The Insider’s Guide To Chiang Mai

Plus how to cook like one of its top chefs

No one knows a village, town or city like a chef. Intimately acquainted with the locals and markets, and invariably impressively informed on the best hidey-holes to drink or party at, chefs are the folks to chat up if your hotel doesn’t have a concierge.

So who better to get the inside scoop from for a series on regional escapes? 

In this ELLE Exclusive series from TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, top chefs/restaurateurs from around Asia-Pacific reveal how to see the places they’re based in like a local. Bonus included for wannabe cooks: Delicious recipes from the culinary wizards’ own menus! 

This week: Chiang Mai from the perspective of David Gordon, managing partner of the city’s top restaurant, David’s Kitchen @ 909. 

Five things you suggest visitors to Chiang Mai do?

1. Visit David's Kitchen for lunch or dinner. This is a must-do!

2. Be a mahout for the day where you get to look after your own elephant – it’s a life-changing experience.

3. Visit Wat Doi Suthep, the most important temple in the North of Thailand. It gives you a spectacular view of the whole city from the top of a mountain. 

4. Get up at 6am and go to the bottom of Mount Suthep to offer food to the monks. I’ve been doing this regularly and still find it a very moving experience. There are three temples on the mountain and all the monks walk down daily to collect their alms for the day. They’re always in single file and when you see this sea of orange advancing towards you, it’s a most wonderful sight.

5. Go to one of the many cookery schools in the city such as Thai Farm Cooking School and Thai Orchid Cookery School and learn to cook Thai food. You’re sure to have a day of great fun. 

What’s unique about Thai culture in Chiang Mai?

It’s the strongest here in the north of the country, with many customs and traditions not seen in other parts of Thailand.

What are two must-try dishes from your own menu?

The Braised Beef Cheek - we marinate the beef for 24 hours, then slow cook it for 3 hours. Our sauce is very rich but the beef is like butter. Our sticky toffee pudding is also totally yummy. You see this in many restaurants but our version is absolutely classic and served with homemade vanilla ice cream and vanilla custard.

David’s Kitchen’s recipe for Braised Lamb Shank 

Serves one (with gravy to spare)

For the lamb 


400g lamb shank

100g onions                         

50g carrots  

50g celery    

1 tbsp ground black pepper

1 sprig rosemary    

2 bay leaves

2 lobes garlic

I tbsp paprika                                  

1 tbsp olive oil                     

Lamb gravy  (recipe below) 


1. Mix the garlic, rosemary, paprika and ground black pepper together, then spread over the lamb shank and leave overnight.

2. Stir-fry the onions and celery in olive oil and boil the lamb gravy (see recipe below) in another pot on medium heat.

3. Roast the lamb shank until it turns golden brown, then remove from the oven and place In the boiling lamb gravy. Stew for 1.5 hours with the onions and other ingredients, then plate and serve.

For the gravy 


10kg lamb bones

3kg carrots  

5kg onions   

200g garlic  

6 sprigs rosemary

6 bay leaves

0.5kg celery

50g black pepper   

200ml olive oil 


1. Bake lamb bones in the oven, then leave to cool. Stir-fry other ingredients in olive oil until they turn golden brown. Finally, stew the lamb bones with the rest of the ingredients for 48 hours and incorporate gravy into the recipe above.

David’s Kitchen @ 909 was named No 1 in Thailand and No 10 in Asia in TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travellers’ Choice awards, which are based on the reviews and opinions of millions of travellers around the globe.

Photos: TripAdvisor

For more on travel, read 5 Urban Destinations That Aren’t Tourist Hotspots or 8 Of The World’s Most Colourful Destinations. Or read more on lifestyle here!

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