For dinner we bicycled down a back-alley to Peppermint Cafe to enjoy a delicious feast focused principally on Khao Soi (Northern Thai Noodles) in Chiang Mai, Thailand. One of the most important purchases since we've arrived in Chiang Mai, have been our bicycles which have afforded us the freedom to easily navigate around the city. Although Chiang Mai certainly could be explored on foot, during the hot and rainy season, it's a far more pleasant experience on a bicycle. Purchasing the bicycles has allowed us to visit restaurants, attractions and markets we otherwise may not have seen had we attempted to visit on foot.
This Burmese influenced dish features crispy rice (or egg) noodles, soft noodles, coconut based curry along with assorted vegetables. The name of this popular northern Thai dish literally translates as 'cut rice'. These special traditional noodles are typically prepared at the market where you can see vendors cutting them.
Our first time trying this dish together in Chiang Mai, was at our favorite Thai restaurant, Chang Chalaad, where we enjoyed a generous sized Khantoke (Nothern Thai) feast however, we decided to check out a restaurant that was closer to our Thai apartment near the South Gate.
As firm believers in hole in the wall style restaurants, we found a place specializing in Northern Thai cuisine. The name of the restaurant is the Peppermint Cafe and it has some of the best Northern Thai dishes we've tried since arriving in Chiang Mai.
One of our favorite aspects of the dish is the rich coconut curry which is similar to Massaman curry although it's of a lighter consistency.
This dish is a popular street food option with both locals and foreigners however, it's difficult to find in Thai restaurants abroad.
Therefore, I highly recommend one consider heading to Northern Thailand for some delicious regional delicacies. Thai food is far more diverse than many foreigners realize and traveling around the different regions will allow one to sample dishes that deviate from the more familiar Pad Thai and Green curry:
Khao soi or khao soy (Thai Lao:) is a Burmese-influenced dish (see on no khauk swe) served widely in northern Laos and northern Thailand.1 The name means "cut rice". Traditionally, the dough for the rice noodles is spread out on a cloth stretched over boiling water. After steaming the large sheet noodle is then rolled and cut with scissors. Lao khao soi is still made with the traditional noodles and in some markets in Luang Namtha and Muang Sing you can still see the vendors cutting the noodles.
There are two common versions of khao soi:
Lao khao soi is a soup made with wide rice noodles, coarsely chopped pork, tomatoes, fermented soy beans, chillies, shallots, and garlic, then topped with pork rind, bean sprouts, chopped scallions, and chopped cilantro. Though northern Laotians have a special way of preparing this dish, different versions of it can be found at Lao restaurants.2
Northern Thai khao soi is closer to the present day Burmese on ne khauk swe, being a soup-like dish made with a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, ground chillies fried in oil, and meat in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk. The curry is somewhat similar to that of yellow or massaman curry but of a thinner consistency. It is popular as a street dish eaten by Thai people in northern Thailand, though not frequently served in Thai restaurants abroad.
There is some reason to believe that the Thai version of khao soi was influenced by Chinese Muslim cuisine and was therefore likely served with chicken or beef.3
Khao soi is featured in the cuisine of the Shan people who primarily live in Burma. This version of khao soi, as well as the version in Chiang Rai Province, can contain pieces of curdled blood:
This is part of our Travel in Thailand series. We're making a series of videos showcasing Thai culture, Thai arts, Thai foods, Thai religion and Thai people.