Khao what? If you only know Pad Thai then you’re missing out. Khao Soi, the Northern Thai coconut curry noodle soup is one of the most popular Thai food that you have to try.
And if you’re heading to Chiang Mai, you’re in luck because it’s one of the places where you can get this famous dish. So where to eat Khao Soi in Chiang Mai? Here are 10 restaurants you need to hit up.
Khao Soi and its Origins
It is said that this noodle soup’s origins can be traced back to the Muslim traders from Yunnan, China (Cin Haw) who were traveling along the trade routes in Thailand, Laos, and Burma (Myanmar) in the 19th to 20th century.
But there were also some that said that this was originally from the Shan state, because of its resemblance to their coconut curry broth called Khao Swe (Ohn no khauk sway).
Read more on one person’s quest to find the origins of Khao Soi here.
Khao Soi has now become synonymous with Chiang Mai that it is often called Chiang Mai noodles. It all starts with the fresh egg noodles, which are presented in two ways in one bowl – boiled with the broth and the other, used as a topping with its crispy goodness.
The rich coconut curry soup makes the difference among the Khao Soi available in the region. Some use a thin and creamy broth, and some are thick and dense, all depending on the interpretation and the recipe of the family. You can also choose from different proteins – chicken, beef, or pork.
Sweet, spicy, sour, salty – the traditional flavors of Thai cuisine is present in this bowl of goodness. All thanks to the curry paste, which is a mixture of aromatics and spices pounded using a mortar and pestle.
The creaminess of the soup comes from coconut milk, which is best squeezed fresh. This also makes the meat tender and moist. The marriage of the coconut milk and the curry paste is, of course, a match made in culinary heaven.
Aside from the crispy yellow egg noodles, other toppings include shallots, pickled greens, and lime. And thanks to the condiments and accompaniments you can find on the dining table – peanuts, dry roasted chilies, – no Khao Soi bowl will end up alike. But of course, those first few slurps should be pure stuff.
Where to eat Khao Soi in Chiang Mai
KhaoSoy Maesai Noodle Shop (Khao Soi Mae Sai)
Located in a small alley just off busy Huaykaew road, is the KhaoSoy Maesai Noodle Shop. A small eatery, that specializes in Northern Thailand’s signature dish of Khao Soi.
It’s a favorite for locals and expats who frequent the restaurant for what many claims is the best Khao Soi in the city. It’s hard to argue with that claim and we often make a point of visiting when in Chiang Mai.
KhaoSoy Maesai also offers other Thai soup and noodle dishes but it’s the 45 Baht Khao Soi that keeps people coming back. Made the traditional way with wet and dry noodles and cooked chicken leg in a spicy coconut milk-based soup, it’s accompanied with chopped Thai shallot, pickled mustard greens and wedged lime.
This family run restaurant isn’t large but has ample seating. However, due to its popularity, it gets very crowded around lunchtime and if you intend to visit it’s advisable to get there early or you may not get a seat.
Khao Soi is a dish that can be enjoyed any time of day. So whether you are looking for a spicy Thai breakfast or lunch, it’s hard to go past KhaoSoy Maesai for some of the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai.
- Location: 29/1 Ratchaphuek Alley, Tambon Chang Phueak
- Tip: Just tell Tuktuk driver “Khao Soi Mae Sai” and they are sure to know the place
- Hours: 8 AM – 4 PM; Monday to Saturday
Contributors: Alan and Rosalind Cuthbertson of Frequent Traveller
Khao Soi Khun Yai
No trip to Chiang Mai would be complete without sampling as many bowls of Khao Soi as possible. You’ll find it on the menus at the city’s fanciest restaurants as well as being served on the street. you’ll find super traditional recipes as well as vegetarian and even vegan takes on this addicting dish. My advice is to try as many variations as you can because it is difficult to find outside of Thailand’s northernmost provinces.
One of the most popular and unique takes on this dish is served up at a stall near the Old City’s north gate. Khao Soi Khun Yai translates to “Grandma’s Khao Soi”, and this town staple has been serving both locals and foreigners for 15+ years. The open-air restaurant is small and basic, with plastic chairs and random tablecloths – a sign of a real Thai eatery (in my experience).
