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While Bangkok may be the unofficial food capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai is the best city in the northern part of the country to get a tasty tour of the region’s distinct, often super-spicy cuisine. Don’t leave without indulging Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for five of the best food experiences in Chiang Mai:
1. Sai Krok. These plump, juicy little sausages made from either pork or beef and mixed with fresh herbs are widely available from street vendors throughout the city. Bursting with flavor and usually served with a small bag of fresh veggies, sai krok is one of Chiang Mai’s must-try specialties.
2. Jackfruit. Native to Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia, jackfruit is a massive tropical fruit that tastes somewhat like a tart banana. You can buy it in the street in its fleshy, freshly chopped-up state, or get it canned or dried in a supermarket. Our favorite way to enjoy jackfruit, however, is in a spicy salad that’s served at just about every Thai restaurant in the city.
3. Khao Niaow Ma Muang. This rich, refreshing dish made with fresh mangos, coconut sticky rice and coconut milk is commonly enjoyed either for breakfast or dessert, but once you’ve tried this classic Thai treat we can pretty much guarantee you’ll strongly consider having it for every meal of the day.
4. Street Food. This is a somewhat broad recommendation, but eating like the locals and grabbing a plastic bag of freshly squeezed fruit juice, a just-mixed som tam (green papaya salad) with sticky rice or any number of grilled meats on a stick is a quintessential Chiang Mai food experience – and one of the cheapest ones, too.
5. Khantoke Dinner. Bring your appetite for a traditional khantoke meal, which consists of several plates of northern Thai cuisine including various curries, noodles, meats and sauces. Many of these meals also include cultural performances, depending on where you go.