A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.

Worth eating in Pai

Posted date:  May 23, 2011


The tiny town of Pai is one of northern Thailand’s most popular destinations. And understandably so: it’s laid-back, cheap and beautiful:


Unfortunately – at least if you travel to eat – there are very few places to get local food. There’s some tasty Chinese food, innocuous and backpackerish Thai, and a couple OK places selling Israeli standards, but if you’re interested in trying northern- or Mae Hong Son-style eats, you’re pretty much limited to a handful of restaurants. Luckily, two of them are exceptional.

Laap Khom Huay Pu specialises in mostly meaty northern-style dishes such as laap khua and kaeng om (both pictured at the top of this post). The laap khua, northern-style fried laap, is probably my favourite version of the dish in Thailand, and successfully balances meaty, spicy and aromatic. The laap gets its dark colour from the addition of blood, and comes accompanied with a variety of fresh herbs, some spicy, some bitter, which change with the seasons. The kaeng om, a meat-and-offal-heavy soup, is almost curry-like in its thickness here, and is correspondingly rich and spicy, with tender bits of tendon, intestine, heart and liver.

Laap Khom Huay Pu
Rte 1095 (the restaurant is on the road to Mae Hong Son, about 1km north of town, on the first corner after the turn-off to Belle Villa and Baan Krating), Pai

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Khanom Jeen Nang Yong, an open-air place in ‘downtown’ Pai, sells khanom jeen, thin rice noodles served with various curry-like toppings:


Particularly worth seeking out here is the khanom jeen nam ngiaw, a northern-style noodle soup with pork bones and tomatoes as its base. Again, quite possibly my favourite take on the dish, the broth here is dark, rich and spicy, and is even tastier when accompanied with the restaurant’s excellent pork rinds. There’s no English sign here – simply look for the clay pots that are set out in front of the shop every afternoon.

Khanom Jeen Nang Yong
Th Chaisongkhram (in the same building as Pai Adventure), Pai
Lunch & dinner

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If you have access to silverware and plates, you could always pick up to-go local eats at the town’s evening market – but at your own risk:



Pai’s evening market – a short, eminently walkable strip of road just outside of the centre of town – is the most annoying example I’ve encountered of people showing an extreme reluctance to disembark from their motorcycles to buy things, even if this meant blocking entire stalls, cutting off pedestrians (namely, me) and emitting exhaust and noise.

At least some folks still choose to walk:


although they appear to be limited to a particular demographic.

6 Comments for Worth eating in Pai

Ah, we found Nang Yong on our last visit to Pai, which was a few years ago now…. Seen the clay pots on the side, and perched at the little space inside. Delicious! Great post, will definitely look for Laap Khom Huay Pu on our next visit.

Hey Austin,

What is used to thicken that Gaeng Om? I’ve never seen one that color or with that sort of opaque thickness before. What did it taste like? I’m curious… looks good.


Kat & Kim: Yep, it’s been there for a while, but only Thai tourists seem to eat there.

Jarrett: I suspect you’re only familiar with Isaan-style kaeng om? Although they share the same name, the two dishes really have nothing in common. The northern version has no herbs or veggies (other than those in the paste) and is essentially meat (generally beef, with lots of offal and joints) in a thick, meaty, slightly spicy soup. The northern dish most similar to Isaan-style kaeng om is something called kaeng khae.

I notice James beard metal on andy’s neck. Congrat to him!

The best Thai sweets i ever had were purchased on the road leading to Pay’s evening market. They were down the hill, a bit a part, several vendors set up next to each other with the most gorgeous bean-based puddings, the one I enjoyed most being divided into two types: palm sugar and cane sugar. I would go back to Pay just for those sweets.

[…] (and overpriced) southern Thai and bland central Thai, among other things. I eventually found a couple local places serving local dishes, but the bulk of Pai’s food had little or nothing to do with Mae Hong Son or northern […]

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