Thai restaurants in America are keeping a secret from you, and you deserve to know what it is. This is a dish that recently replaced Pad Thai as my I-must-eat-this-at-least-once-a-day-or-I-will-suffer-painful-withdrawals meal. It’s that good.
The shocking thing is, I never knew it existed. I never tried it during my previous visit to Thailand, I have never seen it on a Thai menu in the states, and I cannot figure out why it’s not served everywhere. It’s Khow Soi: a delicious, coconut-based noodle soup.
Yes, there are a lot of coconut based Thai soups you have probably tried, but this one is special. First of all, the noodles are soft, yellow wheat noodles, not all that different from fettuccini. The soup features soft tangles of these, PLUS (this is where it gets good) some crispy fried ones on top: a perfect yin and yang of textures. The broth has a red curry base, so it’s a little spicy, but nothing overwhelming. The coconut milk makes it creamy and slightly sweet, and the cilantro garnish gives a nice burst of freshness.
When it is served, it comes with a plate of highly unappetizing looking shriveled greens, shallots, and lime. I was definitely taken aback the first time I saw the garnishes. Shallots and lime, I can handle, but the greens had no appeal. However, when it comes to eating, I want to do what the locals do, and they put everything into the soup. So with hesitation, I did too. Trust me on this – regardless of how those greens look, they are essential! They are pickled cabbage and they add a vital tanginess to the flavor mix in the soup. You will not be disappointed!
The reason I love it so much is because, like the best dishes here, it combines salty, sweet, sour, and hot flavors with a mix of textures. Each bite features these in different proportions, so you never have that “okay, this soup is nice but I’m getting bored” phenomenon that often comes with, say, canned tomato soup.
Next time you a) go out for Thai food or b) come to Chiang Mai (whichever comes first), try to hunt down a bowl of this!