100% Issan, Dining in Chiang Mai (Thailand)

100 isaan 4I’m a fan of spicy food. My wife’s a bigger fan, having touched down in the north of Thailand, I’m happy with the food, but she has her issues. “Not spicy enough,” she says. I’d like to know how spicy is spicy enough, or how spicy is just enough, just right, or even too much. The jury is out, so I’ll let my wife decide…

“Where going to an Issan place,” I tell her. “Hooray, finally food with taste.” She’s from the south, but her mother is from Issan, so she’s my official Issan expert.

Located across from the entrance to Chiang Mai University on Huay Kaew Road, 100% Issan doesn’t look like much—as a matter of fact it looks like about a 1000 other small restaurants in Chiang Mai, functional seating, tiled floors, menu items pictured on the wall, with prices written below them. Nothing close to an English menu…

What makes 100% Issan different is the food, it’s spicy, more so than the usual. It’s also not northern food, with it’s creams, and medium spice, its noodles, and rich curry broths. You want spicy? You got it. 100% Issan isn’t your average Chiang Mai place; the food is from Issan, an eastern province located on the borders of both Cambodia and Laos and known for its incredibly spicy cuisine.

Where Northern cuisine is medium spiced, think of Kao-Soy, a noodle dish with a thick broth, the food from Issan is it’s hot headed and impulsive little brother, full of heat…to say the least. Even the salads are spicy.

100 isaan 1Try the Som Tam, you have too, or the mushroom salad. The seafood salad is quite good, and extra spicy. Not being a fan of organ meat, the safe bet is the grilled chicken. Not so spicy but with lots of flavor. My wife loves the liver, or the intestines, the stomach, whatever it was. I had a taste. It was pretty good, and again extra spicy. Here they’re a little light on the vegetables, and heavy on the innards. But there’s something for everyone. If you like heat!

So she’s happy, and the place is filled with locals enjoying the food—and a family from China, speaks English with the waitress, and looks at my plate of food. “Yes, that’s the sticky rice I’m eating, and you see this (pointing at my dish), that’s the nice sauce for dipping, eat it and your head will explode.” “Really?” “No, I’m joking.” I usually get a bit cranky when people are staring at my food.

100% Issan, 239 Huay Kaew Road, Muang District (across from Chiang Mai University), dinner for two about 320 baht…


100 isaan 2


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