and the noise/heat/energy from whatever street is nearby spills into your eating area.
When you’re ready, you simply tell the cook what you want. You can grab yourself something to drink. And then they proceed to cook your food (which often takes 3-5 minutes).
Let’s next talk about the deliciousness of the food.
This kitchen cooks up some amazing food that includes…
Basil Crispy Pork With Rice
Stir-Fried Rice With Pork
Roasted Curry Paste Chicken With Peppers And Rice
The food here is absolutely amazing. Every dish I’ve eaten brings this huge smile to my face.
And the pictures I’ve taken and included in the article don’t really do the kitchen’s quality, quantity, or variety of food any justice.
The kitchen’s menu is extremely diverse. They have dozens of different options for dishes. And then each dish has multiple meat and non-meat choices. You could probably eat here for a year straight and never eat the same exact dish twice.
Most kitchens have a menu (on the wall or on the table) that have both Thai and English languages.
But what the picture of the menu may not totally capture is the price/value of this food.
If you can’t tell by the pictures of the food, the serving sizes are very generous. I order just one plate of food for lunch. Soup is almost always included. And that’s all I eat until dinner.
Most plates run 35 baht (or about $1).
If that’s not extreme value, I don’t know what is. We’re talking ~$1 for a huge portion of freshly-cooked and served Thai food.
I had a hard time buying a serving of food at all for $1 in the United States. And that’s not factoring in the cooking, serving, and cleaning. In this case, I feel like I’m not getting just delicious food, but I’m also getting the value that’s included when someone cooks it for me and cleans up after me. All I do is show up and eat. I mean, that’s just tremendous value.
This kitchen is but one of many that exist within a short distance of my apartment, but it’s my personal favorite. Based on my tastes and penchant for value, I haven’t found a better option that’s so close. And that’s why I’m here almost every single day for lunch.
I hope this post gave some readers some insight into what it’s like to eat at a local Thai street kitchen/market here in Chiang Mai.
While there are also many Thai restaurants around, I find the food stalls to be a better all-around experience. And while there are also many restaurants serving international cuisine (pizza, burgers, pasta – you name it!) across the city, I tend to eat Thai food most of the time simply because of how the street markets balance taste, value, and accessibility just right for me.
What do you think? Have you ever eaten at a Thai kitchen before? Have you found the right balance between taste, value, and availability in your local food choices?
Thanks for reading.
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