This guide to the best local restaurants in Chiang Mai presents top places in a city famous for its historical temples and tasty Northern Thailand cuisine. The geography of this mountainous area brings a uniqueness to the food, with regional ingredients that don’t grow anywhere else.

    Some dishes are specific to Chiang Mai, but you’ll also find northern takes on many common Thai dishes. The Burmese influence makes for rich, thick curries like khao soi (coconut curry noodle soup) and hang lay (pork belly curry), with herbs and spices giving distinct flavours to local cuisine. Larb moo kua (chopped pork salad) adds a northern twist to the spicy meat salad found all over Thailand, while sai oua is a regional grilled sausage. These dishes simply aren’t the same anywhere else. Below are great places to experience Chiang Mai’s exotic flavours.

    1

    Khao Soi Khun Yai

    Enjoy a Northern Thai staple

    Khao Soi Khun Yai is a small local restaurant on the northern wall of Chiang Mai's old city. It serves some of the best khao soi (coconut curry noodle soup) around. It's a small shack housed between 2 temples and opens for a few hours over lunch.

    You can order khao soi with beef, chicken or pork, and each is flavoursome. The broth is cooked separately from the coconut milk mix, and you get small dishes of chilli, lime and other condiments to get it just to your taste. The meat is cooked slowly all morning, and you can really tell as it melts in your mouth. Get there early though, as the dishes sell out pretty often.

    Location: Sri Poom 8 Alley, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm (closed on Sundays)

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    2

    Kuay Chap Sam Ka Sat

    A local take on a Chinese noodle soup

    Kuay Chap Sam Ka Sat is a Chinese restaurant that’s been serving kuay chap (noodle soup) in Chiang Mai’s old city for years. Sitting just north of the King’s Monument on Jhaban Road, it’s open daily for breakfast and lunch.

    Kuay chap is a Chinese-Malay soup that’s found in the Chinese communities of Malaysia and Singapore. It features flat noodles in a dark soy broth, with different cuts of pork. There’s a northern touch here too, with a richer broth, and rice cakes in the broth instead of served separately. The crispy pork is some of the best in Chiang Mai, with nice big chunks rather than small bits.

    Location: 17/2 Jhaban Rd, Si Phum Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 3 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)86 923 6378

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    3

    Ginger Farm Kitchen

    Relax in a modern setting with local cuisine

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    Ginger Farm Kitchen is a Northern Thai restaurant near One Nimman, wihin the Nimmanhaemin district of Chiang Mai. The interior is beautiful, being both modern and reflecting the rustic northern “farm” feeling.

    Ingredients used at Ginger Farm Kitchen are sourced from its own garden and are all organic. The menu is extensive too, with refreshing health shakes, savoury and sweet cuisine, along with locally grown coffee. Try its incredibly crispy pork and assorted relishes, as well as the Northern Thai speciality, hang lay, which is pork belly slow-cooked in a salty and thick curry.

    Location: One Nimman Nimmanahaeminda Road, Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 11 am to 9 pm, Monday from 11 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)52 080 928

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    4

    Huen Muan Jai

    Dine in a traditional Lanna home setting

    Huen Muan Jai is a popular restaurant found just north of Chiang Mai’s old city, in the bustling university area of Nimmanhaemin. Serving regional cooking in a traditional wooden building, backed with traditional northern folk songs, you’ll feel like you’ve been welcomed into a Thai home.

    Huen Muan Jai serves traditional Lanna cuisine, which means rich, sour and salty flavours cooked from local ingredients, which can’t be found elsewhere. Sai oua, a type of northern sausage, is popular, as well as northern staples khao soi (coconut currey noodle soup) and hang lay (a Northern Thai curry dish). Jackfruit is used in a lot of their dishes too, a great vegetarian substitute for meat. Slightly sweet and fibrous, it’s worth trying while you’re up north, even for meat-eaters.

    Location: 24 Ratchaphuek Alley, Tambon Chang Phueak, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand

    Open: Thursday–Tuesday from 11 am to 3 pm and from 5 pm to 9 pm (closed on Wednesdays)

    Phone: +66 (0)98 261 8029

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    5

    Huen Phen

    Traditional northern Thai food in Chiang Mai’s old city

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    Huen Phen is a wallet-friendly local restaurant in Chiang Mai's old city that serves delicious northern cuisine. It's on one of the main roads through the old city, Ratchamanka Road, right on the corner of Jhaban Road.

