The pleasures of post‑rush hour breakfast in Chiang Mai
Omelets in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is quiet mid-morning.
Once the children have been taxied to school and the joke vendors have negotiated the maelstrom of the breakfast run, the city exhales slowly, as if relieved to have avoided some potentially metamorphic encounter.
Even the Southeast Asian mugginess seems more at ease, occasionally permitting the sun to sneak through the cloud cover. Tuk-tuk operators take the opportunity to rest their eyes as they recline in the cabins of their vehicles, while elderly locals acquaint themselves with the day’s newspaper on the banks of the Ping River.
Not a week before, we had arrived to welcome in the new year; an entirely different scene then, with the night sky ablaze with hundreds of thousands of lanterns and dance music legend Graham Gold headlining the Hard Rock Cafe. A cacophony of cultural to-ing and fro-ing in the northern territory’s capital.
Yet by 10 a.m., Thapae Road, which forms a key point of Chiang Mai nightlife, is a world apart. Noodle bars are open, but the friendly greeters do not seem particularly concerned whether they have your custom or not.
This stillness creates a sense of comfort, almost belonging—a strange feeling so many thousands of miles from home.
Engorged on Pad Thai and the generous quarts of Leo beer from the night markets, we’re looking for something lighter after exploring the bookshops of Chang Moi Kao Road.
On the corner of Thapae Road Soi 6, we find a breezy cafe, uncomplicated in its furnishings but robust in its plastic-encased menu. To this point, the ubiquitous Mama pot noodles have performed a perfunctory role, but now we need proper sustenance to prepare us for the day ahead.
My eye immediately falls on khao kai jeow (Thai omelet with rice); my wife’s, on khao neeo mamuang (Thai sweet sticky rice with mango). A chocolate drink and banana smoothie to wash it all down, breaking with our tradition of alcohol before noon. Even vacations need a break after a while).
Our food arrives, and the presentation is basic. Alongside my omelette, enfolding slivers of pork and chilli, is a perfectly stacked hillock of sticky rice. On the opposite side of the table, my wife is marveling at the intense color of the mango.
The omelet is coarser than its Western cousin, but no less feathery on the palate. The rice is steaming and delicious, and gives the meal its substance. My wife, who has an almost unholy passion for fruit, is saying nothing but giving me that look that says, “This is exactly what I felt like.”
Both these dishes are staples of Thailand. Easy meals for normal folk just wanting to live a good life. As the clocked ticked over the 11, we felt right at home.