I was only in Chiang Rai for a couple of nights so please don’t consider this a guide, I’m sure there are many other good places. You’ll find lots of other suggestions on my map.
Lung Eed Locol (High Elementary B), Watpranorn Rd, ตำบล เวียง Amphoe Mueang Chiang Rai, Chang Wat Chiang Rai 57000, 11.30am-9pm Mon-Sat
A plain simple place a short walk from the centre. It’s a Lonely Planet Top Choice so they’re used to tourists and have an English-language picture menu.
They’re famous for their Lâhp Gài (minced chicken fried with spices and topped with crispy deep-fried chicken skin, shallots and garlic). I also had some Steamed Curried Fish. Both were fine (B).
The green leaf on the plate bottom right is Phak Chi Farang which literally means “European coriander”, perhaps because European traders brought it from the Americas to Thailand. It’s native to south and central America where it’s known as Culantro (or Mexican or long coriander to us) but you’ll see it on many northern Thai plates. The flavour is much stronger than normal coriander.
Lab Sabnam Keera (Intermediate B), 123 ตําบล, หมู่ที่ 22 Naarsanarmkeera Rd, อําเภ, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Rai, Chang Wat Chiang Rai 57000, www.facebook.com
This is a popular restaurant a short walk outside the centre. It’s a big old place with lots of plastic chairs and tables under a large covered area with open sides. I’m guessing it’s popular because it’s very cheap.
Despite the picture menu I had a few communication problems with the young servers who don’t seem to have much experience with tourists, or their own menu. Generally service was very sloppy and I had to ask for fresh herbs and rice which should come automatically.
I’d come to eat a certain fish dish, Pla Tub Tim Tod Kra Tiam (fried Tilapia with garlic) recommended by another blogger. It didn’t seem to be on the menu but fortunately I had a photo to show them. It’s certainly spectacular to look at (B+), covered in deep-fried battered garlic but it was very dry due to being over-fried (C+). I suppose that just goes to show you shouldn’t always believe what bloggers say!
I actually preferred the Spicy Tendon Soup made with intestines, kidneys and liver (B+).
But I was less keen on the Slow-Cooked Beef with Galangal Chilli Powder (C).
I think the latter was a mis-order and I was actually after the Yang Ruam (ย่างรวม), a dish of grilled pork, including fatty meat, intestines and liver. A bit of Thai or a better picture menu is needed here!
So I didn’t have the most amazing culinary experience in Chiang Rai but I ate fairly well. Maybe I’ll do better in Laos…