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Chiang Mai food tours offer a delicious way to explore northern Thai cuisine. After falling deeply in love with Khao Soi, Chiang Mai’s famous curry and noodle dish, we wanted to explore northern Thai cuisine further.
To guide us into the core of northern Thai food, we took a Chiang Mai food tour for a journey into the heart of the local culinary culture.
In partnership with A Chef’s Tour, we went deep into the rustic flavors and cuisine influenced by China, Burma and India.
On this food tour, we explored the backstreets and unfrequented parts of town to discover the regional cuisine.
If you are looking for an authentic Chiang Mai food tour experience, here’s what to know and expect.
Chiang Mai Street Food Tour – A Chef’s Tour
Moui from A Chef’s Tour was our guide on our Chiang Mai food tour. Originally from Lampang, the third largest town in northern Thailand, Moui has called Chiang Mai home for more than 20 years.
Passionate about food and cooking, her local knowledge makes this one of the best food tours in Chiang Mai.
We partnered with A Chef’s Tour because of their commitment to local and authentic food experiences.
They don’t pander to western palate and and instead focus on the local specialties, no matter the flavors or ingredients.
Traveling like locals in one of Chiang Mai’s famous rod daeng trucks (also called red cars by locals), we explored the city streets, bustling with vendors, markets and food.
For over 4.5 hour tour, we explored distinctive northern Thai cuisine at bustling markets, specialty vendors and family owned eateries.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: To dive into northern Thai cuisine, consider taking a culinary tour with A Chef’s Tour. Led by chefs and local experts you can count on deep insights and food tastings away from popular tourist traps. Depending on your schedule, you can choose between a lunchtime Chiang Mai food tour. Or, explore the city by night on an evening Chiang Mai food tour.
Cowboy Hat Lady Chiang Mai – Busiest Street Food Stall
Our first stop on the tour was the famous cowboy hat lady for a steaming plate of braised pork.
Located across from Chang Phueak, the old city North Gate, you can easily spot the cowboy hat lady stall with her picture.
While we had already been to this iconic food stall a few times, our tour guide Moui offered up unique behind-the-scenes stories during our food tour.
According to Moui, the cowboy hat lady sells the best pork leg with rice in town. This dish, known as Khao Kha Moo, came to Chiang Mai via Chinese immigrants.
The cowboy hat lady is of Chinese descent and partnered with her Thai-Chinese husband to offer a flavorful Thai version of the dish.
What makes this particular place so special is that they slow cook the pork leg for a minimum of four hours. This makes the meat extremely tender, and it dissolves wonderfully in the mouth.
The dish is served with a Thai chili sauce that adds a great bite to the pork and rice, making an absolutely delicious combination.
Visiting Siri Wattana Market- A Food Hunt at a Local Market in Chiang Mai
After hopping back into the red car, we made our way to the next stop on our Chiang Mai food tour. Siri Wattana Market is a local fresh food market in the Chang Phueak neighborhood.
This market is one of the hidden gems for food lovers in Chiang Mai. We had the chance to stop for tastings at many food stalls and learn a lot about northern Thai cuisine.
- Miang kam: One of our favorite food tastings was this traditional Thai snack. Miang kam involves wrapping various ingredients such as baked coconuts, peanuts, lime, ginger, dried shrimp and shallots into a betel leaf and topping it with a sweet-and-salty sauce.
- Silk worms and crickets: Moui mentioned that insects are typically used in northern Thai cuisine as a substitute to meat. They are high in protein, readily available, and affordable. The silk worms were mushy in texture, with not much taste, while the crickets had a nice, grilled, salty bite.
- Buffalo meat: While eaten less frequently than pork, buffalo is another source of protein typical in northern Thai food. We found it quite tasty and surprisingly enjoyable.
- Sai Oua: Sai oua is a fragrant, spicy northern Thai sausage made with pork, red curry, and herbs such as lemongrass and chili spices. This vendor was the star at the market, having earned an award for the best sai oua in Chiang Mai
- Traditional juices like Pennywort, Butterfly Pea Flower and Roselle are typically consumed. We enjoyed sampling these juices, all with medicinal properties to keep you healthy naturally.
- Khanom Buang: To tame the spicy taste of the sai oua sausages, we finished our treasure hunt in the Thai dessert section of the market. Khamon buang are small Thai pancakes fresh off the griddle. They were warm and incredibly tasty, with a nice crisp from the pancake and a smooth finish from the coconut cream filling.
Chef Jed’s Restaurant: Burmese-Shan Cuisine
As we continued to explore Chiang Mai food and the culinary culture, we took the red car to our next surprising stop.
In a celebration of Thailand’s ethnolinguistic diversity, we visited a Shan restaurant for regional specialties.
The Shan are one of the largest Thai groups in the north. They historically lived on the borders of Burma (Myanmar), but emigrated to Thailand in the 19th century to escape conflict.
Chiang Mai local food we learned has resultingly been influenced by Burmese cuisine.
At Chef Jed’s restaurant we sampled a variety of traditional Thai-Burmese dishes.
We savored pennywort and tea leaf salads, as well as nam prik dipping sauces. Nam prik ong is a red dipping sauce, while the green one is known as nam prik noom.
They are typically eaten with deep fried pork skin, and we found them both delightful.
Already stuffed, we knew we had to make room for our next stop on this Chiang Mai food tour.
Northern Thai Authentic Food at a South Gate Restaurant
Continuing our hunt for authentic northern specialities, we made our way into Chiang Mai Old Town.
