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We recently visited Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand to coincide with the world famous lantern festival. As we were staying in Chiang Mai for 1 week, we looked into doing some interesting experiences away from the tourist heavy areas such as Doi Suthep and the elephant parks. Being foodies we did some research online for a Chiang Mai food tour and came across a company called A Chefs Tour.
We loved the sound of their lunchtime Chiang Mai food tasting tour as you get to sample….wait for it…20-25 different food tastings! Woohoo!
Myself and Neil are fairly adventurous eaters and the only thing that usually holds us back is the language barrier so this tour sounded perfect for us. The tour also appealed to us because you get to experience a more local and authentic Thai way of life away from the tourist heavy restaurants and markets in the old town.
There are usually around 8 people on A Chef’s Tour lunchtime tasting group, but we were the only ones who had booked onto that particular day’s tour so we got to have our own private experience!
We met up with our local guide Moui – a very sweet lady who has lived in Chiang Mai for over 20 years so has a great knowledge of northern Thai cuisine and the best dishes and places to go. We met her at 10am at the beautiful Wat Lok Molee temple where herself and a songthaew driver were waiting to meet us for our tour to begin.
Watch our A Chef’s Tour in Chiang Mai video!
Chiang Mai food tour
Our first stop of the tour was a fantastic local family run joint located outside of the main old town. They have been serving the famous Northern Thai dish Khao Soi here for years and apparently it is one of the best places to go to eat this.
We were not disappointed – it was the best Khao Soi I have ever tasted (I’ve eaten a few bowls before in Chiang Mai). The sauce was thick, silky and flavoursome, and the meats were soft and tender (we ordered one chicken and one beef). I would have polished off the whole bowl then and there, but I was aware this was dish 1 of a potential 25 so I had to sadly had to leave half a bowl empty to keep some space in my belly! A great start to the day!
We jumped back into our songthaew and headed to a food market north of Chiang Mai’s old city which is mostly frequented by locals. This was a bustling and colourful place filled with many stalls selling a variety of fascinating looking snacks, drinks and hot dishes.
The first stall we stopped at was run by a lovely lady who was skilfully creating small steamed dumplings (really fun to watch!). She made two different types of dumpling – one was a Tapioca Dumpling (small balls with a chewy skin filled with pork, peanuts, shallot, palm sugar, and fish sauce), whilst the others were meaty steamed dumplings with skins dyed purple (from butterfly pea) and green (from pandan leaf….I think!).
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Next door to the dumpling lady was a stall selling Kanom bang, known as Thai crepes in English. This dessert is a popular Thai street food and are usually filled with coconut cream, followed by sweet or salty toppings such as shredded coconut or Foi Thong (strips of fried eggs or egg yolks).
We then sampled a few snacks on sticks which are an extremely popular street food item in Thailand. We tried some grilled banana, and then some pork balls dipped in a sticky, sweet chilli sauce. Both tasted pretty damn good.
One dish I was not so keen on eating but went for it anyway (Neil was too scared to try) was pigs brain! Known as Aeb – the brain is seasoned with lemongrass and other herbs and spices, wrapped in banana leaf and grilled over fire. It is a very popular snack in Northern Thailand. I only had two mouthfuls of the dish as I found the taste and the slimy texture a bit off putting (I am not a huge lemongrass fan).
The next snack we got to sample was Sai Oua, which is Northern Thai sausage. This is very famous dish from this region of Thailand and is made from minced pork mixed with a variety of ingredients such as kaffir lime leaf, coriander, galangal and lemongrass. There is a blue bowl symbol on the sign above this particular stall – meaning they have earned a very prestigious classification and that the food here is renowned for its excellent quality.
The lady who runs this stall sells out of her sausages everyday and many Thai visitors buy them and take them back to Bangkok as gifts for family and friends! Personally I found the sausage contained too much lemongrass for my liking and so I only ate one piece, but Neil absolutely loved the flavour and wolfed them all down!
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We then went on to sample loads more goodies from all around the market. In fact it was hard to keep up the pace as I was still eating snacks from previous stalls when new snacks were being presented to me haha!
The delicious foods we got to try included Thai style rice crackers, mini fish pastries and some coconut cream snacks (Little cones of sticky coconut magic with grated coconut flesh hairdos).
One particular food we tried is called Thong Yod (which means gold egg-yolks drops) and is an ancient Thai dessert. It is often served at important celebrations and ceremonies, including weddings and is made from the mixture of egg yolk and flour boiled in syrup. Moui purchased a small box for us to try which had a selection of different styles – some round ball shaped, some shaped like a flower and some a bit stringy.
We also tasted sticky banana leaf (a sweet and salty rice dessert), and one of my favourite dishes of the day – Nam prik num and crackling. I’m a huge pork crackling fan so my face lit up when I saw Moui purchasing this for us to try. It was accompanied by a really lovely spicy dipping sauce which was freshly pounded in front of us according to our preferred spice levels (we went for a mild spice as we know ‘mild’ in Thailand is still pretty hot!).
One dish I am pretty sure I will never ever eat again was Century Eggs. This Chinese delicacy is definitely an acquired taste and is made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs with wood ash, salt, lime with rice straw for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing. Lets be honest the egg looks pretty rank with its jelly like appearance and the yolk being a revolting dark green colour (and don’t get me started on the smell!). To be fair the egg tasted ok but I think the jelly consistency put me off a bit and after a bit of forced nibbling I threw it away! But I am very glad I tried it (big brave me hehe).
