When You’re In Chiang Rai, Eat at Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา)

By Mark Wiens 17 Comments
Best restaurants in Chiang Rai
Our feast at Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา)

I had no idea what to expect when Ying (my wife) told me we needed to check out a restaurant called Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา), on our latest visit to Chiang Rai.

Little did I know, I was in for what was perhaps one of the best meals I’ve had in Chiang Rai… ever.

I would say that if you love to eat local Thai food, when you’re in Chiang Rai, this is a restaurant you don’t want to miss…

ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา
Beautiful and colorful dishes at Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา)

Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา) is a well known local restaurant in Chiang Rai, serving up mostly northern Thai dishes that are heavy on meat, herbs, and overall just packed with flavors.

Lanna cuisine
The menu includes mostly northern Thai dishes

Though they mostly serve Lanna (northern Thai) food, the menu also included quite a few dishes, or combinations that I had never tried before, and that’s one of the reasons I was so excited to eat here.

I only saw a menu in Thai, but there were a few pages that included photos, so even if you don’t speak Thai, you should be able to choose some dishes off the picture menu.

food in Chiang Rai
Fresh vegetables to garnish

Many Thai meals are served with a basket of fresh herbs and vegetables, but in the far north (and also in the south) of Thailand, they often take the baskets to extremes, serving up a garden of different colorful herbs and vegetables.

meat in Thailand
Get ready for a northern Thai meat feast!

But even though you’re served plenty of fresh herbs and vegetables, northern Lanna Thai food, is known for being quite meat heavy, and at Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา), they don’t hold back on the meat!

If you’re ready for a meat feast, like I was, you’re going to love eating at Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา).

Yang Ruam (ย่างรวม)
Yang Ruam (ย่างรวม) – Thai mixed grill platter

Yang Ruam (ย่างรวม)

In Thai, yang ruam (ย่างรวม) just means mixed grill, but it was more like a mixed pig.

There were pieces of fatty meat, intestines, and liver included in this dish.

Price – 70 THB

pork jerky
All things pork on a plate – almost like pork jerky

All the pieces of pork were lightly sweet and marinated in a soy sauce based marinade, and then grilled, probably on low fire, until they were quite dry, and were well on their way to becoming jerky.

The flavor of the meat was wonderful, especially the chunks of intestines and the pork meat. I wasn’t a huge fan of the liver, because it was too dried out for me, but it did taste better when dipped in the sauce.

Thai sauce
A dip in the sauce made it even better

I was also quite pleasantly pleased with their nam jim (dipping sauce), which was similar to a typical Thai grilled chicken sauce, but a little less sweet (so maybe they didn’t use any tamarind).

The nam jim for the yang ruam (ย่างรวม) was not too sweet, and it was mostly a mixture of chili flakes, maybe some tamarind juice, fish sauce, and a hit of lime juice.

what is Thai food
That’s a tasty bite!

Dipping pieces of grilled pork into the tangy chili filled dipping sauce, then chasing with sticky rice and herbs, was delightful.

boiled beef
Jeen Neung (จิ้นนึ่ง) – boiled meat

Jeen Neung (จิ้นนึ่ง)

One of the meat dishes I hadn’t tried before is a dish called jeen neung (จิ้นนึ่ง).

The dish was basically steamed beef (I think it was the shin portion), including tendon mixed into the meat.

The meat itself, I don’t thing was seasoned with much other than a bit of salt, and so to be honest my first bite made me immediately think of a Sunday roast beef. But it did read that it is steamed with lemongrass and galangal, so it does have just a tiny hint of those herbs steamed into the meat.

Price – 89 THB

จิ้นนึ่ง
Steamed meat served with galangal chili sauce

Now it might look a little dry in the photo, but really it wasn’t.

It wasn’t fatty meat (apart from the grizzly tendon), but the beef was nice and grainy, with some good meat texture to it.

It was like the Thai version of East African nyama choma (grilled meat), and I absolutely loved it.

น้ำพริกข่า
Nam prik kha (น้ำพริกข่า) – galangal chili dipping sauce

The reason I loved the jeen neung (จิ้นนึ่ง) so much was partly because I don’t eat beef all that often when I’m in Bangkok, and secondly, because we ordered it along with nam prik kha (น้ำพริกข่า), a Thai chili dip made with galangal.

The nam prik kha (น้ำพริกข่า) was a dry style nam prik, and it was salty, and loaded with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir limes leaves, and chilies.

