Food in Chiang Mai: Top Tips for New Expats

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Thailand | 1 comment

Soft egg noodles, crunchy noodles, fragrant jasmine rice, red curries, green curries, mangos, and sticky rice. It is not an exaggeration that local food is varied and extensive in Thailand. For foodies, the perfect Thai meal has an exquisite balance between sweet, sour, salty, and spice. A typical Thai curry sells for just $1.50 on the streets and a little more in restaurants.

Local Cuisine is Perfect for Foodies

Khao Soi from a Street Vendor by Rachel Devlin
Khao Soi from a Street Vendor by Rachel Devlin

There is no doubt about it, Thai food makes life worth living. The rule is, if you eat locally, you can eat cheaply. And most expats go crazy on all the local delicacies. One favorite, unique to Northern Thailand, is Khao Soi. This is a yellow curry that has a distinct blend of spices with a good smack of heat. It is almost like a soup, and they fill it with soft noodles and either chicken or pork, topped with crunchy noodles for a fabulous texture. But there is so much more! What about western food?

But then it happens. The Thai spice overdose occurs and we begin to crave the food from home. Yet fear not. Chiang Mai has a plethora of Western cuisine and just about every other cuisine you care to imagine. The average price range for a restaurant meal is $8.50-$12.00.

Pizza in Thailand may or may not taste like Western pizza by Rachel Devlin
Pizza in Thailand may or may not taste like Western pizza by Rachel Devlin

The most enchanting aspect of eating out in Chiang Mai is the atmosphere. Many restaurants make a concerted effort towards the ambiance. Here you may find yourself surrounded by luscious gardens, floating over, fish-filled ponds underneath a sea of colorful lanterns, or amidst the tranquil sound of water features. Your biggest challenge each day will be choosing one.

One piece of advice though, just because it looks like a pizza, doesn’t mean it will taste exactly like your favorite one from home. Now and then, a little Thai culture sneaks into the food.

Supermarket Options

A potential challenge for new expats is when in search of groceries. Depending on where you live, a Macro type of shop may be a twenty-minute drive. So, it also depending on the mode of transport determines how easy your shopping will be. Factor this in when you are choosing your rental. Shopping centers will have the basic items you need. Chicken and pork are cheap at around $2.50 a kilo. However, beef and lamb are much more expensive. Usually, there is an aisle with Western products such as tinned goods (tomatoes, soup, and tuna) and items like pasta, cheese, and taco seasonings.

Local Markets

Local produce - a joy to shop at the markets by Rachel Devlin
Local produce – a joy to shop at the markets by Rachel Devlin

Generally, expats buy their fruit and vegetables from the locals. We would rather support struggling locals than the big corporations. Local fruit and vegies are cheap but don’t believe the “organic” signs for locally grown products. There are no regulations around organic farming in Thailand. We just wash everything regardless. There is a significant tax on imported goods, so an apple from California may just encourage you to discover what local fruits are on offer. I love the experience of the markets. They are full of life. and when you get to know the locals there, the smiles are heartwarming.



Regardless of where you end up in Thailand and whether you eat out or cook at home, I promise you, your culinary experiences will be a reason for staying. Do you live in Thailand or in another exotic country? Share your experiences with us.

by: Rachel Devlin