For safe travel and one of the best places to visit even if you are alone, Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s safe destinations to experience street food at its finest.
So when you fall out of the disco lit and jiving tuk tuk having arrived from wherever, you are tired, feeling a tad vulnerable until you locate a bed for the night, and above all else you have hunger pangs that are wrenching you gut into a tortuous growling orchestra, don’t stress. Welcome to Chiang Mai, the town of cafes ad nauseam, colorful chaotic markets and the best thing of all is the fact that you can get a meal for less than a cup of coffee.
Street food or “curb de’ cuisine” is literally everywhere in this town that overflows with tourists. It is Thai food at it freshest, where the vendor has been to the market in the wee hours of the morning. Most hawkers have mobile food stands set up in their particular favored spots, or they have a daily route around the town that they follow. Some have a barbecue rigged up on the back of motorbikes, some carry old woven baskets on a bamboo pole across their shoulders, whereas others walk around pushing a huge cart in front of them. It is mobile snacking at its finest.
Some stalls come with outdoor dining in the form of kiddie’s plastic chairs and tables. If you are lucky, you may come across a venue with proper adult size sitting arrangements, albeit of the picnic variety. Most specialize in one dish in particular and many cluster together in one spot, so you can pick and choose your meal from each offering. Don’t fret about which kiddy chair you perch on, so long as you have bought something from one of them, it is totally acceptable.
This type of eating is a cultural institution throughout Thailand and it is not unusual to see the whole family from granny down to toddlers peeling, washing or cooking tasty morsels on the side of the road.
How to pick one from the many:
You have listened to all the horror stories of stomach bugs or to be careful of just what you are eating, considering sometimes it is hard to distinguish what is cooking and the vendor doesn’t speak any English. It can quite often be a guessing game as to what is being put on your plate. Lost in translation moments will happen no matter where you travel, so don’t be put off from having an adventurous spirit where it comes to what you put in your mouth. It’s so cheap, if you don’t like the flavor or the texture, just spit it out and try something else!
Before choosing a stall, be super observant about the following: –
- Make sure it is a busy stall with lots of local customers, as this will ensure that the produce is being turned over quickly and if the locals are there, it must be good.
- If it is a quiet time of the day; then make sure whatever you order is cooked “hot” for you on the spot, with you watching. The cooking will destroy any bugs. This is particularly important about any deep-fried items, as you want to know that the oil is definitely hot and not tepid.