Most of the Thai food we get here in the US like Pad Thai and Green Chicken Curry comes from Bangkok and the southern regions of Thailand. The largest city in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai, has an entirely different cuisine. Northern Thai people, known as Thai Lao are very similar culturally and linguistically to Cambodian people, although they are descendants of people from Laos. The Thai Lao or Lao Isan as they are also known are a culturally distinct group from the central and southern Thai’s. In this region, the Isan as well as the Khmer language are commonly spoken.
Isan cuisine is very different from southern Thai food. Less spicy, it is closer to Cambodian cuisine. I definitely see the similarities to when I prepared Laotian Chicken Noodle Soup here. Grilled meats are common and this curried noodle soup is the signature dish of Chiang Mai. Although originating in Chiang Mai, Khao Soi is found throughout the country. The Chaing Mai version is more rustic using thick noodles and chopped chicken drumstick, where the Bangkok interpretation is usually made with thinner noodles and boneless chicken pieces. I opted for the original version in this recipe.
This is one of the most common foods for breakfast in Chiang Mai, available on every street corner and cafe. Malaysia has Laksa and Thailand has Khao Soi.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Yield: Serves 6-8
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1/2 cup Khao Soi paste
- 4 cups coconut milk
- 2 1/2-3 lbs. chicken drumsticks, cut into 3 pieces each
- 16 oz. fresh Chinese noodles
- chopped cilantro, for garnish
In a large wok or pot, heat oil. Add Khao Soi paste. Fry for 2 minutes, until fragrant. add coconut milk and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil.
Add chicken pieces and simmer for 45 minutes.
Heat enough oil for deep frying. Add 4 oz. of the noodles and fry until golden brown. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
Place the rest of the noodles in a large bowl. Add boiling water and leave for a few minutes, until the noodles are tender. Drain.
To serve, place cooked noodles in a bowl. Ladle soup with the noodles.
Garnish with fried noodles and chopped cilantro.
I am hoping to make a trip to Southeast Asia next year and the itinerary includes visits to both Chiang Mai and Bangkok. I can’t wait to try Khao Soi in both locations and then I will be able to tell you how my version here compares with the real thing…in Thailand!