Pork Leg Made Famous by Cowgirl in Chiang Mai
“Fifty” she says, while smiling and extending all five fingers on her right hand towards me. In broken English she explains that she and her family have been making this famous stewed pork for fifty years. As she stands in front of me adorned in her iconic cowboy hat, I can hardly wait to taste what she’s cooking. The official name of the restaurant is Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak. The slowly stewed pork leg is known as khao kha moo and the location at North Gate in Chiang Mai translates to Chang Phuek. Even before Anthony Bourdain featured her, this cowgirl in Chiang Mai has been well known by locals and Southeast Asian tourists alike.
One interesting aspect mentioned on Bourdain’s show is that the pork is stewed in a traditional Chinese master sauce. This is a carefully guarded family recipe that continues to use some of the original batch. Some is used each day and then added to again. This could go on as long as the family continues in the tradition of making this local treat. For this reason, it is also sometimes referred to as the “thousand year sauce”.
The famous street vendor asks if I would like it to-go or for here. It’s drizzling rain so I tell her for here. I request a large and she motions where I can sit. I am led to a tiny plastic stool and a corner of a metal table among a cramped group of other diners.
Of the 50 or so people sitting around me, I am the only Westerner among them. North Gate Market in Chiang Mai is one of the smallest night markets in the city and is largely visited by locals. I can’t hear a word of English.
These factors alone tell me I’m in the right place. All that’s missing now is the stewed pork.
Soon a large portion of stewed pork meat and gravy over rice is delivered to me. A poached egg is also included. On the side are pickled greens, fresh green onion, raw garlic and chilies. Condiments are spread across the table for added spice and complexity. I add a little of everything.
The pork flavors are deep and rich, indicating they likely stewed for several hours before serving. The simple gravy and rice pair nicely with the added freshness and spice with the other added ingredients from the table. Everyone around me gobbles down every bite. There isn’t a single piece of pork remaining when those around me are finished.
This is easily one of the best pieces of pork I’ve ever enjoyed. Total cost, around $2.
Each time I stopped by this stand clearly had the longest line and the greatest number of diners. The line and the reputation is there for a reason. This is easily one of the best street food meals I’ve ever had. I highly recommend giving Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak a try during your time here. Just head to the south gate market and look for the only local cowgirl in Chiang Mai.
North Gate Market is open every night of the week starting around 5:30 p.m. Depending on the time of year the closing hours seem to vary around 10 p.m. or later. Some say it can be open as late as 2 a.m. during the busiest months.
Chiyo! (Cheers in Thai)
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