Mar 17 2011
One of Chiang Mai’s most famous contributions to Thai cuisine is khao soi, (or soy), noodle soup. The classic version combines two noodle varieties: flat wheat noodles, (tagliatelli-ish in form) and deep-fried crispy noodles, in a spicy coconut chicken curry. The soup is served with a slice of lime, roast chilli paste and pickled cabbage.
Sometimes mistakenly thought to be of Burmese origin, khao soi is actually south Chinese, and was brought into northern Thailand and Burma by Yunnanese Muslim immigrants. So Mae Salong in Chiang Rai, for instance, with its Yunnanese/Kuomintang population, is a great spot to find the original version.
Now there are about a million restaurants, markets, food halls and guesthouses in Chiang Mai city offering khao soi, and we’ve tried many of them during our years of extensive khao soi research. But for now, we’re just going to just recommend our favourite spot: the only place so far to have attained a 9/10 rating on the Travelfish.org khao soi-ometer. (Interestingly, as a point of comparison, the 250 baht version at the Four Seasons was awarded a mere 7.5.)
It’s a little tricky to find, but if you want to try our favourite version of our favourite noodle soup then here goes…
The name is Khao Soi Khun Yai’s- – Grandmother’s Khao Soi would be an English translation — but unfortunately there’s no sign in English, and from the outside it just looks like a private house. Stick your head through the garden gate though and you’ll see a small café and sitting area immediately to your left. The entrance is on the inner side of the north moat between the temples of Wat Monthian and Wat Kuan Kama. (The photo below shows the entrance.)
Unlike many khao sois, which can have a pale, watery coconut stock, this version has a rich, thick, intensely flavoured and dark coloured soup with bite sized off-the-bone chicken pieces and home-pickled cauliflower and cabbage pieces.
Grannie’s Khao Soi is open 10:00 until 14:00 Monday to Saturday. Since it can get very popular, the ideal time to pop in would be 11:00 to 12:00 for brunch or early lunch. It’s 25 baht a bowl.
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