When nighttime falls in Chiang Mai, the roti (or “rotee” as they’re spelled in Thai-English translations) stalls come out, catering to after-dark hunger pangs and fried dessert cravings.
The stalls are almost exclusively owned and run by Thai Muslims — the rotee worked its way into Thailand from India via Malaysia, and has become one of the most popular evening street food snacks for locals and tourists alike.
Rotee Mataba, on Tha Pae Road near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, is run by Dae (or Padae, meaning ‘Auntie Day’ as locals call her), an Afghan-Thai woman who has been frying up rotee in the exact same spot for some 35 years and has earned a solid reputation among locals as having the best in town. (The stall, located next to Wat Buppharam, is also known as Rotee Padae.) Her daughter now works with her, and the two have a methodical rhythm going on — one rolls out and flips and smacks the dough into a perfectly thin pancake, the other fills and fries it. The night we’re there, the line isn’t long, but it’s steady. As soon as one person walks away, another one walks up.
The traditional rotee fillings of banana, cheese, egg, and/or chocolate are what you’ll find most people ordering — but if you’re looking for something a bit less common, Dae also makes mataba rotee, a variation that you’re hard-pressed to find at most of the other rotee stalls in town.
Mataba is a mild, Indian-style yellow curry, typically made with potatoes and chicken. Dae’s mataba is easy eating. It’s not spicy, so you won’t have to worry about burning heartburn if you eat one right before bed, but it’s hearty enough to satiate if you need a late-night dinner.
But even if you want to stick with the more common fillings like banana and chocolate or egg and cheese, any rotee aficionado should head to Padae’s to see just how good a rotee can be when it comes with 35 years of experience.
How to find it: On Tha Pae Road at Kampangdin Road, next to Wat Buppharam and just east of the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar area.
What to order: rotee mataba (roti with chicken and potato curry).
Chiang Mai’s old city is the prettiest place in town – and also the best area for grabbing delicious Thai food. But with all the tourist restaurants in the ‘hood cooking mediocre khao soi and bland som tam for backpackers, it can be hard to find the good stuff if you don’t know where to look.