Northern Thai Cuisine – Top Dishes and Where to Try Them!

Northern Thai Food vendor

Northern Thai cuisine offers a vast range of dishes, from comfort-food curries to quick stir-fried street food. All are tasty in their own right, however, it could take you weeks to work your way through the selection on offer!

The following list of northern Thai food has been put together to help you prioritise the best dishes and get your tastebuds working! I’ll share some of the most popular (and delicious!) traditional Thai dishes, with a few suggestions on where to find the tastiest examples of each. So, get ready, we’re off on a journey to explore the food scene in Northern Thailand!

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9 Must-Try Northern Thai Dishes

1. Khao Soi

Khao Soi, originating in the north of Thailand, is one of, if not the most popular dish in Northern Thai cuisine. This rich egg noodle curry packs a flavourful punch with its variety of spices, pairing perfectly with a creamy coconut sauce. 

Khao Soi
A hearty bowl of Khao Soi.

A handful of crispy fried noodles are layered on top of the curry, bringing a crunchy twist to the dish. Alongside the bowl comes a side plate, offering up pickled greens, shallots and a lime. They all bring tang to the tongue and you can choose how much you add! 

This dish is traditionally served with chicken, however, meat-free options are common so veggies don’t have to miss out! It is a must-try dish that you won’t want to miss. 

Where to Try It: Khao Soi Zisters, Pai & Grazie Local Thai Food, Chiang Mai 

2. Pad Thai

Pad Thai has been at the heart of Thai cuisine since the 1930s and has since been christened as the national dish. This delightful, stir-fried noodle plate is made using scrambled egg, rice noodles, bean sprouts and spring onion. Tofu, chicken or shrimp usually acts as the protein and the whole lot is stir-fried together before being topped with crushed peanuts and a wedge of lime. If you like your food spicy, don’t miss that optional sprinkling of dried chilli flakes too! The simplistic ingredients complement each other perfectly. 

Pad Thai
Pad Thai is the most famous dish in the whole of Thailand!

With just a few ingredients required, all of which are easily accessible throughout the country, you will find this dish everywhere. While Pad Thai makes for a satisfying meal, the dish is very moreish so be careful! You may end up more full than you intended!

Where to Try It: Pad Thai Tha Thae (Original), Chiang Mai ( They have 60+ years of experience!) 

Also read: The History of Pad Thai Noodles.

3. Nam Phrik Num

If you are a fan of Thai chilli, this sauce will be right up your street! Nam Phrik generally refers to a spicy chilli sauce or a condiment eaten alongside a meal. This particular type of Nam Phrik is a thick and tangy chilli and aubergine-based dip. 

Nam Phrik Num
Are you brave enough to try this spicy dip?!

Typically, it is served alongside an assortment of seasonal raw vegetables and sticky rice, adding a fresh and fiery sensation to a healthy meal. However, it can also be eaten with some scrumptious, salty pork crackling, which pairs beautifully. Although it’s served cold, the heat from the spice will definitely bring some fire to your mouth! If you’re not a fan of spice, we’d recommend skipping this one! 

4. Sai Oua

If you’re a meat lover looking for a quick snack, search no longer! Essentially, the Thai version of sausage on a stick, this is a great food to enjoy on the go. This pork sausage is packed with herbs and spices and, of course, has a kick of chilli to get the tastebuds going! 

Sai Oua is often found in markets or on street corners. The sausages are heated on a coal fire when requested, making them the perfect warming snack to energise you for the next few hours. 

Where to Try It: Any street market in Northern Thailand 

5. Khao Pad Sapparod

Meaning pineapple fried rice, Khao Pad Sapparod is a quick and easy meal which can be served within minutes. It was originally found mostly in street markets, however, its popularity pulled the dish into restaurants. 

Khao Pad Sapparod
Pineapple fried rice makes for a refreshing dinner!

The seasoned jasmine rice is stir-fried in egg and pairs beautifully with the refreshing burst of pineapple. This dish is the perfect balance between sweet and savoury. 

