We were slogging through the steamy tropical heat with twelve o’clock sun beating down on us. One of my companions muttered something about Englishmen, mad dogs and the midday sun. We’d been exploring Wat Phra That Doi Suthep all morning and we were hungry. I could tell my friends didn’t want to keep walking, but I was on a mission and I wasn’t about to stop at just any old food stall. I was searching for an authentic bowl of Khao Soi in Chiang Mai and finding a favourite local lunch spot is part of the adventure.
I’d first learned of the existence of Khao Soi when a friend in Canada mentioned loving a creamy, soupy curry found near the Thai-Myanmar border, but wasn’t sure of its name. Later, a friend living in Bangkok mentioned loving Khao Soi (sometimes Khao Soy) so much she planned a weekend trip to Chiang Mai to seek out the best restaurants. When my research confirmed that Khao Soy is a regional delicacy from Northern Thailand, I knew I wanted to try it while in Chiang Mai at a restaurant specialising in the dish. I sent out a plea for advice on Instagram and received recommendations from @wudanyan, @legalnomads and @nomaidicnotes all of whom said Khaosoy Maesai was the place to visit.
After a fifteen minute walk out of the old town we found Khaosoy Maesai tucked onto a residential backstreet. It was a tiny restaurant with only four dishes on the menu. The open air seating area was busy with local people of all ages enjoying their lunch. I knew without looking at the wall menu exactly what I would be ordering.
Khao Soi is a mild coconut curry soup featuring stewed chicken and boiled noodles topped with crunchy noodles, shallots, lime and pickled mustard root. The dish I ate at Khaosoy Maesai was perfection. The coconut was rich and creamy. The curry was just spicy enough to wake the tongue. The richness was offset by the tangy lime juice and the bitter mustard root. The noodles were fresh and filling. The chicken was fall off the bone delicious. It was as good, no better, than everyone described. I savoured every bite. I couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. I did chase down plenty more bowls of Khao Soi in Chiang Mai but not one lived up to that precious first taste.
Do you have a favourite dish that you daydream about eating? Feel free to wax poetic about it below!
Now It’s Your Turn! Getting your hands on an authentic bowl of Khao Soi in Chiang Mai is easy. Visiting Khaosoy Maesai is slightly more difficult but if I can do it, so can you! Leave the old city by the Chang Phuak Gate, walk along Manee Nopparat Rd until you see Saijai Rd on your right. Turn on to Sermsuk Rd, and finally turn right on to Ratchaphuek Alley. If you want to remember these directions, Pin the photo above!