Regional specialties are always great to search out as you travel. This tasty noodle soup, Khao Soi ( or kow soy) is a specialty of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. You’ll find it in restaurants and street stalls across the city.
Above is a bowl of mild, coconut based, khao soi gai. Gai in Thailand means chicken but you will also find this traditional Chiang Mai noodle soup or curry in beef and tofu varieties.
History of Khao Soi
Khao Soi originated in northern Thailand via the Yunnanese people of southern China. They migrated down through Burma and Laos and it is thought the name is a mispronouncing of the Burmese word for noodle. The meaning is ‘cut rice’ and blends the Muslim cuisines with the Thai cuisine.
Pork is uncommon ( Khao Sai Moo) because this dish is of Muslim origin. Interestingly, what Khao Soi most reminded me of was the laksas of Malaysia, for it is based around coconut milk and curry powder.
What Does it Taste Like
Springy soft noodles hide beneath the full flavoured soup, the crispy noodles on top adding an extra layer of textural interest. The khao soi comes topped by the crispy noodles and is traditionally accompanied by pickled cabbage or greens, which diners add to taste.
A squeeze of lime and a chunk of raw onion complete the dish much like other Thai dishes.
Our second Khao Soi of the trip, below, was an improvement to me. The rawness of the shop-bought untempered curry powder had gone and in its place, a Thai curry paste and, I think, fresh turmeric, had been used. This version also contained chicken stock. A nicer dish than version 1.
We’ll continue our investigations into Chiang Mai’s signature dish, and hopefully, be able to tell you where to find the best in town! We’ll make our own version and show you how you can make this wonderful dish at home. Still in Thailand? Check out my guide to places to eat in Thailand here.
We have a full guide to Thai food here if you want to know more.