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Khao Soi Noodle – A signature Northern Thai dish

Six restaurants that serve Khao Soi in Chiang Mai

Khao Soi is a renowned northern Thai and Burmese dish which in English means “cut rice”. Traditionally, dough for the rice noodles is stretched over boiling water, steamed, rolled out and then cut with scissors. When I moved to Chiang Mai, I learned that the dish is soup based, served with fried and boiled egg noodles. Accompaniments include pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chillies and meat in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk. Likewise, most restaurants slightly adapt the recipe for vegetarians and people mostly eat it for lunch. The dish is one of my favourites and below are 6 locations where an exquisite one can be sampled.

1 – Khao Soi Mae Sai, Ratchaphuek Alley, Santitham

I tried the renowned recipe for the first time at this famous restaurant recommended by a friend. The restaurant name comes from the place Mae Sai and Khao Soi Mae Sai is another variation of the dish. Mae Sai is a small town I’ve visited close to the Myanmar border in the north of Chiang Rai province. The restaurant opens from 8am-4pm everyday except Sunday and gets especially busy around lunchtime. They serve a vegetarian one but I opted for chicken and it was the most delicious bowl of food. I thought that the spiciness was about right though still broke sweat as I visited in April, the hottest month.

Halfway through consumption. Note, I now eat the dish with chopsticks as is traditional.

2 – Ongtong, Siri Mangkalajarn Rd 11, Nimmanhaemin

Ongtong, in the more affluent Nimman area, primarily serves noodle dishes. In Thai if you order a dish adding “naam” at the end then the dish will come with a soup. If you add “haeng” then the dish will usually come without soup. Ongtong is the only place I’ve ordered a “dry” version, on this occasion with pork. This dish was as aromatically spicy as the usual soup version. Further, I particularly enjoyed the mixture of crispy and boiled noodles. I would marginally choose Khao Soi “naam” over “haeng” having eaten both. I perceive this to be due to the accentuated flavour, pungency and added texture.

Directly above: The Khao Soi “haeng”, Centre: a shared wonton salad with spices and herbs.

3 – Indy Kitchen, Bhubing Palace, Doi Suthep-Pui National Park

My Uncle and I were visiting the spectacular Doi Suthep mountains when we stopped for lunch in a restaurant. We both selected Khao Soi with pork served in a glass bowl which added to the aesthetics and colours. We felt the soup consistency was deliciously creamy which outweighed the power of spice, a slight preference of mine. In Thai it could be classed as “ped noi” (a little spicy), although I felt there was considerable spice. I rate this as one of the best I’ve had, though I have subsequently tried many more.

Khao Soi with Pork at Bhubing Palace.

4 – Khao Soi/Noodle Store, Soi Santitham

This smaller store in the hub of Santitham delivers a richly spicy and curry like dish with chicken. Usually I order “Khao Soi Gai (chicken) ped noi”, nevertheless, I feel that the dish is particularly spicy. However, this one was delicious and enhanced my taste buds. I have visited on a few occasions as the store is close to my apartment and various cafes I work from. The women who work here are so friendly and welcoming so I highly recommend stopping by for lunch. They offer a vegetarian version and other noodle soups like Kanom Jeen Nam Ngiao, as well as selling Thai snacks.

An especially spicy Khao Soi with Chicken.

5 – Kao Soy Nimman, Nimmana Haeminda Rd Lane 7, Nimmanhaemin

I had previously driven past Kao Soy Nimman several times and later remarked on trying the restaurant. The restaurant has an excellent location in the heart of Nimman attracting locals and tourists alike. The menu is extensive with many Kao Soy dishes. Additionally, they serve many types of noodles and soups as well as satay skewers, wontons and more. My girlfriend and I chose Kao Soy “Sai Oua” (northern sausage) and Kao Soy “Moo Tod” (deep fried pork). The dishes were flavoursome, incorporating a slight sweet note which complemented the rest of the ingredients beautifully. The balance of spice with creaminess was also to my liking.

Bottom: Kao Soy Sai Oua, Top: Kao Soy Moo Tod.

6 – Khao Soi Sutasni 3, Changklan Rd, Changklan

Khao Soi Sutasni 3 is located close to the Ping River in the Chang Klan district of Chiang Mai. This restaurant didn’t appear to serve pork so I chose chicken. Further, the Khao Soi was slightly different from others I’d sampled. The boiled noodles and the density of the sauce were marginally thinner. However, the soup was pleasant in consistency, a little sweet, and the richness of the aromas were appetising. Overall I would recommend visiting this restaurant to sample a wide variety of Khao Soi dishes.

A generously sized portion with Chicken.

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