Khao Pad Sapparod can be tweaked for taste and preference by adding a type of protein (traditionally shrimp) and topped with a handful of roasted cashews. This adds a little crunch to each mouthful – simply heavenly!

Where to Try It: Charlie&Lek, Pai 

6. Mango Sticky Rice

If you’re craving something to satisfy your sweet tooth, there is no doubt you will be satisfied with this delicious Asian dessert! To make Mango Sticky Rice, the freshest, ripest of mangos are chopped up and placed on a bed of glutinous rice, before being drowned in delicious coconut milk. This sweet and tasty dessert is a popular street food in Thailand and that’s where you’ll find the best examples of this dish. 

Mango sticky rice
Mango sticky rice is sure to satisfy your sweet craving!

Where to Try It: Any street market in Northern Thailand 

7. Khanom Krok

Khanom Krok is a go-to street food snack or after-dinner sweet treat in Thailand. This traditional Thai dessert is essentially coconut pancakes, made from rice flour, sugar and coconut milk. 

Pouring the mixture into a hot indented flying pan forms a firmer coating to the pancake, but once bitten into, the creamy coconut centre bursts through. Be careful as this can be a little like an explosion in the mouth! Trust me when I say that they’re better eaten whole to avoid any dribble disasters! 

Where to Try It: Any street market in Northern Thailand 

8. Massaman Curry

This curry is so flavoursome that it has been referred to as being Michelin star quality! That’s some recommendation! Its warm spices are influenced by India and Persia, making it a little different from the traditional Thai flavours we usually see in the cuisine. Despite this, its uniqueness makes it a very popular curry in Thailand. 

Massaman Curry
Delicious massaman curry from Northern Thailand.

The richness comes from the assortment of dried spices blended with traditional Thai red curry paste. All of the spices are infused into coconut milk, creating a creamy yet comforting curry. The protein used in the dish is typically beef, lamb or chicken, all of which are beautifully succulent after being slow-cooked in the sauce.

The curry is served alongside potatoes and often a portion of veggies too. A few peanuts are added to give the dish a crunchy texture and a small bowl of rice is presented for mopping up the remaining sauce. This dish is a must-try in Northern Thailand! 

Where to Try It: Pakorn’s Kitchen, Chiang Mai 

9. Khao Lam

If you plan on heading out into the mountains for the day, it’s good to be prepared. In more remote areas, food might not be as accessible as in the cities. Therefore, you’ll need a delicious snack that you can take with you! It’s time to introduce Khao Lam. 

This is a form of sweet sticky rice compacted into a bamboo tube. Originally, it was cooked with no flavouring but has been adapted over the years to offer more varieties, including coconut, sugar and red beans. 

It’s heated on a coal fire and is usually eaten straight away. However, it can also be enjoyed cold, providing the boost of energy needed after a long hike in the mountains. It’s a simple, tasty, pick-me-up. And as it has been made efficiently with the use of natural materials, you won’t need to worry about disposing of your rubbish! 

Where to Try It: Any street market in Northern Thailand 

If you’re planning on venturing to northern Thailand, you’ll be lucky enough to experience a range of picturesque towns hidden between the mountains. Each individual destination will have its charm and your adventure is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories – the best of which are likely to be the delicious dishes you try along the way! 

What is your favourite staple of Northern Thai cuisine? Let us know in the comments!

Ffion Taskin bio pic
Ffion Taskin

My name is Ffion, 22 years young, from a small village in North Wales, UK. I have a degree in civil engineering and graduated in 2022. As much as I enjoy that part of my life, I’ve always wanted to travel the world to explore, experience, and learn about different cultures. I made some great memories in Europe, but I hadn’t had the chance to explore much further. My dream became a reality in 2022 when I jetted off to Southeast Asia. I began writing about memorable experiences on my journey which I’ve decided to share, hoping they will help others. 

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