Worth eating in Pai

DSC_4110 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 9am-6pm 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.