In the South Gate area, we stopped at a well-known, family-owned restaurant that is popular with locals and difficult to find, particularly if you don’t speak Thai.
Here we enjoyed two signature northern Thailand dishes – larb and gaeng hang lay moo.
Larb is a spicy, minced pork salad made with chopped pork seasoned with Thai chili peppers, fish sauce, lime juice, toasted sticky rice and a wonderful assortment of fresh herbs.
To eat it in the traditional Thai style manner, Moui taught us to roll the rice into a ball and then use your thumb to scoop up some pork salad.
Gaeng hang lay moo, or northern Thai pork curry, is made by slowly stewing pork in a variety of spices and herbs including palm sugar, tamarind, turmeric, ginger, garlic and more.
Incredibly aromatic, we enjoyed diving into this rich curry with pork that just melts in your mouth.
Night-Stop At Warorot Market: Chiang Mai’s Largest Food Market in Chinatown
Warorot Market is one of the must-see local markets in Chiang Mai Thailand. This huge market offers a wonderful favourite dishes with different vendors in the morning and at night.
While we were already full from our previous stops, Moui explained that the Noodle Soup Lady has been at her stall for more than 20 years.
As the name implies, her specialty is noodle-based dishes. She starts serving each night at 5:00 pm until she runs out.
We tasted three different noodle soups. A coconut red curry noodle soup with fish balls. One red pork soup with chicken blood cubes.
And, finally an Isaan soup from northeastern Thailand made with fermented fish sauce.
On our way out of the back alleys of the market, we couldn’t resist delicious sweets. Moui had us try mung bean cake, coconut cakes, sticky rice with coconut pudding and more.
A welcome contrast to the savory noodle soups.
Customized Thai Desserts To End Our Chiang Mai Food Tour
The last stop on our guided tour was at Kanomwan Chang Moi for dessert. At this point, stuffed and about to explode, the word “dessert,” suddenly opened up more room in our bellies.
This local gem, buzzing with activity and with an upbeat and energetic atmosphere, we created our own Thai dessert.
In awe of brightly-colored treats displayed on a long counter, we learned to pick toppings from each station with our preferences..
With Moui’s guidance, we tasted several delicious desserts topped with coconut milk, logan juice, and water chestnut.
We enjoyed these fun and wickedly refreshing treats and it was the perfect end to our Chiang Mai food tour.
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Overall Impressions of Chiang Mai Food Tour
What We Loved
- Off the beaten path – true to the mission of A Chef’s Tour, this Chiang Mai food tour took us away from the tourist paths to the food stalls only locals know. Traveling in the red car also allowed us to explore much more of the city.
- The depth and knowledge we got from Moui, our A Chef’s tour guide was remarkable. As a food lover and local from the region, she knew the local cuisine and the best food tasting places. We left much more knowledgeable and empowered after our time together.
- Meeting the locals – unlike other culinary tours, we got to meet the people behind the northern Thai food specialties. Even though we don’t speak Thai, Moui translated for us while sharing the individual stories of the different vendors.
- Wide variety of Chiang Mai food and flavors. One thing we really appreciated was the diversity of flavors of local foods we sampled. From sweet to savory and street foods, we age a lot. Discovering Burmese food and its importance to northern Thai cuisine was very much appreciated.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you want to learn how to make Thai cuisine, consider taking a cooking class. See our review of the 6 of The Best Chiang Mai Cooking Classes For Thai Cuisine – Review
What Could Be Improved
This was a fantastic Chiang Mai food tour and we can’t think of anything in particular that could be improved.
It’s one of the best Chiang Mai food tours for foodies and adventurous eaters. Be prepared to eat A LOT!
Know that there are many stops and you will not be sitting and relaxing at any one place for too long.
How to Book Your Chiang Mai Food Tour
This Chiang Mai food tour with A Chef’s Tour is one of the best food tours with an authentic focus.
In the company of an expert culinary guide, you’ll dive into the local food scene and traditional Chiang Mai foods.
Tours are conducted in small groups of no more than 8 people and last about 4 hours. You’ll enjoy 15+ tasting and dishes on this absolutely delicious Chiang Mai food tour.
Other Chiang Mai Food Tours by A Chef’s Tour
If you are traveling to other destinations in Thailand, consider exploring Thai food on a guided walking tour.
A Chef’s Tour also offers unique chef and foodie crafted tours in Bangkok and Phuket.
Chiang Mai food tours are one of the best ways to really get to know northern Thailand’s distinct cuisine.
While Chiang Mai has a lot to offer visitors, the food and the culinary specialties are the biggest draw.
Even though we had previously spent time in Chiang Mai discovering the local food on this Chiang Mai food tour took us even deeper.
Many of these hidden gems are some of the best local restaurants only accessible with local knowledge.
After seven amazing food stops and sampling over 16 unique regional specialties, we were thrilled.
With Moui’s local knowledge of northern Thai food and the link to Thai culture, we got a well-rounded perspective of the local cuisine and culture.
The one piece of advice we would give is to go with an empty stomach. Don’t be surprised if you can’t stop eating even if you are full. It’s that delicious!
Have you ever taken a Chiang Mai food tour? In the comments below, please let us know what has surprised you about this food tour in Chiang Mai.
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Special thanks to A Chef’s Tour for having us on this tour. All views and opinions expressed are our own. Full bellies and happy taste buds too.
Curious by nature, Rosemary loves exploring new flavors and connecting with locals. She shares her insights and culinary finds from her travels to inspire people to connect local through food.