What better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a new country than a food tour? Every time I visit somewhere new I struggle to find restaurants that locals would visit rather than the overpriced tourist traps I usually find myself ending up in. So this Thai food tour was right up my street!
What is A Chef’s Tour?
A Chef’s Tour is a company established by brothers Luke and Alex who set out to create food tours good enough for chefs. They wanted their food tours to educate on the regional food, its history and the ingredients being used. The food tour looks to avoid the regular tourist traps that I usually end up in and get off that beaten track to really get into the heart of the food in that region.
Before they set up any food tours in any areas they travel to the location, explore and eat all of the local food. They gather information from various sources including local restauranteurs and food experts. They currently run a variety of food tours in Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket), India (Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai) and even Colombia (Bogota).
A local guide will take you on the route featuring around 20-25 different dishes. The tours are all in English and they have a maximum size of 12 people with the prices ranging from $40 to $60.
We met the fantastic guide, Moui, ahead of our Lunchtime Food Tasting Tour which started at 10 am from the Wat Lok Molee temple on Manee Nopparat Road. We were joined on the tour by five people from Hawaii and a solo traveller from Germany giving a perfect tour size of eight people. The price of this tour is $55 per person.
From Wat Lok Molee, we took the Chef’s Tour songtaew to our first stop which was Khao Soi Mae Sai. This is the very best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai. Khao Soi is a soup noodle dish from the North of Thailand. It’s made from boiled egg noodles with pickled mustard green, shallots and chillis with a sprinkling of deep fried crispy noodles on top. Khao Soi Mae Sai offers the dish with beef, pork and chicken. The chicken from the drumstick was sooo tender while the beef was also really nice. The soup itself can be very spicy but there are some accompaniments you get with the dish – lime, pickled cabbage, shallots and if you want it even spicier, roasted chilis. If you were to go on your own, and not part of the tour, then the dish would cost just 45 baht (£1 / $1.35).
It was superb! The best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai was a great way to start the tour and it really set the tone for the rest of the morning.
From Khao Soi Mae Sai we took the songtaew to the Thanin Market which is sometimes referred to its old name of Siri Wattana. This market certainly had some weird and wonderful items for sale, some I was more interested in trying than others!
The Thanin Market is based around 1km north of the Old City. It sells fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meats and it also has sweets and plenty of packaged food for sale. There’s also a place that you can sit down and buy some Thai meals at really good prices. This market is generally only used by locals so the prices for items are better than you’d get elsewhere.
Moui initially took us to the fruit and veg section giving lots of information on the way in which they’re used in Northern Thai dishes. We got to try a lot of herbs too including some bitter ones, our group weren’t massive fans of those ones! You don’t have to try everything but it’s nice to see what goes into some of your favourite Thai dishes.
We got to try loaaaads of food! Moui definitely made sure we were offered everything and that we were well fed!
Weird and Interesting Foods
One of the images I’d seen before visiting Thailand was a whole host of insects being eaten… It wasn’t long before I saw some pretty big waterbugs (Asian cockroaches) staring back at me. I was happy to find out we wouldn’t be eating them whole but they’d be added to a hot curry paste to dip some pork crackling into. The paste actually tasted quite nice but they won’t be making their way into my regular diet! We also had a red paste that was much spicier.
Northern Thai people LOVE spicy food!
Would you try an egg that’s been lying around for a few months? Well, the century egg is just that! It’s a preserved egg that’s soaked for up to a few months in a saline solution. This makes the inside of the egg look a fairly disgusting black colour whereas the outside is a nice pink colour. It tastes like a stronger boiled egg so not as bad as it looks!
There is also a fairly sizeable meat section with some weird and wonderful choices like pig heads, blood soups and pork soups that are to be eaten raw. I politely declined to buy any of those! There are the usual normal meat choices in this section too though.
A very popular dish in Northern Thailand is a spicy sausage (Sai ua in Thai). It contains minced pork meat, spices and curry paste which, as you can imagine, makes it very spicy. This dish is really only made properly in the Northern region of Thailand so its a popular buy for Thais that have moved south and have come back to visit. The first stall we went to was busy making up 100 portions of the dish so we had to try elsewhere! It’s a lovely dish and I can see why it’s so popular! It’s actually quite expensive compared to other meals within the market but still reasonable.
We also got to try some pork balls on a skewer with sweet chilli sauce which were really nice. Soybean crackers were next up and they smelled just like chocolate but didn’t taste quite as nice… Some stalls do some nice fruit juices including passion fruit, coconut and others. I had the passion fruit juice and it was amaaaazing!
Our time at the market didn’t stop there though, we got our fair share of sweet things too! We got to try some Thai crepes (Kanom buang) with coconut inside which were delicious! We also got to try some coconut milk parcels which were encased in a leaf. Thong yot was also on the menu which were a range of mini desserts made solely from egg yolks. They’re generally reserved for special occasions in Thailand but there was an interesting mix in a small box.
My favourite was the grilled banana though. The banana comes sliced, it’s then grilled and put on to a skewer before being topped with a sweet syrup. Mmmmm!
After the market, we took a trip to a local place for some Thai iced tea or coffee. It was extremely well priced and a nice wee break from all the eating! We stayed here for a little while and the drinks were around 25 baht each (£0.60 / $0.80).
From there it was a short jaunt for some grilled chicken with a papaya salad. I’m not going to lie I was pretty stuffed by this point but I found room for some tasty, spicy chicken with salad and sticky rice. Our table still managed to get through everything put in front of us!
One of the highlights of the Thai food tour was the final stop. We entered what looked like someone’s driveway to find a freezer sitting there with a menu behind it. It’s not what I expected when I was told we were heading to an ice cream shop! A woman who owns the house-cum-ice cream shop makes ice cream and leaves it in the freezer for everyone to come in and help themselves. How trustworthy! It’s only 30 baht for a small tub (£0.70 / $0.90) but large tubs are available too.
I’m not so sure a self serve ice cream shop with an honesty box would work as well in the UK, what do you think?
The A Chef’s Tour food tour was phenomenal! The whole tour was organised to perfection with an unbelievable array of authentic Thai food. I was expecting small bites but there was definitely no scrimping on portion sizes here. Just fantastic!
Tour guide Moui has lived in Chiang Mai for over 20 years and her knowledge of the food in Northern Thailand was exceptional. She made sure we were always eating which is exactly what you want from a food tour.
The tour started at 10 am and finished just after 2 pm which was perfect for us.
I would definitely recommend you check out A Chef’s Tour if you’re visiting Thailand, India or Colombia. I’ll definitely be looking to take in more food tours whenever I’m in any of those locations.
As always, the views expressed in my post are my own.