If you're only in Chiang Mai for a short amount of time and want to do a self-guided tour of some of the best local food, then follow this guide to the highlights of Chiang Mai.
Each restaurant or stall links through to the full review with its location, opening hours, photos and details about the food. This list is part of a bigger food guide to Chiang Mai.
Khao Soi @ Khao Soi Samer Jai or Khao Soi Nimman or Khao Soi Mae Sai or Khao Soi Khun Yai
Khao Soi is probably the most iconic dish of Chiang Mai and I made it my mission to try to find the best in the city. For a more in-depth guide, read the dedicated article searching for the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai.
Stewed Pork & Rice @ The Cowboy Hat Lady
Possibly the most famous cook in Northern Thailand, you will always find her by the north gate of the old city, wearing her signature cowboy hat. Having been featured in countless food shows, it's always very busy but still delicious and cheap!
Papaya Salad @ Som Tam Udon
Papaya salad (som tam / som tum) is apparently the most eaten dish in all of Thailand and this place specialises in it. It's usually full of locals and there are plenty of versions of the salad to choose from (including vegan) along with BBQ meats and fish. I recommend ordering som tam, sticky rice and some grilled chicken for a great local experience!
Northern Thai Cuisine @ Huen Phen or Sornchan Chiang Mai Food
Other than Khao Soi, the north is also famous for Sai Ua (Chiang Mai sausage), Nam Prik Noom (a roasted chilli dip) and sticky rice, which all go really well together. Order those three and the young jackfruit salad at Huen Phen and you should be happy! Sornchan doesn't do Nam Prik Noom but they do a similar tomato and pork dip, along with some Burmese dishes.
Mango Sticky Rice @ Best Mango Sticky Rice
As you might have noticed by now, sticky rice is a big deal in the north and it's also part of my favourite Thai dessert. You can get it at every night market but beware that some stalls will actually only give you half a mango. Best Mango Sticky Rice has a confidence name and although I'm not sure it's the very best, it is a convenient location and very tasty.
Bottles of Singha, Leo & Chang are usually around 50-100B. Beer Lao is sometimes available but it's more expensive. There's a growing craft beer scene, although it's restricted by the alcohol laws. I've seen Red Truck Red Ale and other tasty craft beers for 120B per bottle at some places, but they're usually around 200B.