Chiang Mai's Best No-Name Thai Restaurant

Almost every night of the week I get takeaway dinners from my local no-name restaurant, which is seriously lacking in ambiance as well as pretence, and is bursting with delicious, simple, cheap Thai food. I know there are lots of these around, and other people have also been lucky enough to find their own special no-name place, which are usually conveniently located to them or just housing some friendly cooks and other interesting locals. Mine has become a bit of a special place for me that I have grown to appreciate quite profoundly, and expect to miss more than many other places once I leave Chiang Mai.




I wasn't sure how to write about this particular place, as it's hard to recommend a restaurant with rickety stools and street dogs sniffing at your toes, but then I realised to be true to the place I would have to write about the people.


Fast Food (Thai-style)



I'll begin with the chef, who is quite a stern, stout woman who stands a few centimetres below me, with a long ponytail and arms that are permanently stuck to her hips. She's a wonderful woman, in my humble opinion, and is one of the hardest-working chefs I've ever seen in action (I've had the pleasure of spending far too much of my own time in chaotic restaurant kitchens). Whenever I sidle up to the open-plan kitchen to offer my order to the staff, I always feel quite pleased with myself when she gives me a glimpse of a grin, and begins pulling all sorts of utensils out of her apron, ready to get down to no-nonsense cooking.

And then there is the male chef, who is not in the kitchen as often as the woman, but when he is we're always excited, because of his astonishing prowess when it comes to his food. He always sneaks in a little extra of the best ingredients when the woman's not looking (cheeky), and cooks with such joviality it's hard not to get wok-happy just watching him.

The other staff who work in the kitchen are kind and modest, and go about their business efficiently and quite methodically, considering how busy this place can get in the evenings. It's sort of like a Thai take on a fast food joint, although much less organized, but still just as quick and addictive.

Didn't I mention it was going for the rustic look?

Neverending Naughty Treats



Next door to this no-name place is... you guessed it, another no-name place, which serves up cheap steaks, salads, fish and chips and other Farang usuals which the locals seem to enjoy a lot. Nearby to that is a Som Tam stand run by a funny old Thai woman who always wears pyjamas and publicly condemns naughty street dogs that frequent the area, along with her partner who grills various bits of meat on sticks and often sneaks leftovers under the stand for the same naughty street dogs. Opposite their stand, a sassy young woman named El will sometimes set up her own little folding table, and on it she'll sell big bags of fresh mussels with a signature spicy sauce - not for the faint-mouthed at all.

El's friend Wut is also a young regular in the area, and has a great little stall selling fresh crispy pancakes with shredded coconut and cream fillings (Khanom Buang), which he always tries to force on us for free. If you ever have one, well, you will have to have five, and that's why we tend to avoid them! Near his set-up is a little noodle and soup stand, and if you can force down some dessert, there's a mild-mannered Muslim lady who sells calorie-filled rotis along with whatever spread or yummy sweets you ask for, from Nutella and sliced banana to plain old jam and butter. As you can tell, there's no shortage of sweet treats in the area.


Thai takeaway street food
The entrance to the 7/11, where all the action happens.
Thai Farang food culture
The Farang-inspired fish & chip and steak shop.
sweet Thai dessert roti rotee
Roteeee! Yummeeee!
noodle soup Thai food curry
A little noodle and soup stand off to one side.
som tam Thai food street
Som-tam, corn on the cob (or mielie as us South Africans call it) and dried squid sticks.
Thailand Chiang Mai
El at her spicy mussell stand, with a young Disney fan holding an awkward white dog. How perfect is this scene?

Big Boy Daeng



Along with all these regulars is a steady flow of intriguing characters, who we love to observe while we wait for our takeaways. It's also the territory of our favourite street dog, Daeng, who is also favoured by the locals - the old Thai woman selling Som Tam loves to tell us how good he is (Daeng dee mak!), and then in the same breath, how naughty he is too (Daeng sorn mak!). We love giving him a big stroke and waiing all the locals hello, and if you add some good food to that combo, I think you've got an irresistible deal.


street dog Thailand
Our beautiful boy!
street dog Chiang Mai
This is the closest we've got to having our own dog. SOB!

