Northern cuisine differs significantly from cuisine in the rest of Thailand, although most restaurants serve both. You'll have no problem finding plain khao suay (steamed rice) or fragrant jasmine rice, for example, though locals prefer the glutinous khao niao (sticky rice). A truly northern and very popular Muslim specialty is khao soi, a delicious pork or chicken curry with crispy and soft noodles, served with pickled cabbage and onions; lively debates take place at Chiang Mai dinner tables about the best restaurants to find it.

Another northern specialty is gaeng hang lay, a pork curry redolent of its many dried spices. Chiang Mai's famous sausages are found throughout the north—try sai ua (crispy pork sausage) and mu yo (spicy sausage). Noodles of nearly every variety can be bought for a few baht from food stalls everywhere, and some fried-noodle dishes, particularly pad thai, have found their way onto many menus. Other northern dishes to try include nam pik ong (pork, chilies, and tomatoes), gaeng ke gai (chicken curry with chili leaves and baby eggplant), and kap moo (crispy pork served with nam pik num, a mashed chili dip). Western food is served at all larger hotels and at all international restaurants, although the local version of a western breakfast may not measure up to its counterpart back home.

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