Jan 04 2012
As we all know some of the best Thai food can be found in markets and street stalls. In Chiang Mai, the night market at Prathu Chang Puak or Chang Puak Gate market, is one of the best food markets we know of in town. It’s located on the exterior side of the northern moat road, Sri Chum Road, immediately west of the Gate itself (see map).
Food is no-frills, traditional Thai market fare. You’ll find fruit vendors, juice and coffee stands, and dishes including a range of noodle soups and fried noodles, all the usual chicken, pork and duck dishes, and cooked-to-order classic stir-fries such as pak boon fai deang (morning glory — either vegetarian or with crispy pork), pat kha pao (the ubiquitous stir-fry with chilli and basil), pat prik gaeng… (hot and spicy…), tom yam, and standard fried rice. And that’s just for starters.
Check out the khao kha moo (stewed pork shank); above you can almost see the patiently waiting customers’ mouths watering, which may not be surprising as some say this khao kha is reputed to be the best in Chiang Mai.
Some stalls specialise in one dish, such as the pad Thai one above, and as that guy cooks only the popular Thai style fried wheat noodles day in, day out you can pretty much be guaranteed he knows what he’s doing and his version will blow most Chiang Mai guesthouse versions away. (Price: 30 baht or 40-50 baht if you want fresh prawns.)
Other stands will have a variety of vegetables and fish/seafood, crispy pork and so on on display, with English menus available for those not familiar with the Thai combinations. Just FYI: even though we’re a way from the sea up here we’ve never had any problems with the seafood.
With short order cooks such as the above, you’ll wait all of five minutes for your dinner, even at the busiest times.
Order stir-fries “on rice” — rat khao — which is a one-off dish that will set you back all of 30 baht, or order a selection of larger dishes with rice on the side to share. We paid, for example, 40 baht for fried butterfly clams in roasted chilli paste and basil sauce.
Taste-wise, we reckon many of these dishes, served up on aluminium tables while you’re seated on plastic chairs — are as good as you’ll find in any top hotel restaurant.
We also couldn’t help feeling that the noisy, brash, bustling atmosphere, scented with oily wok fumes and with a soundtrack of revving tuk tuks, waitresses yelling out orders and the obligatory blind karaoke singer, fit perfectly with and add to the taste of the fiery, intensely flavoured, brash dishes being unceremoniously flung onto tables. (No tomato rose decorations, no kow-towing, Lanna-style clad waitresses — nope!)
And your dinner is going to set you back all of 30 baht if you’re moderately hungry up to say 80 baht if you’re really starving. Most stalls will actually give you free drinking water, served from large plastic demi-jars, so you don’t even need to pay for the bottled water.
The market sets up late afternoon and continues until late, so you can still get a good feed at midnight. Bon appetit!
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