Our last tasting in the market was at a Thai juice stall where we tried some very unusual but popular flavoured juices – butterfly pea (a purple flower that is packed with health promoting antioxidant), and pennywort (a green asian plant used for medicinal purposes). At first I wasn’t so keen on the taste of either of them, but after a few sips both drinks grew on me!
After our epic market session we jumped back into our songthaew and headed towards the trendy Nimman area for 3 more food tasting stops. Our first pitstop was for some refreshing iced coffee/tea and a sit down at a little roadside beverage stall.
We then quickly hurried over to a local bbq hut so we could make it in time to try the Gai Yang (grilled chicken) before it sold out (they are that popular that they sell out everyday!) We got to watch our chicken being cooked over smoky charcoal before enjoying tucking into it accompanied by some zesty papaya salad with salted crab and sticky rice. Absolutely delicious!
We ended the tour with a stop for dessert and swung by a homemade Thai ice cream joint in the heart of Nimman. This wasn’t an actual dessert shop as such, but a small set up in the drive of somebody’s own house! The owners have created a cute seating area next to a large freezer containing pots of their own home made ice cream, with an honesty box for people to pay.
There were so many awesome flavours to choose from but the Oreo and Orange was a heavenly combination and a winner for me!
We really enjoyed our Chiang Mai food tour experience with Moui and left very content and really stuffed! It was a really chilled few hours and I would highly recommend this tour to anyone keen to learn more about Northern Thai food (and with a large appetite!). Our guide Moui was absolutely fantastic and knowledgable and I cannot recommend her enough.
Chiang Mai food tour – how to book
- 4-hour guided Chiang Mai food tour
- 20-25 tastings at a whole bunch of hidden foodie stops
- Learn about the history and culture of Northern Thai cuisine
- A guided walk and talk through a local food market
- Refreshing Thai drinks and bottled water
- Fully licensed (and foodie) guide
- Limited to just 8 exclusive guests each day
Tip – arrive hungry and skip breakfast! Tastings are also subject to change due to availability of street vendors.
A Chef’s Tour also offer an evening food tour in Chiang Mai, plus food tours in Bangkok and Phuket. They are slowly adding more new food experiences in new countries so check out their website to see where else they are!
Other Northern Thailand blog posts
- Sunday Walking Street night market in Chiang Mai
- 99 The Heritage hotel in Chiang Mai review
- A Day at the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai
- Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- What to do in Chiang Rai
- Visiting the White Temple in Chiang Rai
- The perfect day trip in Chiang Rai
- The Cat ‘n’ a Cup Cafe, Chiang Rai
Chiang Mai accommodation
Family Home Hostel
Highly rated hostel a short walk away from the old town. Check out prices and availability for Family Home Hostel.
The Islander Chiang Mai
Highly rated Thai style hostel with rooftop area. Located 2 minutes away from the famous Saturday Night Market. Check out prices and availability for The Islander.
Hostel with rooftop lounge, reading nooks, computer working areas and greenhouse lounge. Check out prices and availability for Haus Hostel.
Highly rated hotel a 10-minute walk from Chiang Mai Night Bazaar with outdoor pool. Check out prices and availability for Rimping Village.
Amata Lanna Village
Beautiful 4-star resort located a short drive from Chiang Mai old town. Check out prices and availability for Amata Lanna Village
3-star hotel with pool, restaurant, garden and buffet breakfast. Check out prices and availability for Villa Sanpakoi.
X2 Chiang Mai Riverside Resort
Luxurious hotel set on the banks of the majestic Ping River with rooftop gym, spa, pool and bar that overlooks the river. Check out prices and availability for X2 Chiang Mai Riverside Resort
Anantara Chiang Mai Resort
Hotel with minimalist Asian design, located along the banks of the Ping River with a spa, cocktail bar and pool. Check out prices and availability for Anantara Chiang Mai Resort
Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel & Spa
Hotel set in a colonial-style building with outdoor pool, a restaurant and lobby bar. Just a 5-minute walk to the Night Bazaar. Check out prices and availability for Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel & Spa
Download the Grab app
Grab taxis are widely used by both tourists and locals, and the fares are really cheap! Download the Grab app here and use the code GRABCKTRAVELS to earn a free ride when you sign up.
Sim cards and pocket WIFI
Having data on your phone whilst travelling is almost essential these days – from planning your route around the city, booking a Grab taxi or for staying connected with friends and family back home. SIM cards are pretty cheap in Thailand with generous data allowances and are available to purchase from both of Bangkok’s airports, malls and 7-Elevens (bring your passport along for identification purposes).
You can also prepay online and collect a SIM from Suvarnabhumi Airport, Don Muang Airport or Siam Centre. Just remember to make sure your phone is not locked to your local network provider before purchasing one.
Alternatively if you do not want to change your sim card then renting a pocket wifi device with unlimited high speed internet access might be for you. We’ve used them multiple times and love that we can both connect our devices to it. Pre-order one online with Klook for collection when you arrive at either Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang Airport.
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Disclosure: The tour places were complimentary, but as always, opinions are all our own.