I can't even begin to count my blessings. As we speak, I am in Chiang Mai munching away on super ripe bananas and sipping on a young coconut. My boyfriend and I decided to spend the entire month of August in Chiang Mai with his family (they live here) before ending our summer holidays with a detox trip to Phuket Cleanse. Our days have been filled with daily yoga, massages, trips to the local food markets and disovering the city's food culture. I feel zen, balanced and extremely grateful for life right now.
This is my 4th time in Thailand, and I am as in love with this country as during my first stay. The people, the warm weather, the FOOD, the cheap massages..Can I move here please? As you can imagine, the food is the most interesting to me. I love to learn about local ingredients, their cooking style and working my way through every restaurant in my way. One thing you definitely have to do when in Chiang Mai is to go to the local food markets, especially at night. The one we went to is close to Meechok Plaza but there are tons all around town. I'd suggest to go with an empty stomach so that you can really try some of the dishes they serve. A word of caution: Many of the fruit juices have added sugar in them, so make sure to ask before buying them.
Now, to my favourite part: Vegetarian/vegan restaurant testing. I've received so many recommendations for healthy restaurants from all you guys on Insta that I didn't even have the time to visit them all, but here are some of my favourites.
This is the sort of place you'll want to go for if you want to make an experience out of your night. The restaurant is situated in a tree house - like setting and the whole garden is beautifully lit at night. Be prepared to pay more than usual in Chiang Mai, however, the environment and the food were excellent so we didn't mind paying a bit more. They advertise themselves as a vegetarian restaurant, even though it isn't entirely vegetarian. But that's the great thing about Thai food; most dishes can easily be made vegetarian without feeling like you are missing out on anything. The menu offers a combo of Thai and Indian food, and I personally think that mixture is just perfect. We had the classic Thai dishes such as Pad Thai, curries with rice and spring rolls and complemented these with an Indian dal and some nan bread. This is the second time I have been here and I will definitely be coming back! [Unfortunately the lighting wasn't great so I didn't manage to capture the food for you guys.]
Imm Aim serves vegetarian food using mostly organic produce from local producers. You can find anything from Thai food, salads, European pasta dishes, sushi, smoothies and juices. It is located right down Santitham Road and definitely worth a visit thanks to the cute outside garden atmosphere, though a little pricy for local standards. We ordered a Massaman curry with brown rice plus delicious fresh spring rolls with veggies. We also had a fruit juice (passion fruit and mint) and a smoothie (mango and papaya), which we can recommend. The staff is very friendly and will leave out salt or oil in the dishes if you ask nicely. In fact, I went to Imm Aim a second time a week later to meet up with Mary from Mantras and Mangos and had their Pad Thai sans oil and salt and it was perfectly fine.
I wanted to go to Aum mainly because I knew they served vegan dumplings, which are filled with ginger (plus some other ingredients I can't remember). And boy were they worth it! The restaurant is conveniently located right by Thapae Gate with a relaxed interior and cozy upstairs dining. All food is vegetarian and there are tons of vegan options as well. They have a relatively large menu, so you will be spoiled for choice. They even have vegan burgers that come with a vegan mayonnaise and chunky potato fries. The curry was a bit on the plain side and not the most flavourful I've had. Overall, definitely a good place to go to if you're in the center and you are looking for vegan food.
Anchim was the first vegetarian restaurant we tested and it was by far our favourite. With us I mean my meat-loving boyfriend and I. Yep, that's right. It was so good that he even asked to go back a second time. I think this fact alone deserves the restaurant a 10 out of 10. If you convince an omnivore to eat vegetarian/vegan food simply because of the taste, then you are doing something right. It seems that this is exactly what the restaurant is going for, as the sign on the entrance reads "Vegetarian food so delicious you won't miss the meat."
We had the Pad Thai, Thai omelette and a curry with tofu and brown rice and all was delicious. Especially the curry was extremely flavourful compared to some other veggie curries we've tried. Portions are relatively big and made for a nice sharing experience. Prices vary from 90 to 150 baht per dish, but value for money is good. Even though it is by Nimmanhaemin Road, it is tucked away in a little side street and relatively nice and quite.
At the end of our meal we had a lovely chat with the owner, who told us about how eating vegetarian has affected him personally. Not only has he lost weight, but his blood sugar level went back down to normal and "his doctor no longer has to worry about him." This is clearly someone that's cooking from the heart and believes in the cause.
Whilst this place is neither vegetarian or vegan, they do have some healthy breakfast options. This is the perfect brunch place with a non-vegan friend; they can have their bacon and eggs for breakfast while we #healthyfoodies can satisfy our tastebuds with chia puddings, acai bowls and Co. In fact, their acai bowl was the sole reason I went to this restaurant in the first place (besides the cute interior). After living off fresh fruits for breakfast for most of the month, this smoothie bowl was a welcomed change to my otherwise simple fruit platter. Bonus point: when I asked for some more granola and coconut flakes to top the smoothie, they added a whole new layer of toppings including fresh bananas and berries. That's how you steal my heart!
You can imagine my excitement when finding out there was a vegan ice cream store in Chiang Mai. After initial skepticism from my boyfriend, I managed to convince him to join me on a tasting adventure to Ice Love You, situated just off Suthep Road not far from Nimman. Their ice cream is made with coconut milk as well as soy milk and there's a huge variety of flavours ranging from chocolate chip cookie and cappuccino to coconut, mango or durian. Let me tell you, I have never been to a vegan ice cream store with as many choices as Ice Love You. You can imagine my struggle when deciding which flavours to try. Luckily for me they have a five-bowl taster set! In the end we opted for blueberry, green tea, banoffee, mango and vanilla chocolate choc. They were all delicious but our favourite by far was green tea and the vanilla flavour with chocolate chunks. Verdict: This place will absolutely satisfy any vegan (or anyone, for that matter) who is craving a sweet yet healthy dessert.
On our last day we visited Ohkajhu, an organic farm restaurant on the Outer Ring Road by Sansai based on the farm-t0-table concept. They have their own organic garden right next to the restaurant where they grow all their veggies themselves to provide the huge salads that accompany each meal but also provide some substantial non vegetarian meals. Be warned: the servings are huge and ideal for sharing family style. I had the brown rice salad with corn, beans and pumpkin and barely managed to finish my plate. Granted, I also had a mango/kiwi smoothie and fruit-infused water (only place I've seen this in Chiang Mai so far!).
After reading up on the place, I discovered that at its very beginning the restaurant was a mere coffee bus parked on the side of the road and that it has developed into what it is today only in the recent years. Apparently it is packed every day for lunch and dinner, so make sure to either reserve or come early to grab a seat on the beautiful outdoor patty.
During our food tasting adventures, we met many people who recommended some other restaurants to us, including Freebird Café, Bamboo Bee Vegetarian Restaurant, Taste from Heaven and Jane's Kitchen. We didn't manage to try them this time, but they remain on my 'To-Visit list' for my next trip. Other things that we can recommend doing is taking a Thai cooking class, going for a hike up Doi Suthep (we used these directions) and driving out to the Rock Quarry (aka Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai) to do some cliff jumping.
I am extremely sad to leave this place and the time went by way to fast. But I am equally excited to finally go to Phuket Cleanse and get my detox on. If you're curious about my #wholesome travel tips to Phuket, you can already take a look at an earlier post of mine here.