So if you're in the area and you're itching for a no-frills Thai dish, try something here, because you will probably be coming back - if not for the food, then maybe for the people... and if the people fail you, there is always the adorable Daeng!


Best No-Name Restaurant Breakdown:





Drinks:The small eatery's fridges stock beers and sodas straight from the 7/11 next door.
Food:With an endless menu up on the walls (only in Thai script, unfortunately) this is the sort of place you can order absolutely anything, so long as you know the name of it (in Thai, again).

- The majority of the dishes are ฿30 - ฿40 each.
- If you want any extras, larger portions (or to add noodles to your soup, for example) the price will rise to ฿60 - ฿80. The great thing about this place is the ability to tweak your food to your tastes.
- We haven't explored the more expensive dishes like fried fish, which are ฿100 or so.
- The fruit stand at the restaurant features various fresh fruits every day, like pineapple, melons, papaya, and more, which range from ฿20 - ฿40 per packet.
Pros:- Service is fast and efficient. The woman is a little grumpy at times, but you can chalk that down to the fact that she works so damn hard every day. The man is always friendly and is fascinating to watch in the kitchen - hair flicking while egg-flipping is his forte.
- Food. There is a lot to be said for food that is simple but done well. There are enough dishes to eat something different every night of the week, from a simple fried rice to an elaborate Tom Yum Goong. In my opinion, some of the classic Thai dishes that are fairly common could stand up against many variations in the city and still come out on top. Their Pad See Ewe, for example, is the only one I ever want and their Green Curry could confidently beat many of the lazy, under-developed green curries from here all the way to Bangkok.
- Location. Conveniently right next to a 7/11 where a mixed group of locals hang out every night. A good place to watch the world go by, which includes the favourite street dogs, some curious characters and the token toddler whom everyone adores. Next door to a Thai place that does cheap steaks, salads, fish and chips among other favourites, and a horde of street food stalls from Som Tam, spicy mussels, crispy pancakes, sweet rotis and more.
Cons:- Atmosphere. This is not a fancy, sit-down sort of place. It's great for takeaways if you live nearby or even the quick dinner before you go out.
- Service. Again, not that sort of place. You tell the cooks exactly what you want as if it were a street food stand, and then wait for them to make your grub. There's no customer service at this sort of place, which makes it all the more convenient.



Check Out Some Foodies Here:



pad pak ruam vegetarian thai food
My dinner most nights of the week. Also known as Pad Pak Ruam (stir-fried mixed vegetables).
Thai food pad pak ruam
Another day, another Pad Pak Ruam.
green curry thai food spicy
Very clever Thai packaging. This is a takeaway green curry and some sticky rice.
gaeng kiew wan green curry Thailand
Green curry (Gaeng Kiew Wan), ready to serve. Better than 90% of expensive restaurant curries.
tom yum goong noodle shrimp
This is my boyfriend's favourite dish: spicy noodle soup with shrimp (Tom Yum Goong sai Bah Mi).
tom yum goong noodle soup Thai
Adding noodles to Tom Yum Goong makes it a much heartier meal.
tom kha hed vegetarian thai food
One of my favourites: a sweet, slightly spicy coconut milk soup with mushrooms (Tom Kha Hed).

13 comments:

  1. I wish there was a place like this around the corner from my flat: no fuss, order great food and the wonderful company of dogs

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful photos, and how gorgeous is Deng? I love these places, there's one near me in Suthep and they have the best green curry ever

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm just a passerby. I'm a Thai and live in CM for 40 years

    Reading your blog makes me smile. You, unlike many tourist or expats I've found, seem to understand and think a lot like Thais do.

