• A TASTE OF NORTHERN THAILAND

    THE BEST LANNA CUISINE IN CHIANG MAI

    A bowl of delicious Khao Soi, one of the most famous Lanna Cuisine dishes
  • A TASTE OF NORTHERN THAILAND

    THE BEST LANNA CUISINE IN CHIANG MAI

    A bowl of delicious Khao Soi, one of the most famous Lanna Cuisine dishes

A TASTE OF NORTHERN THAILAND

THE BEST LANNA CUISINE IN CHIANG MAI

History, culture, climate, geography and migration patterns have all played their part in influencing the unique taste of northern Thai food. Known as Lanna cuisine, after the Lanna Kingdom, it’s as much a highlight of a visit to Chiang Mai as temple hopping. Indeed, for a food enthusiast, northern Thai cuisine is certainly reason enough for a trip north.

If you’ve travelled elsewhere in Southeast Asia, you may find similarities in taste and smell to other regional food. Historical and geographical ties with Burma, Laos and the Khmer Empire have all left their mark on the flavours of Lanna cuisine. These flavours set Lanna food distinctly apart from Southern Thai cuisine.

Here are four must-try dishes to look out for, and the best Lanna cuisine restaurants in Chiang Mai to eat them in.

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THE BEST NORTHERN THAI FOOD TO EAT

Khao Soi

Possibly the best known Lanna dish, Khao Soi is not to be missed! This delicious coconut cream based curry is spicy, oily, and creamy, with a fabulous array of textures. Fried egg noodles on top provide a crispy crunch, while more egg noodles in the curry sauce act as a perfectly soft counterpart. Ground chillies, lime, shallots, coriander and pickled mustard greens bring out the spice and unique flavour of the dish. The classic version includes a leg or thigh of chicken, the meat just falling off the bone. We saw a number of variations though, including a veggie tofu option.

A bowl of Khao Soi at Huen Phen in Chiang Mai, Thailand

A bowl of Khao Soi at Huen Phen in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Gaeng Hang Lay

Another northern Thai curry that will have you salivating at the thought well after your trip to Chiang Mai ends. Traditionally made with pork, it’s a heavy and aromatic curry, but not too spicy. You can definitely taste the influence of Burmese cuisine in this dish, with tamarind and turmeric combining with ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, galangal and more to create the rich, satisfying sauce. The regional influence is so strong that this is sometimes referred to as Burmese Pork Curry on menus.

A bowl of Gaeng Hang Lay, also known as Burmese Pork Curry, a rich and satisfying Lanna cuisine curry

A bowl of Gaeng Hang Lay, also known as Burmese Pork Curry, a rich and satisfying Lanna cuisine curry

Sai Oua

I’m pretty picky when it comes to sausages, but one look at a cross section of this northern Thai sausage and I knew I was onto a winner. Sai Oua is usually made with minced pork, lemongrass, kaffir leaves, galangal, chillies, coriander and red curry paste. This fusion of flavours results in a wonderfully aromatic sausage, with a hint of sourness and just the right level of heat. Utterly moreish. Look out for it being sold in coils at markets, cumberland sausage style, or sliced up in smaller portions.

A bowl of Sai Oua, traditonal northern thai sausage made wit minced pork, lemongrass, kaffir leaves and red curry paste.

A bowl of Sai Oua, traditonal northern thai sausage made wit minced pork, lemongrass, kaffir leaves and red curry paste.

Nam Prik

Not a dish to be eaten by itself, but a deliciously fiery accompaniment to your meal. A nam prik is a sort of relish, its ingredients pounded together in a pestle and mortar to create a dip of varying consistency depending on who is making it. Two common northern Thai variants are nam prik num and nam prik ong. The first is made from roasted long green chillies, onion, garlic and coriander. The second is made from dried red chillies, minced pork, tomato, garlic and onion. Both are best enjoyed along with some kap moo (pork crackling) and some raw or boiled vegetables.

A bowl of Nam Prik, a Lanna Cuisine paste, accompanied by a bowl of steamed veg and a basket of sticky rice.

A bowl of Nam Prik, a Lanna Cuisine paste, accompanied by a bowl of steamed veg and a basket of sticky rice.

THE BEST NORTHERN THAI RESTAURANTS IN CHIANG MAI

Huen Jai Yong

For the best Lanna cuisine in Chiang Mai, head to Huen Jai Yong. Here you’ll find an authentic local restaurant, serving up delicious home cooked Lanna food in an atmospheric old wooden house. It’s cheap, the service is fast, and it’s packed to the rafters with locals every lunchtime – a testament to how good the food really is. The catch? It’s not in Chiang Mai Old City. It’s not even close to Chiang Mai Old City. But it’s also not that far, around 15KM southeast of Thapae Gate in San Kamphaeng. Absolutely worth the journey!

