As soon as we arrived to Chiang Mai and started walking around our neighborhood of Nimmanhaemin, my well-trained eye noticed the abundance of ice cream shops. I made it my personal challenge to try as many of them as I could, in between bowls of khao soi and plates of mango sticky rice. Here are the ones I got to.
With ample seating space inside and out, an easy to find location and pretty safe flavors, Janie Scoop is a good place to start. When talking to the owner we learned she makes the ice cream in her house and then brings it to the store. Janie Scoop sells the usual suspects such as chocolate peanut butter and espresso chip, but also makes Nestea Oreo, an obvious Thai twist on cookies and cream, and fruit flavors such as lychee. I tasted the mocha almond, which was very good, and purchased a scoop of coconut ice cream, which had a nice strong coconut flavor. The shop also makes sundaes and sells several other desserts such as cakes and brownies.
One scoop costs 35 baht ($1).
Doorbell Ice Cream
Doorbell Ice Cream, which has been around since 1975, wins for giving us the warmest feelings. There is a walk up counter on the street, but it was closed when we arrived. We followed other customers down a driveway to a little house behind the shop. On the front porch is a glass top chest freezer full of little cups of different flavored homemade ice cream labeled in both Thai and English. A sign directs you to pick your ice cream selection from the freezer, drop money in the jar (according to the hanging menu with prices included) and enjoy! There is a table with chairs to sit and enjoy your ice cream. The menu of flavors makes it clear which are made with coconut milk, which with fresh milk and which are sorbets.
I tried mango sticky rice made with coconut milk and it was delicious! It wasn’t too sweet, the flavors were well balanced and it was made with actual pieces of rice and mango. While we were selecting our ice cream the woman who owns the shop and makes the ice cream came out to say a friendly hello.
One container equals one scoop and costs 25 baht (about $0.71).
Seasons Ice Cream
Seasons has a couple of locations where they sell their homemade ice cream; we went to the walk up counter in Think Park, a pedestrian plaza full of little shops and eateries. They sell many traditional flavors such as chocolate, cookies and cream and mango sorbet but also sell some crazy ones such as cheese (which I didn’t like but Prem thought was fine) and bubble gum. The staff was very friendly and let us try a couple flavors, but many looked artificially colored so I probably wouldn’t rush back here.
One scoop costs 29 baht ($0.83).
Ice Creamery took a couple of tries to find due to construction and being set back from the road, but clearly the local teenagers know exactly where it is, because they made up the rest of the clientele while we were in there. Ice Creamery does things a little differently — on a paper menu mark your ice cream flavor, toppings and a sauce, or choose one of their suggested combinations, and hand it over to the staff. A block of your selected ice cream flavor is then run through a machine to shave it into a huge pile before your toppings and sauce are added. The sundaes takes a few minutes to make and due to the size and, sometimes, sides, is best eaten to stay.
I chose milk tea ice cream (which tasted just like milk tea!), banana as a topping and chocolate sauce. They gave us a small bowl of M&Ms on the side. Some of their suggested combinations come with funky toppings, such as egg yolk or potato chips. My sundae was really good but the portions are huge and definitely too much for one person. There were clusters of 3-4 teenagers sharing 2 sundaes, so it seems like a good place to come with a group.
The ice cream base costs 59 or 69 baht ($1.69 - $1.97) depending on the flavor, the toppings are 10 or 20 baht ($0.29 - $0.57) and a sauce is free.
Ice Creamery is in Tall Teak Plaza at 43 Nimmanhaeminda, Chiang Mai, Thailand, with the entrance on Nimmanhaemin Soi 9
Rose + gelato = Roselato. This ice cream shop is a cute walk up counter on a soi (side street) with a mist machine along the roof gently spraying customers, for what purpose, we’re not sure. When placing your order choose up to two flavors of gelato, and watch the staff meticulously work them into the shape of a rose, turning each flavor into a different layer of petals. It takes a few minutes to turn the ice cream into art, and the rose design doesn’t make the gelato taste better, but makes for a great photo opportunity. I ordered mango, which was not very flavorful, and fior di latte (“flower of milk” - simply cream with some sugar and nothing else, to highlight the milk’s flavor), which I enjoyed.
A cone costs 85 baht, making this one of the pricier ice cream options at $2.43. A cup costs more at 99 baht ($2.83).
Ice Cream Cart
I can’t talk about ice cream in Chiang Mai and not mention ice cream from a street vendor. Ice cream vendors either stay put with their cart or roam the street with the easily transportable equipment. Coconut is the most common flavor, and jellies and peanuts are available for toppings.
Price varies but usually one cup (a couple of scoops) is 20 baht ($0.57).
See these ice cream locations, and coffee and food, on our Chiang Mai map: