Destinations Magazine

Gluttony at the Chiang Mai Gate Night Market

By Leonoras

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We are officially truly madly deeply in love with our local neighborhood night market.

Every day in the late afternoon stall owners begin setting up outside Chiang Mai's southern gate, and from that point on until late into the night the road is consistently packed with hungry Thais, expats and the occasional tourists like ourselves. 

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It was a surprise to learn arriving here that very few Thais in the city have kitchens -- the majority choosing to eat in one of the city's many night markets or speed through on their scooters and order food take-away. 

Surprising, but as I mentioned in my previous post, completely understandable. The food here is amazing. Mostly cooked to order, each stall specializes in a particular dish that they seem to cook to perfection. 

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Every evening we head down to the market around 7p to peruse the offerings and make something of a meal plan. Dessert is so tasty here that it's virtually compulsory to order one, meaning that it's vital to at least attempt to be conservative with ones main meal. 

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We'll often grab a few sticks of pork satay to nibble on as we wander. Straight off the grill, they're baking hot, with an incredible sweet glaze that sticks to your teeth and makes it nearly impossible to eat just one. 

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Despite being notoriously indecisive when presented with a long list of delicious food options, I often head straight to my favorite papaya salad man. He's got quite a following, reflected in the fact there are always at least a few people hovering around his cart and he literally never stops pounding, stirring and grinding at his mortar and pestle. 

I take a little plastic number and wait until it's called. Seeing as I speak no Thai and the wonderful papaya salad man speaks no English, I'm rather at the mercy of my fellow patrons, several of whom will often smile, laugh and nod in my direction when they notice I'm not responding to the calling of my #6. 

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He makes every salad one by one, tossing in the papaya, chilies, dried shrimp, tomatoes, peanuts and countless other ingredients before mashing them together and pouring it all into a styrofoam plate or plastic bag. This time consuming process can mean that the wait is often a little long, but trust me, it's worth it. 

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Paired with a giant glob of hot sticky rice, there's really nothing better, and I have to forcibly stop myself from snatching one of those little plastic numbers every single night.

Because here, it's really worth mixing it up. 

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When it's not papaya salad, it's often pad se ew -- wide, fat egg noodles stir fried with chicken and vegetables. Or incredibly tender pork leg on rice, or a thick broth nicknamed "Mama's Soup" filled with various meats, vegetables, noodles and even an egg. Or pad thai -- when we're looking to keep it simple. 

The list goes on. 

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It may sound like we are eating an extremely meat heavy diet here -- which we are -- but even the vegetarian food is pretty darn tasty.

It's no crispy pork belly on rice, but I'll take it. 

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After dinner, which is enjoyed al fresco at a small plastic table either behind one of the stalls or alongside the road, it's time for dessert.

I do generally try to be healthy, and after dinner and a very large mixed fruit smoothie I'm often feeling a bit full. But hey, we're in Thailand and dessert here is just part of the program. 

So it's off to find a sweet thing. 

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While this country boasts about a million different kinds of sugary deliciousness, I'm currently having an incredibly hard time tearing myself away from my beloved mango and sticky rice. It's that good.

Unbelievably ripe and juicy mango sliced atop another gooey mound of rice -- this time sweetened with an incredible mix of sugar and coconut milk. It's completely irresistible and thus a requisite daily indulgence.

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Jesse, on the other hand, most often goes for a rotee pancake -- thin dough fried on a large flat pan and then stuffed with any combination of sweet accompaniments. Banana, raisins, and condensed milk are favorites.

Are we sounding gluttonous yet? 

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So that's dinner for you. Every night. 

Like I said, we're completely in love. 


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