Chiang Mai is a Food Court
With travelers passing through Chiang Mai from all over the world, the city caters to their bellies with care. Vegetarians also get special treatment, as every restaurant and food stall offer us options, often very easily veganized. Here is a sampling of some of the goodies I’ve tried here in Chiang Mai. As you may pick up on, I relished the opportunity not to eat Thai food. Yes, I am getting sick of it!
Coming from a city with ample availability of middle eastern delights like falafel and hummus, I would not expect it to be done right all the way over here in North Thailand. However, The nice Jewish woman who owns Jerusalem Falafel served the most tasty falafel and hummus pita I ever did eat. The pita alone, fresh & doughy, was worth my 100 baht alone. But it didn’t stop there: falafel- spot on, tahini- just enough, veggies- fresh, crisp and the perfect compliment, hummus- sublime. The perfect meal.
Authentic Mexican food in Thailand? For some reason, maybe because the broad spectrum of Mexican on the East coast, I thought this would be an impossibility. I was pleasantly surprised by Miguel’s Cafe. The chips, for starters, were made in-house, still glistening with grease. The guacamole, the cornerstone of any Mexi-menu, blew me away. Big chunks of ripe avocado, second fiddle (as they should be) to those chunks were diced tomato and onion and ample cilantro in every bite. My taco was simple, yet delicious: refried bean, pico de gallo and lettuce in two toasted soft tortillas.
Next on my world cuisine tour of Chiang Mai was Italian at Girasole, a posh restaurant with mist upon entrance overlooking the Sunday night market action. Again, I was not disappointed at all. I ordered penne with garlic, oil, diced tomato and a kick of chili. It was quite a tasty break from Thai food (re: rice-based dishes). The only thing a bit off was the ratio of pasta to sauce… but this seems to the case with Thai food, as well. Far too much sauce! Luckily the dish was served with a couple of slices of fresh Italian bread. But I would have needed a loaf to mop it all up. Funny: The manager dropped by my table to check on how everything was after he noticed my writing and snapping a pic of the dish in passing. Not Zagat… Zacconi!
So I have been craving bread in a big way. Fresh from the oven, artisan baked bread. But alas, all I come across is white bread (containing milk!) and wheat bread with 1 or 2 strands of wheat mixed within the white. Whole grains are rare here in Thailand. So when I passed Juicy4U and saw that I can creat a whole wheat triple-decker with my choice of 10 veggie innards, I nearly flipped. I chose avocado, carrot, red cabbage, sunflower seeds, sweet peppers, onion, spinach, tomato and 2 other ingredients I forgot. But c’mon, I had you at avocado. Juicy4U also offered fresh juices and smoothies, as well as wheatgrass shots, but I frequented the nice man with the table set up tow doors down instead for my daily pineapple-mango smoothy.
Back to Thai food. Fried rice with chunks of fresh pineapple, tofu and tomato. Simple, delicious and cheap (as in less than a $1US). I am obsessed with Thailand’s pineapple and stop at every vendor selling chunks. It is like delicous pieces of candy. Infused in the rice, I am able to overlook all the darn whiteness.
Speaking of white rice, there is another form I will most certainly devour without hesitation… within the beloved banana leaf of my favorite and most-hunted Thai snack, kow dom mat. The sweet sticky rice overtaking the banana slice in these especially delicous (I’m learning there is a broad range of quality in these homemade treats.) were picked up daily at the Somphet Market. 5 baht for two. That is like a couple of cents.
Aum Vegetarian Restuarant kicks May Kaidee’s veggie butt. May Kaidee has restaurants in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and also offer cooking classes. Relatively well-known, I was eager to try their food. My dissappointment lead me to believe that standards of tourist-geared vegetarian restaurants were just low… but then came AUM. They do vegetarian right: fresh, not too oily, flavorful and no gimmicks (like traditional Thai dancers squeezing around the cramped tables). I ordered the fresh rolls and, my usual, the pad see ew.