People fill the wooden tables at Huen Jai Yong, one of the best Lanna Cuisine restaurants in Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand

People fill the wooden tables at Huen Jai Yong, one of the best Lanna Cuisine restaurants in Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand

While we didn’t spy any Khao Soi on the menu, there are many local Lanna foods to try here, including each of the other dishes mentioned above. The portions aren’t huge, which means you’ll have plenty of room to try a variety of things. There’s very little English spoken by the staff, but they have a few menus with photos and English descriptions making it easy enough to order. 

  • Many northern Thai dishes set out on the table at Huen Jai Yong, one of the best Lanna Cuisine restaurants in Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand
  • Many northern Thai dishes set out on the table at Huen Jai Yong, one of the best Lanna Cuisine restaurants in Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand

Be sure to try their Gaeng Hang Lay, Sai Oua and Nam Pik! Other great dishes include Chiang Dah Pad Khai (stir fried gymnema sylvestre leaf with egg), Larb Moo Khua (minced pork cooked with Lanna spices), and Khua Hoh (glass noodles with fried veggies and curry paste), plus a side of Kap Moo (pork crackling) to go with your Nam Pik. The sticky rice comes in a little woven basket, a staple traditionally ordered per person. These were just some of the dishes we tried over two separate visits to Huen Jai Yong, there’s plenty more on the menu for you to get stuck into! 

*note that the above translations are taken straight from the restaurant menu and may not be the standard Thai/English translations

A bowl of Khua Hoh, a Lanna Cuisine dish of glass noodles with fired vegetables and curry paste

Khua Hoh


A bowl of Chiang Dah Pad Khai, which is a northern Thai dish of stir fired gymnema sylvestre leaf with egg

Chiang Dah Pad Khai


A bowl of Khua Hoh, a Lanna Cuisine dish of glass noodles with fired vegetables and curry paste

Khua Hoh


A bowl of Chiang Dah Pad Khai, which is a northern Thai dish of stir fired gymnema sylvestre leaf with egg

Chiang Dah Pad Khai


After your Lanna feast, take a walk around the grounds and check out the art gallery behind the restaurant. There are also some local crafts and clothing for sale. It’s a beautiful spot.

Huen Jai Yong

65 Moo 4, San Kamphaeng Road, Tambon Buak Khang, Chiang Mai

Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 4pm

Arrive early for the best choice of food and a table, it gets very busy around noon

**Why not combine lunch at Huen Jai Yong with a visit to San Kamphaeng Saturday Market for dinner? It’s not too far away and another great local food experience. **

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Huen Phen

Conveniently located in Chiang Mai Old City, Huen Phen is the perfect choice for Lanna food without having to stray too far. Packed at lunch time with a mix of locals and tourists, you can try an array of dishes here, including a great Khao Soi. Service is fast and friendly, with English menus making it easy to order. Huen Phen is open in the evening too, with food served in the atmospheric dining room rather than the basic outdoor terrace. The evening menu is different though, so for the best choice make this your lunch time stop. 

Huen Phen

112 Ratchamanka Rd, Chiang Mai Old City

Daily 8:30am – 4pm // 5pm – 10pm

A bowl of delicious Khao Soi, one of the most famous Lanna Cuisine dishes

The excellent Khao Soi at Huen Phen


A bowl of delicious Khao Soi, one of the most famous Lanna Cuisine dishes

The excellent Khao Soi at Huen Phen


OTHER RECOMMENDED PLACES

For an array of Lanna cuisine, another great place to try in the Old City is Dash. Northwest of the Old City, in the trendy Nimmanhaemin area, you’ll find Tong Tem Toh, and not too far from here lies Huen Muan Jai. All three serve up authentic Northern Thai food worth seeking out. 

If you’re on the hunt solely for Khao Soi, you’ll find a great one at Khao Soi Mae Sai, just across the road from Huen Muan Jai. South of the Old City, Khao Soi Lung Prakit Kaat Gorm is another notable spot. 

Of course, there are hundreds of places in Chiang Mai where you can indulge in delicious Lanna cuisine, many of which are simple street stalls you won’t find on Google Maps. The best way to discover these is on a Chiang Mai Food Tour, which is a great way to find your culinary feet when first arriving in the city. Fancy cooking up some Lanna food yourself? Chiang Mai is well known as a cookery class hotspot, with a number of options specifically geared towards Northern Thai cuisine. 

 

Find all these great Northern Thai Chiang Mai restaurants on the map below.

We wish you and your tastebuds a wonderful journey around Chiang Mai!

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Know any other great places to find authentic Lanna cuisine? Let us know in the comments below!

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Chiang Mai may be home to beautiful temples on every corner, but this isn\'t the only reason to take a trip north. For the enthusiastic foodie, a taste of Northern Thailand\'s unique Lanna Cuisine is bound to leave you drooling for more. Find out which Northern Thai dishes to try, and the best places in Chiang Mai to eat them. #thaifood #northernthailand #chiangmai #LannaCuisine
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