Food Photojournal: If You’ve Ever Wondered How Chiang Mai Cuisine Looks Like

September 25, 2019

There’s always something fulfilling about cooking. It’s probably the wannabe Masterchef in me, but I always appreciated learning how to cook– and the fact that getting to eat what I cook makes the experience even more fun.

Interestingly enough, Thai food has always been known to be prevalent and distinct by nature. This holds true because of the wide variety of natural ingredients found in this region, and the cooking styles they have learned to adapt to. From noodles to curry and everything in between, the play of flavor and textures make Thai cuisine unique and above the ordinary.


This is why during our trip to Chiang Mai, we tried out the local cooking class—which, apparently, is pretty popular with travelers. It was a great way to learn about Thailand’s cooking culture, talk to locals, and to meet other travelers as well. Here are a few dishes my friend and I whipped up during our whole day cooking class at Baan Thai Cookery School.


For appetizers, we chose to cook spring rolls and papaya salad, commonly known Thai favorites. The play of textures and flavors was interesting—with the crunchiness of spring rolls and tartness of the salad.


Of course, we’re all very familiar with the popular Pad Thai, which is a stir-fried noodle dish mixed with a number of ingredients—from tofu, onions and lime to chicken or shrimp.


Sompet Market along Moonmuang Road is the best place to find local ingredients and condiments if you’re up for cooking Thai cuisine. Some of the freshest vegetables and fruits can be found here at the best prices.


Some common Thai ingredients that are present in almost any dish include lime, tomatoes, oyster mushroom, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, sweet basil & onions.


Coconut milk is usually the broth of choice for Thai cuisine, oftentimes used for curries and soups.


We tried cooking a variation of soups—one with a coconut milk broth and one with a clear broth. Seafood in coconut milk (Tom Kha Gai) was creamy and flavorful, while the hot & spicy prawn soup (Tom Yum Goong) was refreshing and delicious.


Khao Soy (or Chiang Mai noodle) is a specialty in northern Thailand. A twist on the typical noodle soup, Khao Soy comprises of yellow noodles in a thick pool of coconut milk curry and is topped off with crispy fried noodles and your protein of choice.

Tasting curry may be just typical for most of us, but getting to make the actual curry paste is a different story. It’s a hodgepodge of ingredients all pounded together the traditional way – with a mortar and pestle. After the paste is made, it is then incorporated into coconut milk to be made into a curry base.


We ended our class with mango and sticky rice for dessert. Sweet, creamy and indulgent, this dessert made with fresh mangoes and sticky rice cooked in coconut milk and sugar, making it a classic Thai specialty/favorite.

Cooking for a whole day was no piece of cake—but it was definitely a fun learning experience. It also helped that we had great teachers and a productive learning environment. They taught us not only about food but a big deal about their culture as well. I have developed a deeper appreciation for food preparation and hopefully, I get to fulfill my wannabe Masterchef dream soon.

Have you been to Thailand? What dishes were your favorites? Share your favorites at the comments below.

Abbey Sy Abbey Sy

Abbey Sy is a letterer and moment collector. Passionate about all things creative and a lover of books, music, and travel, Abbey chronicles her daily musings over at her blog, Le Rêveur. She also has quite a fascination for good food and good design. Other than being very OC with her Instagram feed, her free time is spent doing grocery shopping and food tripping.

7 comments in this post SHOW

7 responses to “Food Photojournal: If You’ve Ever Wondered How Chiang Mai Cuisine Looks Like”

  1. Volts Sanchez says:

    Part of my Thailand itinerary (whenever that actually happens) is trying Isan cuisine. Did you get to have it there? How different is it from regular Thai stuff?

    • Carl Tomacruz says:

      Chiang Mai isn’t in the Isan region; it’s in Northern Thailand. The Isan region, which is in the northeast, was actually Lao territory before it was annexed by Siam (now Thailand) in the 19th century. The culture, language, fashion, and cuisine are very similar – if not identical – to those in Laos. So if you’ve eaten Lao food, you’ve eaten Isan food.

      A number of dishes you might find in a standard Thai restaurant are of Isan-Lao origin. Larb (meat salad), Gai Yang (grilled marinated chicken) and Som Tam (papaya salad), to name a few. You’ve probably had those already. From what I’ve heard, Isan food is spicier and uses a lot of sticky rice.

      Well, much of what I know about Isan-Lao food is from Isan people who work in Thai restaurants I’ve eaten in overseas. It is difficult looking for peoplle knowledgable in Isan cuisine here in the country.

      • Volts Sanchez says:

        Interesting! Know where I can get authentic Isan here?

        • Carl Tomacruz says:

          Authentic Isan restaurants here in the Philippines? I doubt it. There’s no single Lao restaurant; what more an Isan one? Like I said, the closest thing you will find are the Isan dishes themselves which have become common in mainstream Thai cuisine. Don’t expect them to be authentically Isan, as they’ve been adapted to Thai tastes, and in turn adapted to the Pinoy palate.

          I may be wrong, and I do hope that I am wrong. But I suggest that when you go to Thailand, head northeast to the Isan cities, like Ubon Ratchathani and Korat. Or better yet, to Udon Thani, which is a bus ride away to Viangchan (Lao capital). You’ll no doubt find authentic Isan fare there.

          • 2358 says:

            A Thai here. Not just a Thai but also a Chiang Mai local who lived here for almost 50 years.

            Sorry to tell that yes you are wrong. Northeast Isan style restos are widely spread across the country- CM included. So, contrary to authentic northern and southern style restos, you can find authentic Isan food shops in almost every provinces (and trust me I know which one is authentic because although I count myself as CM local, I had spend years in Isan provinces when I was a kid. Actually Isan is the first local language I can speak. Long before I can speak Kammuang or Lanna language)

            Also there differences in Isan and Lao cuisine. Although they are really close, Isan cuisine is bolder and spicier than Lao cuisine. (But not the spiciest of all Thai cuisines. The spiciest is the southern)

            BTW, Lanna or Northern Thai also eat sticky rice for main dish for every meals

  2. Klaus says:

    Consider revising this article’s title please. Apart from khao soi, the rest of the dishes featured are standard Thai fare – stuff you can find in even the most basic and white-washed of Thai restaurants. I mean, c’mon – phad thai, spring rolls, and papaya salad? Y’all are seriously slacking. Where’s the nam prik noom (chili dip)? or the sai ua (herbed sausage)? :

  3. […] I got to write about my culinary experience over at Pepper, by the way. Check it out here. […]

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