Bangkok Post reviews
Chiang Mai’s hidden Muslim market
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: July 10, 2014 at 8:24 am
A little-known bazaar in the former capital of the Lanna kingdom has some delicious Chinese delicacies
Kad Ban Ho is located near the compound of Khun Chuang Liang Rukiat’s wooden house, in front of Ban Ho Mosque.
Just a stone’s throw away from the bustling Night Bazaar in downtown Chiang Mai is a unique market where the majority of its traders are ethnic Chinese Muslims.
It is, however, rather hard to find. After asking a number of locals the whereabouts of the small local market, Kad Ban Ho, I got a number of conflicting answers. Some said that they had never heard of such a market, while others suggested I go elsewhere.
After wandering around a little more, I noticed people scooting in and out of a small soi, so I descended down the dark path and finally found it.
Khao foon thua, a kind of noodle made of green nut custard covered with rich cream gravy.
The vibrant market is well-hidden behind high shophouses which serve as a strong wall that blocks the market from the outside world. Ban Ho Mosque and an old wooden house tower provides the rather picturesque backdrop.
Muslim merchants set out long wide stalls offering a variety of goods including noodles, herbs, seasoning, vegetables and CDs. A male merchant fries samosas, while a lady wearing a hijab fries corn pancakes.
“I have been living in Chiang Mai for years but never knew about this place,” says a lady walking behind me to her friends.
I smile to myself as it seems that even people living nearby do not seem to know this place well. This is understandable as its hidden location makes it difficult to find and Kad Ban Ho was only set up less than two years ago.
Kad Ban Ho is named after the community of Muslim Chinese from the Yunnan province of China. Centuries ago, their pony caravans regularly travelled along the trade routes between China and the Lanna kingdom.
Muslim merchant Zheng Chong Ling is a descendant of Chinese explorer Zheng He, who led his caravan to settle in Chiang Mai in 1905 and later became a Lanna state official and assumed the title Khun Chuang Liang Rukiat. The Chinese Muslim community in Chiang Mai was set up around 80 years ago. Descendants of Zheng Chong Ling are now known by the Thai name of the Wonglukiat family.
The market of Kad Ban Ho offers goods that are not available in other ordinary market places like avocado, black chicken, Muslim-style chilli paste, herbs, sun-dried beef and fermented bean curd.
Besides Halal and Lanna-style food, there are stalls offering Chinese and Burmese goods. These shops are operated by Chinese people who can barely speak basic Thai. A rare delicacy you can easily find here is moo nam khang (salted sun-dried pork) which is a famous dish among the Yunnan Chinese, found mostly in Chinese communities in the northern part of Thailand.
One of the main reasons that people explore the market place is to look for new dishes that they cannot find outside.
In an outdoor shop, I take a seat and order khao foon thua. It is a kind of noodle made of green nut custard covered with gravy. A few steps away is the mouth-watering smell of khao pook, which is grilled rice roti dipped in sugarcane and black sesame sauce.
My stomach is full, for now, so I leave my table for the next group of tourists to sit back and try some unique cuisine, and go out to roam the market to peruse more different menus.