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Khao soi – a well-known (and much loved) Northern Thai curry – is synonymous with Chiang Mai and can be found all over town in various guises.
Its combination of coconut milk, Birdseye chilies, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, garlic, makrut lime leaves, black cardamom pods, coriander seeds, palm sugar and Thai shrimp paste are unique among Thai curries, which has much to do with its alleged Burmese origins.
It’s a comforting, warm dish that goes down well with curry enthusiasts. It always makes for an excellent introduction to Northern Thai cuisine.
Khao soi curry can be made with lamb or pork, but is most often served with chicken (usually a leg or two) and egg noodles.
The main thing that sets one khao soi apart from another is whether the sauce is predominantly a thicker coconut milk base or whether it has been watered down somewhat thinner. This can have a huge impact on the overall taste and quality of the meal you eat.
The dish can be found in many places all over town and each restaurant has its own recipe and its own take on the combination of ingredients, consistency and spiciness.
Nearly all khao soi is good (I’ve never been served a truly awful one), but for true foodies I would wholeheartedly suggest trying at least two or three on your travels for the sake of comparison and to find a version of the dish that suits your palate.
A simple trick is to look if the restaurant bears the dishes name. If they stick khao soi in the title, they’re going to be damn sure it’s good. Bearing that in mind, here is our guide to the five best restaurants around town that specialize in this dish.
Charoen Prathet 1 Alley
+66 82 392 0142
This established joint close to the Mosque and Worarot Market just outside the old city walls is one of the most famous places to try khao soi and reportedly sticks close to the original recipe.
It’s a Muslim restaurant with other tasty dishes like khao mok gai, a kind of Thai yellow chicken biriyani.
It’s served in simply surroundings. Like most Thai eateries, you go for the quality of the food, not the atmosphere.
112 Rachamankha Road
+66 53 814 548
Huen Phen Restaurant serves possibly the best khao soi in Chiang Mai. They produce food in a homemade style from old family recipes and has been a firm favourite with locals and tourists. The restaurant has been running for over 40 years making it one of the longest running in town.
It’s easy to miss Khao Soi Wulai, a tiny restaurant located near Wat Lok Molee temple just along Wulai Road. It’s extremely popular with locals but tourists never seem to find it.
Expect a divine spicy broth laced with thick coconut milk with Burmese style pickled cabbage and roasted chilli paste that cuts through the richness. Well worth the effort to find it. At 30 baht a bowl, it doesn’t break the bank either.
A worthy contender for the best khao soi in Chiang Mai.
Sri Poom 8 Alley
Best of a bunch and perhaps the most famous is Khao Soi Khun Yai. The name literally means Grandma’s Khao Soi and it’s tucked away down a little alleyway.
This doesn’t stop the hordes of tourists who come for the delicious version. Expect plenty of spice, a bounty of deep fried crispy noodles and loaded with creamy coconut milk.
They also do a mean nam ngiew, but that’s another story.
391 Fa Ham
+66 81 764 8723
Some people swear by the khao soi at this large local restaurant, and for good reason. It’s thick, creamy and has the little signature speaks of spicy red oil floating above the broth.
It’s rock bottom prices and excellent quality drive in the punters all day. Be sure to get in early. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
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