“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” – Anthony Bourdain
If you knew me 10 years ago and heard I would be embarking on a journey around the world, most of you would have had the same first question, “What will you eat?” Embarrassingly, I must admit I was a VERY picky eater. Over the years with the push of friends like Dusty and Chuck and just moving to larger cities and trying new things have improved this greatly. I have learned to not only try new things but my love of cooking new things has grown. My palette is still not all-encompassing but much broader than before. So, I was ready for the adventure ahead.
In the cities I called home, I inevitably found my “favorite places” to eat. Places that not only served my favorite dishes but that just felt warm and home-like. This could be from the flavors, the options or just the greetings from the staff. Without realizing it, I was finding myself looking for this in my travels as well. Chiang Mai was my first long stop and without a doubt, I found my place here. Aunt Daeng’s – ป้าแดง ขนมเส้นในซอย.
How people traveled without google maps I will never know. I began my search for lunch one day and this little place popped up. All the reviews mentioned “locals eat here” which in my mind meant it must be good. It was my day to pick and I chose here. Chuck and I were on our way. As we rounded a curve we saw what appeared to be a carport and saw tables and chairs. I was not sure what I was expecting but this was not it. We walked in and were immediately greeted by a sweet young lady who showed us the menu and even tried to help us with it. Quickly realizing she needed to switch to the one with pictures for us. I still had not tried many meals in Thailand yet so I decided to be safe. I went with the Pad Thai, yes I know lame. Y’all, I am not sure I will be able to enjoy pad thai in the states again. It was very fresh tasting. You could see Aunt Daeng off to the side tenderizing the chicken (yep cages in the back) and making the sauces over a rock. The noodles were perfect, the mix of heat and peanut was spectacular, and the chicken was just right. This place was legit.
The regional specialty in Chiang Mai is Khao soi. It is offered at most eateries in the area and every top 10 list gives you a recommendation. It is a soup-like dish made with a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chilies fried in oil, and meat (usually chicken) in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk. Khao Soi is usually pretty spicy and adding toppings (greens and sprouts) is suggested. I decided that there was only 1 place to try it first, so I choose Aunt Daeng’s. I had no idea what it should taste like but I have no doubt that this was it. It was unbelievable and I went back 2 more times for just this dish. I subsequently tried it at nearly every place we went and this one was still the best out there. I will be trying my hand at making this when I return home without a doubt.
On other trips to “my place,” I had stir-fried veggies over rice, I had the omelet, thai bbq, and the egg soup. Nothing was disappointing. If you are ever in Chiang Mai, do yourself a favor and make this a stop. Location: Suthep, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand. I promise you, you will have one of your top meals in Thailand (for under 2 USD) and if not I will take you out for dinner ;). The service is the best I came across and the welcoming and knowing smiles made all the difference to me.