Friday, 6 March 2015

Vegan in Chiang Mai - Part One

Oh hello! I'm in Chiang Mai right now and despite the temperature gauge hitting 43˚C yesterday I am loving it here.

Some cities have a pull about them that just keep me wanting more, NYC, Portland, Tokyo to name a few, and now I can add Chiang Mai to the ever-growing list. Nick and I were here for one night before our amazing week at Elephant Nature Park and then for four nights afterwards. That should've been it if we had stuck to our super-vague plan but after leaving to check out Pai (more about that adventure soon) we then came right back here again for what we'd initially decided would be just a couple more nights and has swiftly turned into a week. This is without a doubt the best thing about long term travel, if I don't want to leave somewhere I don't have to. Within reason of course, other cities and countries are calling my name and my visa totally expires soon so I know that moving on has to happen eventually.

How walkable Chiang Mai is is definitely a big draw, despite the heat city explorations on foot have been a breeze (Oh, if only there were a real breeze!) and I love (LOVE!) seeing Wats popping up from behind brick walls as I aimlessly wander the city streets.

Stumbling upon somewhere fun and unexpected whilst walking without a destination in mind is one of my favourite travel activities and Ung Polaroid, Handmade Shop and Gallery was one of these finds. 

Ung is located at one end of Khang Ruan Jum Road and is the home to photography exhibits, a store with some great polaroid postcards, and much more. There was even a cat to play with.

Food wise the city has been treating us right and I am over the moon with the range of options available. Taste From Heaven was our first stop as it was located near the first place we stayed and right next to this book store which we were more than happy to browse in. 

Of course I ordered the Pad See Ew. I almost always order the Pad See Ew! It's been my favourite Thai dish since I first tasted it at Pukk in New York City and I've never regretted an order of the sweet noodles. Taste From Heaven's take includes TVP and whilst I would prefer tofu or perhaps mock duck it's still beyond decent. 

I have since tried other things including this plate of Rard-Na Noodles with veggies and textured soya protein in a soya bean sauce which was the perfect comfort foodie meal on a day where I woke up with an inexplicable craving for biscuits and gravy. I blame Instagram. 

The Fresh Spring Rolls are another of my go-to orders, I've ordered them literally every single time I've visited (Oh Parks and Rec I'm gonna miss you). Crisp lettuce and crunchy veggies paired with fresh flavourful herbs will always be a favourite of mine and I loooove that these come with a sweet tamarind sauce. Also, tofu. Love.

I'm always pleased when somewhere does a great job with a vegan dessert and oh boy does Taste From Heaven do it well. This is described on the menu as a brownie but it's really more like a superb slab of chocolate cake.

It's served hot so the chocolate chips are all melty and perfect, it's sharable but if you're hungry I'd strongly recommend keeping it to yourself. 

Amrita Garden is one of my very favourite place in Chiang Mai. I'm a huge Japanese food aficionado, my travels there last year just amplified the situation, and I love Amrita Garden's take on everything from the super traditional to the Japanese twists on Western classics. Their burger, for example, is made up of a delicately flavoured vegetable patty topped with homemade tofu mayo, ketchup and mustard.

I feel bad showing you this next (terrible) picture but the fried tempeh is just so outstanding that I had to share, it's lightly flavoured with a shio-kouji sauce, made from fermented rice and salt, that tastes a lot better than the sum of it's parts. The cucumber on the side actually compliments the dish rather than being a random garnish.

The cold soba broth is delicately flavoured with kombu, shiitake, soy sauce and sweet rice wine, it's absolute perfection in a bowl. I've never had quite such amazing noodles, they must be homemade.

Dessert wise they've got it going on and the green tea brownie is pretty much the best ever. Matcha and Almond are a dream team and I've been eating more of these than I could possibly count.

They also sell a Dark Cacao brownie topped with cashews which I don't love as much as the matcha brownie but Nick wanted me to let you know that it's his fave'. If cookies are more your scene Amrita Garden have you sorted on that front too with Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Pim or Bitter Chocolate Cookies from Healthy Sweets. 

These are both delicious and hit very different spots, the oatmeal raisin are your straight up classic cookie whilst the bitter chocolate biccies hover at the more sophisticated end of the spectrum. You need to watch out here because some of the goodies on sale at Amrita Garden have the vegan label but contain honey, just flip them over and read the ingredients before you buy. I wonder when everyone'll understand that if it came from an animal (including a bee!) that it just Is. Not. Vegan. Full stop. No further discussion.

One afternoon, fuelled up with plenty of energy from all of the delicious food, Nick and I made the trip out to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which is 15km outside of the city with a couple of the new friends we made at Elephant Nature Park. It's truly stunning up there, especially on a clear day, and it's the perfect spot to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city below and to breathe some cleaner, fresher air. 

At the end of our adventures we were rewarded with this wonderful surprise as we were leaving, a tiny puppy chewing a tiny shoe. Good lard. It really was too much.

Until next time friends! I'll catch you for part two soon.


  1. Oh my! Tiny puppy with tiny shoe!! Also, I'm with you on the honey and vegan labels. Just came across a locally made soap a couple days ago that said VEGAN on the package, but the ingredients listed honey. Like for real? Get with it, people! All the food looks great!! Pad See Ew is my fave too.

  2. Oh my, everyone's Chiang Mai posts on my feed are killing me. I need to get over there! Pad See Ew! So good!

    1. You really do! I wish I had some Pad See Ew right now!

  3. Tiny puppy with a tiny shoe! Kitties to play with! Amazing food!
    Pad See Ew is the best.
    Honey in so called 'vegan' items is so annoying. There is a vegetarian place down the coast that has desserts labeled vegan but have honey in it. Frustrating!

    1. I know, so frustrating. I saw one place that had a sign that said vegan* *except for the honey which was at least a little better because I didn't get my hopes up!

  4. I hope the tiny puppy wasn't on it's own — so many sad street dogs in Thailand. I wanted to bring them all home. I really wanted to go to Chiang Mai when we were in Thailand, but for various reasons, we're couldn't fit it in. Your post is making me wish we had.

    1. Hi Andrea, no, thankfully this pup wasn't on it's own. It had a puppy friend and there were older dogs nearby. They all looked really well so I suspect the monks at this particular temple look after them. I hope you make it to Chaing Mai in the not too distant future - it really is an amazing place.


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