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15 Best Budget-Friendly Food in Chiang Mai

15 Best Budget-Friendly Food in Chiang Mai

Looking to tantalise your taste buds without breaking the bank in Chiang Mai? You’re in for a treat! This charming city is not only a paradise for culture enthusiasts but also a haven for foodies on a budget.

From aromatic street stalls to humble eateries tucked away in narrow alleys, Chiang Mai offers a plethora of delectable options that won’t strain your wallet. Let’s dive into the culinary delights that await, showcasing the best budget-friendly foods this city has to offer.

Pad Thai

Average cost per serving: 40 to 60 THB

A beloved classic, pad thai (row 664) is a thai noodle dish that effortlessly captures the essence of both sweet and savoury flavours. 

Stir-fried rice noodles are combined with eggs, tofu or shrimp, bean sprouts, and a medley of seasonings, creating a harmonious symphony of tastes in each bite. 

Topped with crushed peanuts and a dash of lime, this dish is not only a delightful culinary experience but also an affordable one, making it a must-try for any budget-conscious traveller in Chiang Mai.

Local tip:

Opt for places that allow you to customise your Pad Thai with additional ingredients like extra vegetables or prawns. This way, you can enjoy a personalised and authentic version of this beloved dish.

Khao Soi

Average cost per serving: 80 to150  THB

Prepare your taste buds for a journey into the heart of Northern Thai cuisine with khao soi. This fragrant and hearty curry noodle soup boasts a harmonious blend of tender meat (often chicken or beef), soft and crispy noodles, and a rich, coconut-based broth. 

Hailing from Burmese culinary influences, this dish is served alongside accompaniments like shallots, cilantro, lime, pickled mustard, ginger, and chilli paste.

The unique combination of textures and flavours is a reflection of Chiang Mai’s culinary (row 748) heritage, and you’ll find this dish served in local eateries.

Venture into the old town or markets, like Warorot Market, to find family-run stalls that serve khao soi.

Local tip:

When it comes to this particular Chiang Mai street food, you can find it at various eateries across the city. However, we highly recommend experiencing it at the renowned Khao Soi Maesai restaurant – a Michelin-recommended restaurant.

If you prefer it spicier, don’t hesitate to ask for extra chilli paste!

Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad)

Average cost per serving: 30 to 50 THB

For those craving a zesty and refreshing treat, som tum is the answer. This vibrant Thai salad combines shredded green papaya, cherry tomatoes, green beans, peanuts, and chilies in a tangy and spicy dressing. 

The explosion of flavours and the satisfying crunch of fresh vegetables make som tum a popular street food option that’s invigorating.

Local tip:

Seek out vendors who prepare som tum fresh upon order. Ask for your preferred level of spiciness and sweetness to tailor the dish to your taste.

Additionally, consider enjoying som tum as a side dish to complement heartier Thai meals.


Average cost per serving: 50 to 100 THB

Originating from the streets of Chiang Mai, roti is a simple yet scrumptious dessert that has captured the hearts of many. 

Thin sheets of dough are skillfully stretched, fried until golden, and then served with various toppings such as condensed milk, chocolate, bananas, or even savoury options like egg and ham. 

The versatility and affordability of roti make it a delightful treat for anyone exploring the local food scene.

Local tip:

Discover roti at night markets or street corners where skilled vendors prepare them in front of you. Experiment with different fillings and toppings like banana and condensed milk, or egg and ham. 

Moo Ping (Grilled Pork Skewers)

Average cost per serving: 20 to 30 THB

If you’re in the mood for a savoury and satisfying snack, look no further than moo ping. These tender, marinated pork skewers are grilled to perfection, offering a delightful smoky flavour and a hint of sweetness from the marinade. 

Often served with a side of sticky rice, moo ping is a quick and economical way to enjoy succulent grilled meat on the go while exploring the streets of Chiang Mai.

Local tip:

Find moo ping from local markets or evening street food spots. Observe the grilling process to ensure the skewers are cooked to perfection.

Don’t forget to dip them in the provided sauce for an extra burst of flavour!

Khanom Krok (Coconut Pancakes)

Average cost per serving: 20 to 40 THB

Indulge your sweet tooth with khanom krok, a delightful street snack that’s as charming as it’s delicious. These little treats are a testament to the fact that great things come in small packages.

These small, bite-sized coconut pancakes are cooked in a specially designed pan to create a crispy outer layer while keeping the inside soft and creamy. 

Drizzled with a touch of coconut cream, Khanom Krok offers a perfect balance of textures and flavours, making it an affordable and tempting treat to savour while wandering the streets of Chiang Mai.

Local tip:

Visit morning markets for fresher khanom krok, as they’re often made in batches early in the day. The crispy edges and creamy centre are the hallmark of a well-made khanom krok.

Enjoy them while they’re warm for the best experience.

Khao Pad (Fried Rice)

Average cost per serving: 30 to 50 THB

Khao pad is like a flavour fiesta in your mouth, where every forkful is a blend of textures and tastes that’ll make your taste buds do a happy tango.

It’s a medley of ingredients such as rice, eggs, vegetables, and your choice of protein (often shrimp, chicken, or tofu)! Plus, this dish is stir-fried to perfection with aromatic spices and sauces. 

In our hearts, khao pad isn’t just a dish; it’s a canvas where every cook adds their own artistic touch. From the bustling markets to the cosy corners of local eateries, you’ll find versions that cater to your cravings. 

Local tip:

Seek out places where the aroma of the fried rice fills the air, indicating its freshness. Try local variations of khao pad, such as crab or pineapple fried rice, to explore the diversity of Thai flavours.

