Where to eat the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai is a very touchy question. It will arouse the same kind of argument as for or against pineapple on a pizza. We all have our favourite places. And there is nothing better than a homemade Khao Soi!
First, what is khao soi? It is a curry-based, soup noodle with both fresh and dry, crunchy noodles and a main meat-topped sometimes with cilantro. Comforting soup and unusually enough for the North of Thailand with coconut milk. The ethnic group that was credited with bringing the dish here are the Haw Jin. Muslim Chinese traders and workers and came via the Shan in Myanmar.
Coconut milk was not originally part of the recipe and the Shan version is still with rice noodles rather than egg noodles. So there has been some evolution on the way. Read more about the origins of Khao Soi in the archive of the Eating Asia blog.
Remember that Khao Soi first and foremost is a lunch dish. However, it is available at certain restaurants at night as well.
The original recipe is chicken-based but nowadays you can get your khao soi with beef, pork, tofu or some places even with boar. On the side, you will be served pickled cabbage, chilli oil, lime wedges and shallots. For some westerners, it can be even more confusing that the Khao Soi is supposed to be eaten with chopsticks and a spoon. Eating soup with chopsticks?! Well, here pasta beards are more accepted. You are not supposed to finish the whole curry broth either. As long as you have noodles you eat. The rest you leave behind.
Trace the origins of Khao Soi at Khao Soi Islam on soi 1 Charoen Prathet off the Chang Klang road. They have been around for over 50 years and started as hawkers. The concept was that they should feed the Jin Haw that came as migrant workers to the region with a taste of home.
So it is hard to say where the best Khao Soi is. But it is solacing that there are plenty of choices of places where to have Khao Soi in Chiang Mai. Check out the map below for more ideas.
Check out this video for a nice beef Khao Soi.
And here is a popular formula for chicken Khao Soi.