Some Thai dishes are well-known to foreign visitors, but there are other regional specialities that don’t always get the recognition they perhaps deserve. One such dish is khao soi which is synonymous with northern Thailand and particularly Chiang Mai. Khao soi owes its origins to a mixture of influences dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. The dish is believed to have evolved from Chinese Muslim traders who plied the spice route when what is now modern-day northern Thailand was under the control of the Burmese.
Khao soi ingredients
The dish has continued to evolve over the years and nowadays each restaurant or food stall will have its own way of preparing and serving the dish. However, the basic ingredients of khao soi remain the same. Soft, flat egg noodles are served in a curry broth together with a choice of meat (chicken, pork or beef) and topped with crispy fried noodles. Unusually for northern Thai dishes, coconut milk is used in the curry broth. To accompany khao soi, which is eaten with chopsticks and a spoon, small side dishes are also served which enable you to adjust the sweetness or sourness of the broth to your individual taste. These condiments are usually a lime wedge, pickled cabbage, shallots and dried curry paste. Khao soi is a lunchtime favourite and there aren’t many places that serve it in the evening. A typical roadside eatery serves khao soi for around 40 Baht a bowl. Don’t think you’ve been short-changed when a large bowl arrives which is less than half-full; this is to aid the mixing of ingredients and is a typical way of serving many Thai noodle or curry-based dishes.
Where to eat khao soi
Although khao soi can be found in Bangkok and other places in Thailand, it is more common in the north of the country in locations including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Nan.
What constitutes the best khao soi is down to personal preference. Some people may prefer chicken on the bone which is more game-like in taste while others may prefer tender chunks of pork in their broth. So don’t pay too much attention to anybody (including me!) who tries to tell you where you can find the best khao soi. Your perfect bowl of khao soi could be waiting for you at that no-name venue just around the corner from your hotel or guest-house. If you see khao soi being served at a restaurant with plenty of Thai people eating there, it’s a safe bet it’s going to be good. And at only 40 Baht a bowl you can afford to experiment at a few different locations to find your favourite.