When we were in Chiang Mai which is in Northern Thailand, we looked up food recommendations online and both Tripadvisor and the NY Times came up with results for this restaurant, Huen Phen, serving Northern Thai cuisine. It sounded interesting so we took a tuk tuk ride down a dark alley. Nestled in between intimidating buildings where you could get either raped or robbed or both, was Huen Phen.
Once inside, the decor was lovely and welcoming, full of rich Northern Thai culture and history. Most patrons were tourists. Maybe they also did a quick Google search?
Northern Thai style pork curry - no coconut milk. This was an interesting take on curry. It tasted more like soup and definitely packed a strong kick. I really liked the greens in the dish; they were unlike greens I've had in Vietnamese cuisine.
Fried rice served in a folded omelet.Great presentation and as usual, the Thai's really know how to make great fried rice!
A side of steamed rice served in a banana leaf cone
Crispy fried chicken wings. Yahummm....You know I love my chicken wings and these were really good.
Bamboo shoot salad. This was not quite what I had in mind. I thought it would be like a papaya salad but with bamboo. It was more like extremely muy caliente hott stir fried bamboo shoots. I couldn't finish this.
Are you ready for the reveal of the best thing I ate in Thailand?!?!?!
Nam Prik Num with crispy pork - Ground green chilli peppers with crispy pork, eaten with steamed or raw vegetables. Oh em gee! Someone tell me where I can get this in the California or link me to a recipe. This was the most delicious, unique, and spiciest thing I ate in Thailand. It is very much like Laotian cheo. Phil couldn't handle the spice so I was left alone against this beast. Sure, it may just be a paste in a sauce bowl the size of soy sauce bowls for sushi, but it was powerful and full of fatty porky goodness. Between eating all the vegetables to balance the spice or shoveling mouthfuls of white rice or drinking tons of water or gasping air to soothe my tongue, I gave up halfway through. If we had a reliable means of transportation home or if we weren't leaving the next day, I would have packed the last half to go. Instead, I said goodbye to about a tablespoon full of the best thing in Thailand. sad face...
Huen Phen was an excellent recommendation. In all other parts of Thailand we visited, the cuisine contained the same types of dishes you would see in American Thai restaurants, albeit more delicious and authentic, but still not uncommon. Chiang Mai, and Huen Phen in particular, showcased a type of Thai cuisine that is not prevalent in mainstream American Thai restaurants. I definitely recommend Huen Phen. The price is very cheap, about $1+ a plate.