There are a couple famous northern-style laap places, and the take away food at the evening market looks tasty, but all the restaurants I've eaten at over the years serve some pretty abysmal food. (And it isn't just me: Nan natives have also confided in me that their city's restaurants suck.)
Luckily, the situation has changed somewhat with the arrival of Nan's weekly street market.
Just about every provincial capital in northern Thailand is holding a "walking street" market these days. Chiang Mai's is the biggest, but similar markets can be found in Lampang, Pai, Chiang Rai and Nan. Having been to all of these, I'd say that I like Nan's most of all. There's a distinct emphasis on food, and market had at least six vendors selling a pretty interesting spread of local dishes:
There were even a couple vendors selling unusual local sweets:
But best of all, those who organise the market have cleverly set up a table with stacks of bowls, dishes and silverware. Simply grab a dish, take it to the vendor, who will fill it for you, then sit down to eat it at one of the northern-style tables shown at the top of the post.
I opted for the vendor at the southernmost end the of the market, and ended up with one of the best meals I've had on this trip. There was yam phak heuat, a slightly tart northern-style salad made from the tender leaves (phak heuat; ผักเฮือด) of a tree one only encounters up north; it doesn't look that sexy, but this is one of my favourite northern dishes, and this vendor did a really excellent version. There was also nam phrik khua, a deliciously savoury/spicy dip made from garlic, shallots and dried chili:
So assuming you're in town on a Saturday, don't waste your time with restaurants; the Saturday market has finally provided Nan with an interesting, perhaps even charming, place to eat.
Nan's Saturday market Th Sumon Thewarat, Nan Saturday, 6-10pm
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