It was amazingly herbaceous tasting, just a bit spicy, but extremely flavorful.

You can also eat the nam prik kha (น้ำพริกข่า) with the fresh vegetables, but I thought with the beef, it was insanely good.

Northern Thai food
Here’s a bit of beef with cilantro and galangal chili sauce

The chunks of beef were served on a plate along with a handful of fresh cilantro sprigs, to chase bites of beef.

A piece of steamed beef, accompanied by some nam prik kha (น้ำพริกข่า), and a few sprigs of cilantro on top, was fantastic – and it proved to be one of my favorite dishes when I ate at Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา).

ต้มแซ่บหมู
Tom Sab Moo (ต้มแซ่บหมู)

Tom sab moo (ต้มแซ่บหมู)

For something sour, my wife and I, ordered tom sab moo (ต้มแซ่บหมู), a Thai pork soup.

Their version came with both dried chilies and fresh green chilies, and a handful of roughly cut herbs floating on top.

Before I even tasted it, just from the looks, I knew it was going to be good.

Price – 79 THB

best restaurants in Chiang Rai
Spectacular pork and herb sour soup in Chiang Rai

The tom sab moo (ต้มแซ่บหมู) was in fact spectacular, one of the best versions of the dish I’ve had in a very long time.

The pork and the broth were a little on the fatty / oily side, and that’s probably what added to making it so good, but the soup really had a balance of flavors that was perfect for me.

The pork was incredibly fall-apart tender, the broth was rich and meaty, sour from lime juice, spicy from both the roasted dry red chilies and the slightly sour fresh green chilies, and it had a noticeable flavor of cilantro and sawtooth coriander.

If you eat at Lab Sanam Kila (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา) in Chiang Rai, you should not miss their tom sab moo (ต้มแซ่บหมู).

ปลาทับทิมทอดกระเทียม
Pla tabtim tod kratiem (ปลาทับทิมทอดกระเทียม) – fried fish with a mountain of garlic

Pla tabtim tod kratiem (ปลาทับทิมทอดกระเทียม)

I wish you could have seen my face when they brought out our order of pla tabtim tod kratiem (ปลาทับทิมทอดกระเทียม), because I think my jaw dropped all the way to the table…

In all my days in Bangkok, and throughout Thailand, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fish smothered in that much garlic!

Price – 199 THB

ปลาทับทิมทอดกระเทียม
Fried fish smothered in garlic

There was so much garlic on top, it was almost comical… and brilliant too.

The fish was deep fried to an absolute crisp, so crisp you could eat the bones. And though it was so deep fried, it was drained well, so it must have been fried on perfect heat, because it wasn’t oily.

After tasting the garlic, I could tell it was coated in a thin layer of batter, expanding it a little bit, but nevertheless, it was still a ton of garlic.

The fish, along with the chili dipping sauce, was epic, and the garlic on top was like cloves of garlic french fries.

Thai stickyr rice
I ate sticky rice, which would be typical to eat in Northern Thailand

To supplement your meat feast at Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา) you can either order regular steamed rice or sticky rice, both of which would go well with any of the dishes.

restaurants in Chiang Rai
Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา) is a restaurant you should eat at when you visit Chiang Rai

Our lunch consisted of plates of marvelous meat, in addition to fresh herbs and vegetables, and I loved every bite of it.

ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา
Part way through my meal at Ran Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา)

Here I am, part way through the meal, and already beginning to get the meat sweats!

best restaurants in Chiang Rai
Ran Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา)

Conclusion

Ran Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา) is one of the most locally popular restaurants in Chiang Rai.

When you arrive, you’ll probably notice a traffic jam of trucks parking in the grass outside the restaurant – and everyone is there to get some of the best food in Chiang Rai.

The restaurant is well known throughout the city for their local northern food, especially their meat filled dishes. I enjoyed everything we ate, and was particularly excited with the jeen neung (จิ้นนึ่ง), steamed beef, the tasty tom sab moo (ต้มแซ่บหมู), and their take on pla tabtim tod kratiem (ปลาทับทิมทอดกระเทียม) – OK everything was delicious.

All I can say, is that if you love food, when you’re in Chiang Rai, you don’t want to miss a meat filled meal (or a few) at Ran Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา).

Ran Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา)

Address: 123 Moo 22, Tambon Robwiang, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Rai
Phone: 087-173-2498 , 080-134-7877
Open hours: 10 am – 9 pm daily
Prices: Our total bill came to about 500 THB, which considering the amount of meat we ate, was a pretty decent deal. Restaurants in Chiang Rai are generally a very good deal for what you get.

