Chiang mai is a great city, full of life and good food at every turn. There is real food heritage, and dishes you wouldn’t find in western style Thai restaurants. Northern food contains influence from many of the surrounding countries – Loatian, Burmese and Chinese food.
Khao soi (sometimes soy) is a coconut based curry historically originating from Burma, served with noodles instead of rice.
The flavours are big hitting, with different ingredients to other, more familiar Thai curry pastes – turmeric, coriander root and curry powder, as well as ground red chillies, galangal, lemongrass, shrimp paste and garlic to create an orangey, brown curry sauce. The curry powder adds a whole new dimension compared to other popular Thai curries. It’s deeper, with a more earthy, spicy flavour.
Two more additions make Khao soi such a welcome variation to other Thai curries – Crispy fried noodles and pickled mustard with slivers of raw red onion.
Khao soi is served with egg noodles swimming in the coconut gravy. On top of that is a nest of deep fried egg noodles adding an extra textural dimension and a lot of crunch. A side plate of pickled mustard also comes with the curry bowl. Watching locals eat khao soi it’s apparent that there’s no right or wrong way to eat it – some mix everything together and coat the crispy noodles in gravy. Some add the pickled mustard and onions into the gravy, others leave them out completely.
A slice of lime is served on the side to add extra tartness and cut through the fat of the meat and coconut cream.
It’s thought the dish is historically Muslim, as such chicken and beef are commonplace, but pork is also available – The chicken is often served as drumsticks and the meat falls away off the bone.
Khao soi is served all over Chiang Mai and is the local signature meal, a must eat when visiting. There are lots of specialty restaurants that only sell khao soi – After doing some internet research, we visited Khao Soi Samer Jai (twice) which also has stalls selling another local dish, gaeng heng lay as well as lots of other northern dishes. We also ate khao soi from a street cart on Moon Muang soi six near to the wet market which is popular with cookery school tours. It was also quite good, perhaps the broth was slightly thinner.
There is also a Laos khao soi, which apparently is quite different however we’re yet to try it.
expect to pay between 30-50Baht for a bowl.
Some useful words
Neung – one
Sawng – two
Muu/moo – pork
Gai – chicken
Noo-ah – Beef
Tow rai? – how much?
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