There are certain Thai flavors that just seem to vibe with Farang. Thai people love them as well, but these ingredients strike a certain chord with those non-native to Thailand. It may be that they are reminiscent to certain domestic dishes. Perhaps they are just inherently delicious regardless of lineage. Regardless, May Kaidee understand what they are doing when it comes to lemongrass, kaffir line, tamarind, coconut milk, and the like.
May Kaidee, either knowingly or otherwise, has cultivated a menu that even the most picky of travelers would be helpless to pick through. They offer vegetarian and vegan versions of classic Thai dishes. I have no qualms with vegetarian food. In fact a lot of my favorite foods are meatless. However, I was a bit skeptical of making Thai food vegetarian. Fish sauce, shrimp paste, even nam buu are things I hold in high regard. Thai food in absence of these seemed to me like Spanish food without olive oil – Japanese without soy. After eating at May Kaidee, I realized it was all a matter of perspective.
Without a doubt the best thing I ate here was wasn’t eaten at all, but rather drunk. A drink so utterly delicious and obvious I was upset that I hadn’t thought of it before. A tall glass of iced tamarind juice infused with lime leaves and lemongrass. It was sweet and refreshing the way that first bite of an apple is. The combination of sour from the tamarind pulp and aromatically citrus from the herbs was confusing in a good way. You can see that there are no limes or lemons in the glass, but that’s not what your other senses are telling you.
To me the king green in Thailand has to be morning glory. If there are vegetable at all on any Thai menu, morning glory will be among them. It can be cooked in more ways than I can count, and taste unique with every preparation. Here they may do it better than any other way I’ve had before. It’s served in a lightly dressed salad along with the usual suspects: tomatoes, cashews, some sort of herb, ect. The morning glory however is fried in the tempura style; Light and crispy – warm but not so hot to wilt its terrestrial neighbors. A contrast of textures amongst the full range of flavors from subtly light to deeply rich.
As a coleslaw eating America Thai food can be a little devoid of what I refer to as hardy vegetables. More often than not veggies here are steamed or stir fried until whatever rigidity they once had is now part of the wok hei. Now, the banana blossom salad at May Kaidee is very much made with hardy veggies. If you’ve never had banana blossom before imaging if somehow a cabbage grew out of a banana tree. It’s that vaguely purple cone you see sold at Thai Fresh Market. Having a subtle aroma of banana, it fits in nicely with the fatty and sweet dressing that is eerily similar to the one from any Seattle teriyaki joint.
While som tam is usually made with unripe papaya I also really enjoy when its principal component is green mango. This gives it a slightly sweeter and more sour composition, although the same thing can be achieved by altering the dressing of a papaya som tam. The green mango also makes an already light dish, by Thai standards, that much lighter.
May Kaidee is a small and simple establishment just east of the moat. It has no dining room, but rather just a room. Outside of a few framed pictures and some foliage near the opening, there isn’t much in the way of ambiance here; that’s not a bad thing. It’s a place you can come with any friends knowing that everyone will be able to not only eat anything, but enjoy everything.
Open: 11:00-21:00 Closed Sunday
The Good Stuff Chiang Mai