    The key for living in any places is to adopt, adapt, and adjust. You may have your own opinion, but don't try to make anybody or anything go according to your point of view which you think it's good. But remember that it's YOU who think what is good, they have their own thought. You are not God or the center of the universe. Respect their choice and their life.

    Enough for the serious part. Most of delicious restaurants in CM are no-name. Even Thai who are not locals don't know about them at all. You have to try them for yourself.

    Tom Kha Kai is not hard to cook. If you have time (or any kitchen), you should try to learn how to make it.

    Really glad that you seems to enjoy my hometown. Enjoy your life here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind comment. I'm glad you enjoyed this post because this place is special to me - I'll miss it a lot when I leave and don't think I'll find another place quite like it!

      I agree with your points and also see quite a few blogs in that style (all-knowing, almost) which I don't tend to enjoy. I'm also trying to figure it out just like everyone else. So that's what I write about =)

      Thanks for the tip! My favourite Thai dishes to cook at home are nam prik ong jay and stir-fried aubergine with basil & chilli. Yum! I can't get enough of the Thai food from these delicious no-name places though!

      Delete
  4. so.... WhereTF is the place???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! :O

      The map is right up there, and this place is clearly marked on it!

      If you drive along Charoen Muang Road (the main road going east out of the Old City), you'll pass several 7-11's on your left. This 7-11 is the second to last one, and you'll see a bright orange restaurant right next to it, as well as another restaurant which is the one I wrote about above. There is also a roti stand, somtam stand and occasionally mussel stand too, which I also wrote about above! Good luck! It's not hard to find at all ;)

      Delete
  5. Nice Post Dear….. I Like Your Post…..

    ReplyDelete
  6. I actually went here because off this post. The pad pakk ruam is so delicious, so are their other dishes like khao pad goong (fried rice with shrimp yummy). I really like the mussel lady too, she's cute! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  7. awesome article!! Thanks for writing!!
    I got some questions for ya and forgive me for my ignorance.

    1. I'm used to travelling in India and the rule for travel in India is NO STREET food for westerners as everybody gets sick from it. On my first day I was taken to a street stand in Chiang Mai and I was nervous, but decided to trust and was fine. So I'm definitely opening to exploring this in Chiang Mai. But I'm curious on the overall experience of foreigners with western food in Chiang Mai? Would you eat everywhere or just these spots?

    2. Do they serve vegetarian options? Most places have fish oil and it's hard for me to eat street food as a result. Curious if this place has these options as the food looks great and great budget costs!!! THANKS AGAIN!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi there, thanks for the nice comment! I would say that most street food in Chiang Mai should be fine. I've only heard of people getting sick from fatty fried meats and questionable soups. I would stay away from blood cubes and "dancing shrimp" (!!!) but you don't sound like you'll be going near those any time soon!

      Most Thai street food stalls should have a veggie option unless they are only serving one dish. Some good basic veg-friendly street eats are Pad Thai, Pad Pak Ruam, curries, som tam, omelettes, Tom Kha Hed and other normal dishes where you can replace meat with mushrooms (hed). As for the fish sauce, you will have to specify that you are Jay (similar to vegan in Thai). I have marked a few Jay spots on my vegetarian map - have a look around it here: https://goo.gl/g5ULG3

      Good luck, and enjoy! There are plenty of delicious, unique and exciting foods to try in Chiang Mai, many of them from the street stalls and markets.

      Delete
  8. Ok. So where is it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's marked on the map. But for some directions I'm pasting a previous reply to a comment here:

      If you drive along Charoen Muang Road (the main road going east out of the Old City), you'll pass several 7-11's on your left. This 7-11 is the second to last one, and you'll see a bright orange restaurant right next to it, as well as another restaurant which is the one I wrote about above. There is also a roti stand, somtam stand and occasionally mussel stand too, which I also wrote about above! Good luck! It's not hard to find at all ;)

      Delete
  9. Best diary entry I've read on a takeaway joint! ;)

    ReplyDelete