    The setting is beautiful, built in a traditional Lanna style, with teak wooden beams and small antiques adorning the shelves. There’s a lot on the menu, with the northern fermented sausage being a real standout. Served with an assortment of local vegetables and nam prik (a local Thai chilli sauce), it’s great finger food. They’re careful not to upset travellers with the spice though… so if you enjoy the spicy kick, make sure to say.

    Location: 112 Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai District, 50200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8.30 am to 4 pm and from 5 pm to 10 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 814 548

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    6

    Kao Soy Nimman

    Great khao soi near Chiang Mai University

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    Kao Soy Nimman is a quaint restaurant that specialises in Chiang Mai's favourite dish, khao soi (coconut curry noodle soup). It's located just off Nimmanhaeminda Road, near the Chiang Mai University Art Center. The outdoor patio sits you among palms and handmade decorations, while an air-conditioned indoor section lets you dine comfortably throughout the day.

    The flavours in the khao soi broth are delicately balanced, while the texture of the egg noodles blends perfectly with the crispy noodles on top. Kao Soy Nimman also offers a wide selection of Northern Thai dishes and barbecued meats.

    Location: 22 Nimmana Haeminda Rd Lane 7, Tambon Su Thep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 11 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 894 881

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    7

    Som Tam Udon

    Spicy papaya salad to share around the table

    Som Tam Udon is a restaurant in the north of Chiang Mai that specialises in one of Thailand’s favourite dishes, som tam (green papaya salad). The restaurant serves a local version of the dish from the city of Udon, showcasing the variety of Northern Thai cuisine.

    The food is great, with huge portions catering to groups. The som tam, as you’d expect from the name of the restaurant, is a must-try. It's sweet and limey with a nice, crunchy texture. The som tam has a real spicy kick if you have it like locals, so make sure to speak to the staff if you're sensitive to spice. It goes really well with jasmine rice and grilled chicken.

    Location: 3, 2 Soi Tantawan, Tambon Chang Phueak, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 8 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 222 865

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    8

    Qin Kitchen

    Shanxi cuisine in Chiang Mai

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    Qin Kitchen is a Chinese restaurant just south of Chiang Mai's old city that serves traditional Chinese food with a northern twist. It's popular with locals, being both affordable and tasty. It’s also a great option for people who want to explore different areas of Northern Thai cuisine.

    Qin, or Shanxi cuisine, comes from the Shanxi region of China. Try the Chinese-style hamburger, which is beef, lamb or goat sandwiched between 2 flatbreads. You can also find handmade noodles and satay on the menu. 

    Location: 35/1-2 See Ping Muang Rd 3, Tambon Hai Ya, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 10.30 am to 8.30 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)94 625 1118

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    9

    Laab Bunker

    A northern take on an Isaan staple

    Laab Bunker is a restaurant located southeast of Chiang Mai's old city, just east of the Ping River. It's popular with locals, serving authentic Northern Thai cuisine at affordable prices.

    There are so many dishes on offer, that it can be challenging to pick only one. The menu is designed to give you a taste of Chiang Mai's best local dishes. You can try laab (meat salad) from different regions of Thailand, as well as Northern Thai delicacies like sai oua (grilled sausage) with an assortment of local veggies and relishes.

    Location: 168 Chiang Mai-Lam Phun Rd, Tambon Wat Ket, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50000, Thailand

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 4 pm to 10 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +66 (0)86 180 8028

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    10

    Rote Yiam Beef Noodle

    Noodle soup and other top-quality local dishes

    Rote Yiam Beef Noodle is a popular local restaurant in Chiang Mai. Located southeast of the Old City, down Changklan Road, it's a great introduction to traditional Northern Thai cuisine.

    Its speciality is the Northern beef noodle soup. You can opt for the standard beef broth or the richer khao soi (coconut curry noodle soup) – both are rich in flavour. Rote Yiam Beef Noodle is around 1 km southwest of Wat Chai Mongkhon.

    Location: 164, 48 Changklan Rd, Tambon Chang Khlan, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)53 272 422

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    John Frodsham | Contributing Writer

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