“Pad Thai is overrated. Locals don’t love it. Only foreigners do,” says my newfound friend Man, who was born and raised in Thailand’s second biggest city, Chiang Mai.
As a foreigner, I was quite stomped to hear that. “In the northern part of Thailand, everything is different,” he continues. “You’re in for a surprise.”
During my first night, I scoured the streets near my apartment looking for pad thai as I remember having seen lots of it in Bangkok when I first visited in 2012. But Chiang Mai seems to steer away from it. Here, rows and rows of mini food carts offering meat on skewered sticks, roasted chicken, pork rice meals, freshly sliced fruits in cold containers, and a brightly lit green and red signage of 711 stores could be seen almost everywhere.
One day, I stumbledupon an eatery nestled in the middle of a neighborhood area between Chomdoi and Nimman. I almost stepped out, with my hands facing the floor, because I don’t know what to order with the lack of an English menu. But my feet stayed for a while, poking at me, asking to give it a try. Then popped a picture menu with Thai and English letterings. It’s destiny.
I looked at the menu and saw Khao Soi and remembered what Man told me.
He recommends this dish called Khao Soi, a noodle made with deep-fried and boiled noodles swimming in a broth of coconut curry soup, shallots, squid ball, and your choice of meat from pork, beef, or seafood. Adjust the flavor as needed, with a squeeze of lime, a bit of roasted chilli, and some sugar served condiments on the side. Just one sip of this and you’ll fall from your seat as this is one heavenly cheap goodness in a bowl. Just 40 Baht! Aroi mak mak!!! 😋✨
The broth is glorious: fragrant but subtle, rich but not oily, and the perfect balance between spicy, sour and sweet. Whoever thought this complexity of flavors in one sip would be delicious is mad because the flavors will haunt you.
Thai words you need to learn:
- pet mak (very spicy)
- pet noi (medium spicy)
- mai pet (not spicy)