Chiang Mai: one day, two delicious meals

It’s been over a year since we returned from Thailand, and though I wrote about the first part of our stay in Bangkok, as well as the first few days in Chiang Mai, I never did finish all the posts I had meant to. And, seeing as here in Boston we are in the midst of our third nor’easter in the past 10 days, revisiting this northern Thai city seemed like a nice idea this afternoon.

I had written already about New Year’s Eve, which was SO much fun, and included giving elephants a bath, and releasing lanterns into the sky. After the lantern festival down by the moat at the city gate, we wandered  through the old city and made it back to the hotel in time for the big countdown, complete with party hats and whistles. We are anything but night owls, and by then we were ready for bed.

New Year’s Day started quietly, as I suspect most people in the city were up far later than we were. Even so, we slept in a little late, and after a leisurely breakfast decided to treat ourselves to our second Thai massage of the trip (read about the first one at Wat Po, in Bangkok). We discovered an open-air massage center on the grounds of the wat just next to our hotel. While it wasn’t quite as good as the one in Bangkok, at just 140 Thai baht (about $4.50) for a one-hour massage, we were not complaining.

In all our research leading up to this trip, we had identified a number of small places around the old city to find good food, so we set about locating them. Alas, many places are not well marked on maps (even online) and signs are often just in Thai. Several places we had read about or seen in vlogs seemed to be closed (perhaps because it was New Year’s Day?) or gone altogether. Or at least weren’t where we had marked them on our map.

In any case, we hit the jackpot when we persevered to locate SP Chicken, a place we’d both seen on Anthony Bourdain and read about several times. We ordered a whole chicken, two bowls of sticky rice, a spicy som tam salad to share, two beers and two waters. The sauces served with the chicken were incredibly delicious, though the meat was so tender and flavorful it didn’t really need it. The entire meal was 370 baht (just under $12). We would happily go here again.

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After wandering around some more, we headed back to the hotel to rest up before heading out to the night market that evening. I think we were there on the early side, though, because it definitely wasn’t as crazy and busy as videos we had seen of it. In any case, our real goal was the North Gate, where we hoped to find the now-famous “cowboy hat lady” who served food that people lined up for. This particular street stall is known for a Chinese-style stewed pork leg and rice dish, served with a barely-hard cooked egg and pickled greens, with garlic and chilies on the table to add as you wish. Wow, did this live up to the hype; the pork was so tender and succulent, and the egg was…well you can see below how perfectly cooked it was. It’s easy to see why people line up on the street night after night.

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At that point it started raining, so we quickly walked towards an area we knew that had a number of places to go inside, and discovered the delightful Loosey Goosey, a very laid-back cafe/bar with a better than average wine and beer selection, giant wine glasses, and comfy chairs. After a couple of beverages we were ready to call it a night. That was one delicious day in Chiang Mai.

Stay tuned for the next post, in which we take a cooking class, visit wats, eat more good chicken, and get ready to head back to Bangkok.

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