I studied Thai at Chiang Mai University back in 1998, but moved to Bangkok almost immediately after finishing my studies there. Since then, I’ve spent relatively little time in Chiang Mai, and most of my subsequent visits have been little more than passing through on my way elsewhere. And although I know enough grab a bowl of khao soi at Lam Duan or Shan-style breakfast at Wat Pa Pao, I’m woefully uninformed about the city’s food scene.
Finding myself with some free time, I decided to remedy this and headed up north for a few days. Another reason for the trip was that my buddy, Andy Ricker, also happened to be in Chiang Mai. Andy’s been coming to Chiang Mai since the 1980s, and is intimately familiar with much of the city’s food, much of it having served as inspiration for his Portland, Oregon restaurant, Pok Pok. We spent three days eating together, and the next few blogs will cover a few of the places he took me to in Chiang Mai. Because some of these places were somewhat hard to reach and are pretty local, I include them here more as illustrations and descriptions of authentic northern Thai food, rather than specific restaurant recommendations.
On the day I arrived, Andy took me a few kilometres outside Chiang Mai to Mae Hia Market. He wanted to take me to his favourite vendor of sai ua, northern-style grilled sausage:
All sai ua contains ground herbs, but this vendor’s version is known colloquially as sai ua samunphrai, ‘herbal’ sai ua, due to copious amounts of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaf, garlic and galangal he employs. As with other vendors, the sausages here are grilled over coals:
but the final result is slightly drier and leaner than your average sai ua, with not surprisingly, a complex and rich herbal flavour.
Sai Ua Kao Ba Kham
Mae Hia Market, Chiang Mai
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