ที่อยู่ 123 หมู่22 ตำบลรอบเวียง อำเภอเมืองเชียงราย เชียงราย
โทร. 087-173-2498 , 080-134-7877
เปิดบริการทุกวัน 10.00 – 21.00 น.

How to get there:

Ran Lab Sanam Keela (ร้านลาบสนามกีฬา) is located on the eastern side of Chiang Rai, near a school and the Chiang Rai stadium. I stayed at a hotel within walking distance, but if you’re staying more in central downtown, it should be about a 40 – 50 THB taxi ride and take just 5 minutes to get here.



17 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Keen

    7 months ago

    Thanks for all your recommendations! Your dish descriptions in Thai was really helpful when ordering. Love you site! Although we didn’t find the food here as good as lu lam. We had the mixed grill and it was very dry but the Tom Sab Moo was amazing with crazy after heat and the mango salad there was also very good.

    • Mark Wiens

      7 months ago

      Hey Keen, you’re welcome, glad to hear it was helpful!

  • Rocky

    3 years ago

    I’m planning on going to Lab Sanam Keela tonight.

    In CR for a few months and normally eat vegetarian, but I’m flexible, 555.

    Just last night, we ate at the “best fish noodle soup” in CR. It looks like it’s just across the street from the “Beef Noodles” place, just west of the Clock Tower on your Chiang Rai restaurants Google map.

    Also, just across the street from Wawee Coffee is the best Khao Soi in CR, but I think she’s only open on weekdays.

    Also, is the place “Khao Tom Meena” the Kuay Tiao noodle soup place near a place that sells plastic goods, not far from Fun-D hostel?

    It seems very popular with locals, but i had a bit of a “digestive experience” the next day after eating there my second night in town…

    Will let you know about more yummy local favorites if you’re interested.

    I’m all about going local.

    (Although the restaurant at Fun-D was packed with locals last weekend and wasn’t bad either…)

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hi Rocky, good to hear from you. Thanks for sharing about the Khao Soi, I’ll have to check that out the next time I’m in Chiang Ra. Khao Tom Meena is a restaurant that serves stir fry dishes, I ate there just one quickly, and the food was quite good and very popular, not sure about Fun-D though. Glad you’re enjoying the food!

  • Axel

    3 years ago

    Hi Mark,

    as you are travelling The Northern part of this beautiful country you need to eat some Khao Soy. Its one of the best chicken Curry soups I’ve ever eaten.

    Enjoy Axel

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Thanks Alex, yes khao soy is a great dish, glad that you love it. I haven’t had it much in Chiang Rai, but many times in Chiang Mai. Do you have any suggestions in Chiang Rai?

      • Axel

        3 years ago

        No, can’t remember much of Chiang Rai (never stayed there overnight). But if you drive to Chiang Mai Or Mae Sariang I have some suggestions.
        I will be in Lam Luk Ka the end of this month You have some good advice down there?

  • Steve Kyne

    3 years ago

    Another great post Mark. The tom sab moo looked particularly amazing. Although I’ve done 22 trips to Thailand, I’ve never been to Chiang Rai. Maybe it’s time I fixed that.

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Steve, thank you. That was for me too, I’ve been in Thailand off and on for over 6 years, and finally I made it to Chiang Rai, and I loved it. Hope you can visit next trip.

  • Nash

    3 years ago

    Hi Mark, that fish delicacy looks amazing makes me super hungry for a feast like that, I love garlic as well. I have never been to Chiang Rai, so on my next trip I will surely visit.

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Thank you Nash, I hope you can make it to Chiang Rai next time!

  • Suphot Laohathiensin

    3 years ago

    would like to receive news from you

    • Suphot Laohathiensin

      3 years ago

      I am currently living abroad any news about thailand is always great especially thai food recepied and where to eat.

      • Mark Wiens

        3 years ago

        Thank you Suphot, hope you’re able to find some good Thai food!

  • Peter Bringsli

    3 years ago

    thanks mark, my wife and i are touring thailand for the second time feb-mar 15. have never been to chiang rai before, but looking forward to n. thai cuisine- regards pete

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hi Pete, great to hear you’ll be coming to Thailand again soon. Hope you have a wonderful trip. Will you be visiting northern Thailand?