Khao Soi

“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 stumped 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 remembered seeing 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 brightly lit green and red signage of 711 stores could be seen almost everywhere.

One day, I stumbled upon 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 didn’t know what to order with the lack of an English menu. But my feet stayed for a while, poking at me, asking me to give it a try. Then popped up a picture menu with Thai and English lettering. It was destiny.

I looked at the menu and saw Khao Soi and remembered what Man told me.

He recommended this dish called Khao Soi, a noodle made with deep-fried and boiled noodles swimming in a broth of coconut curry soup, shallots, squid balls, and your choice of meat from pork, beef, or seafood. Adjust the flavor as needed, with a squeeze of lime, a bit of roasted chili, and some sugar served as 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)
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