Photo by: Shostak
One our Favourite things from Thailand is Nancy Chandlers maps.. The first time we arrived in Thailand people had these great looking hand drawn maps, we picked one up and were amazed by how in depth they were not just with tourist things but great stuff to immerse yourself in some good local culture. Being gastrotourists we especially loved the food side of things, so much we would have never found, or at least it would have taken a while. Since then every time we have returned to Thailand we pick up a copy, and every time they seem to be a new edition, so there always seems to be something new for us. This time feeling like some really homegrown Northern (or maybe because it was just around the corner from the guest house) we went for Aroon rai. Like a lot of really good Thai places the decor and setting is a total after thought, the big Aroon rai sign is plastered to the wall inside so you have to walk in to see your here. They let the food do the talking though with a great selection of northern staples as well as a few southern strangers. A good whack of the menu is written in Thai and the English translation is the usual humorous literal word for word (but they write more English than I of Thai) so it helped that we knew the dishes to be able to visualise what they were.
We went for nahm prik ong, dtom yum het, scrambled egg with nam and not very northern but we felt like it, plain steamed rice. The Nahm prik ong is a northern relish of pork and tomato, usually the ones we have had have been almost like a Thai pork bolognaise but this was far more rustic and much better. Almost like a ragu the pork and tomato still in largish chunks surrounded with soft onion and garlic and swimming in a sour savoury stock, This came with a plate of fresh snake beans, cabbage and pork skin with which to scoop up the goodness. Defiantly the best we've ever had and most certainly worth a trip here if just for that.
The dtom yum was a generous portion full of floating mushrooms and aromats with a good hot sour balance.
The scrambled egg with nam was something we had never tried but we both love nam and we both like egg so give it a go we did. Nam is something that never seems to be able to translate very well, always ending up as sour or fermented pork which for some reason put the average farang off but it really deserves your attentions! every mouthful is an unctuous garlicky love affair with the gamble you may have ended up with one of the scud chilli's lurking within it's porky depths. Give it a go, at the least you'll be able to say you don't like it because you know.
The dish came out a great pile of nam and scrambled egg through which was tossed white & spring onion and a few slightly sour Thai tomatoes the did well to cut the richness of the dish which we both thought was a triumph making a note for future ordering at other places.
We had such a great meal we returned later that week, but I am ashamed to say we totally neglected our blogging duties, such was our preoccupation with the food that no photos resulted from that visit. But we can also recommend the gaeng hung lae: a mild spicy braised pork curry from the Burmese border area, the gaeng gari: an ancient yellow curry of braised chicken and potato, and the larp muu: a spicy minced pork and fresh herb salad. mmmmm aroy maak!
They also do a range of pre-packaged spice mixes for various curry's and soups if you're allowed to take them home.Aroon rai has definitely become one of our Chiang Mai top spots.. thanks Nancy!
45 Kotchasarn Rd, on the Thapae Gate side
Open daily, 9am - 10pm