Old Chiang Mai on a plate.
If you want to sample the flavours of Chiang Mai's future, find a table at any hip restaurant in the northern capital and tuck into such gastronomic delights as cappuccino prawns. But if your palate longs to revisit the tastes of the past, head to Huan Phen in the old town.
"Keep walking along this strip and turn left at the traffic lights, then left again at the end of the soi. That's where you'll find Huan Phen," says the manager of Chiang Mai's latest trendy hotel on Ratchadamnoen Road.
"That's where the locals eat. Don't be surprised to see the police chief's wife, a local politician or some of Chiang Mai's bluebloods mixed in with the college students. They all drop in occasionally."
Following his directions, I have no problem finding Huan Phen. It's on the corner of Rachamankha and Charmee Roads.
Phen, as it's known, is a downtoearth place with delicious food stored in aluminium pots and trays of fresh raw veggies.
Among the traditional dishes are sai ua (northern sausage), nam prik num (spicy dip made of young green chilli), steamed vegetables, laab khua (minced pork) and chicken soup.
I order aeb plaa (baked fish in banana leaf) with a side dish of sausage and nam prik num.
The sausage is absolutely fantastic and not too greasy.
The nam prik num is delicate, with the mild, subtle flavours favoured by northern folk, and the fluffy baked fish in banana leaf has a wonderfully smoky aroma, which would go well with a glass of Riesling. As white wine is out of question at this roadside restaurant, beer is your best option.
The bill comes to a very reasonable Bt200 - and that includes a serving of sticky rice and a bottle of beer. No wonder Huan Phen is so popular!
Tasting the difference
>> Huan Phen is open daily from 8am to 10pm.
>> Call (053) 277 103
>> Check it out in Google Map