Gai Tod (Fried Chicken)

Average cost per serving: 20 to 40 THB

Gai tod is a crispy Thai-style fried chicken that’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Marinated in a blend of spices before being fried to perfection, it’s a popular street food option that offers an irresistible combination of flavours and textures.

And don’t forget the dipping sauces! Those tangy, spicy companions elevate the experience to a whole new level, taking your taste buds on a dance of flavours.

Local tip:

Enjoy gai tod as a quick snack from local markets or street vendors. Look for vendors who keep their oil hot for that extra crispy texture. 

Sai Oua (Northern Thai Sausage)

Average cost per serving: 20 to 40 THB

Experience the unique flavours of Northern Thai cuisine with sai oua, a flavorful and aromatic sausage bursting with local herbs and spices. 

This coarsely ground pork sausage is seasoned with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and red curry paste, creating a distinctive taste that’s both savoury and slightly spicy.

Often served with fresh vegetables and sticky rice, sai oua offers a taste of authenticity.

If you’re interested in crafting your own version, after stuffing the sausage, ensure to dry it adequately to achieve that desirable crispy texture. When cooking, slice the sausage into pieces and fry them for a satisfying crunch.

Lastly, opt for fresh lemongrass and galangal, as they can significantly elevate the flavour profile.

Local tip:

Head to Chiang Mai’s wet markets or traditional food stalls for an authentic taste of sai oua. 

Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiaw (Rice Noodles in Curry)

Average cost per serving: 40 to 70 THB

For a heartier culinary experience, kanom jeen nam ngiaw is a must-try dish. This Northern Thai specialty features soft rice noodles served in a rich and savoury tomato-based curry broth. 

Like its name that’s quite a mouthful, you’ll get a burst of flavours that reflect the diverse ingredients of the region. It’s topped with a variety of accompaniments such as pork ribs, minced pork, and fresh herbs.

And despite its complex taste, kanom jeen nam ngiaw remains a favourite for those eager to explore Chiang Mai’s unique culinary offerings.

Local tip:

Visit local eateries or morning markets for a genuine taste of kanom jeen nam ngiaw. As you eat, enjoy the depth of the curry broth and appreciate the quality of the ingredients used.

Don’t hesitate to add fresh herbs and vegetables to enhance the experience.

Khao Kha Moo (Braised Pork Leg on Rice)

Average cost per serving: 40 to 60 THB

Khao kha moo is a dish that showcases the art of slow-cooked goodness. Tender and succulent pork leg is braised until it’s fall-apart tender, then served atop a bed of steamed rice. 

The dish is often accompanied by a hard-boiled egg, pickled mustard greens, and a side of flavorful gravy. 

Local tip:

Enjoy khao kha moo at small, family-owned establishments known for their slow-cooked dishes. If you’re adventurous, try asking for additional toppings like crispy pork skin or a soft-boiled egg to elevate the dish.

Jok (Rice Porridge)

Average cost per serving: 20 to 40 THB

When seeking comfort and simplicity, jok comes to the rescue. This rice porridge is a soothing bowl of goodness, made by slow-cooking rice until it becomes a creamy, velvety consistency. 

Often enjoyed for breakfast or as a light meal, Jok can be customised with various toppings such as minced pork, ginger, green onions, and a drizzle of soy sauce. 

Local tip:

Experience jok like a local by enjoying it as a breakfast option. Look for vendors who maintain a creamy consistency while cooking the rice porridge. 

Tom Yum Goong (Spicy Shrimp Soup)

Average cost per serving: 50 to 80 THB

Prepare your taste buds for a flavour explosion with tom yum goong, a renowned Thai soup that harmonises spicy, sour, and savoury tastes. 

This aromatic soup features plump shrimp, mushrooms, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, all simmered together in a tangy broth. Its bold flavours make it a beloved choice for those craving a zesty kick without compromising their budget.

Local tip:

Sample tom yum goong from reputable restaurants that emphasise fresh ingredients. Pay attention to the balance of sour, spicy, and savoury flavours.

Enjoy it with a side of fragrant steamed rice to mellow out the spiciness.

Khao Tom (Rice Soup)

Average cost per serving: 20 to 40 THB

Khao tom, a simple yet nourishing dish, is the epitome of Thai comfort food. A light and clear rice soup, it’s often enjoyed as a breakfast option or a soothing meal. 

With its humble ingredients including rice, vegetables, and your choice of protein (such as chicken, pork, or fish), khao tom provides a delicate blend of flavours that is satisfying.

Local tip:

Embrace khao tom as a comforting breakfast dish. Seek out local eateries where you can enjoy this simple yet flavorful rice soup.

Add a touch of soy sauce and freshly chopped cilantro for an extra layer of taste.

Kai Krok (Fried Quail Eggs)

Average cost per serving: 20 to 30 THB

Kai krok is a street food sensation in Chiang Mai that offers a delightful contrast of textures – a crispy exterior giving way to a creamy yolk centre. 

It’s cooked to perfection on a traditional cast iron khanom krok pan, which is well-seasoned. The griddle’s warmth ensures the egg whites are fully cooked, while the yolks achieve a delicate, semi-soft consistency.

Elevating their taste, a unique Thai seasoning sauce and a sprinkle of pepper powder are generously drizzled over the eggs. For those with an adventurous palate, a dash of Sriracha sauce adds a zesty kick

Found in bustling markets and food stalls, kai krok is a unique treat that’s perfect for a quick and flavorful snack.

Local tip:

For an authentic taste of kai krok, explore local markets such as Warorot Market or Somphet Market. Look for stalls with a steady stream of customers to ensure you’re getting the freshest and tastiest experience.

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