This version of the curry noodle soup has a thicker broth and is slightly spicier than other versions we have tried around Chiang Mai. As with any proper order of Khao Soi, you’ll receive a plate of fresh shallots, pickled mustard greens, roasted chili flakes, and lime wedges. It also comes topped with a generous handful of thin crispy noodles instead of the thicker fried egg noodles you’ll find at many other Khao Soi establishments. At just 35 Baht (just over 1 USD), you might be tempted to order a second bowl.
Some people claim this version is their all-time favorite, while others prefer the sweeter, creamier broth. You’ll never find your favorite version without sampling a variety, so order up and slurp away!
Location: 8 Sri Poom Rd, Mueang Chiang Mai District
Hours: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM (closed Sundays)
Contributed by: Katie and Ben of Two Wandering Soles
Chiang Mai is known for its amazing food and Khao Soi is probably my favorite dish in northern Thailand. I spent about 3 weeks in Chiang Mai while backpacking around Southeast Asia and my go-to restaurant for Khao Soi became the Uno Restaurant in the northern part of the old town, conveniently located just around the corner from my accommodation.
While the Uno restaurant promotes itself as a Pizza place as well as a Thai restaurant (there’s a huge Italian flag at the entrance), I especially enjoyed the local Thai dishes. A big bowl of Khao Soi only costs 50 baht and is, therefore, a great deal and I can’t count anymore how many times I went there for dinner.
Location: 268 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat
Hours: 10 AM – 10 PM
Contributed by: Patrick Muntzinger of German Backpacker
Lemongrass Thai Restaurant
Lemongrass is a wonderfully laid-back restaurant in the heart of Chiang Mai. Just steps away from the night market, the restaurant is always full of tourists and locals tucking into a hearty bowl of spicy khao soi as well as other northern Thai specialties.
The chalkboard outside the restaurant says “No view, but tasty”, and it sums up Lemongrass perfectly. The restaurant itself isn’t classically attractive or luxurious, but that’s what I loved most about it. The plastic chairs and graffiti-packed walls immediately put you at ease, and the mouthwatering food makes you want to stay.
At just 95 Baht (less than USD 3) the Khao Soi is delicious and very reasonably priced for such a centrally located restaurant. Just make sure you go early to avoid the crowds or be prepared to wait for a table if you go later. Lemongrass isn’t the place to go if you want to get away from it all. It’s incredibly popular, and it’s easy to see why.
Location: Loi Kroh Rd, Tambon Chang Khlan, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat
Hours: 11 AM – 12 AM
Contributed by: Anna Hall of Would Be Traveller
Khao Soi Lam Duan Fah Ham
Visited by Anthony Bourdain during his Chiang Mai episode of Parts Unknown, this is one of the oldest establishments serving Khao Soi. Visitors have raved about their version for years as well as their other dishes like satay. Because this is Buddhist-run, you can find pork options. Don’t mind the lack of ambiance or view, the taste and quality are enough to keep you coming back for more.
Location: 352/22 Chareonrat Road, T. Wat Gate, Muang
Khao Soi Wulai
Serving another good interpretation of the lunch favorite is a small and simple restaurant located near the Saturday Walking Street road. They serve it in 2 sizes and you can choose your meat options from chicken, pork, or beef.
Location: Wulai Road, Chiang Mai
Hours: 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Khao Soi Nimman
This upscale Khao Soi spot offers more options for meat than the usual ones you get. They also offer other Northern Thailand dishes. This place can get really crowded so better go early.
Location: 22 Nimmana Haeminda Rd Lane 7, สุเทพ Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat
Hours: 11 AM – 8 PM
Khao Soi Arak
In this restaurant, you won’t have to worry about other food choices because Khao Soi is the only thing you can order here. This family-run small restaurant is also another local favorite. Come early so you won’t be run out of meat choices. Don’t expect anything of the interiors as the focus here is the food.
Location: Arak 7 Alley, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat
Hours: 10 AM – 3 PM (Closed on Sundays)
Halal: Khao Soi Islam
Many say that Khao Soi started in the same neighborhood where you can find Khao Soi Islam. Regardless if it’s true or not, this spot serves one of the must-try Khao Soi in Chiang Mai, although it is in the smaller portion compared to others. And it is Halal too! Friendly service as well and diners rave about the Mutton Biryani.
- Location: Charoen Prathet 1 Alley, Tambon Chang Moi, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat
- Hours: 10 AM – 6 PM; Saturday – Thursday
Vegan Khao Soi: AUM Vegetarian Food
One of the most popular vegan restaurants in Chiang Mai also has the best Khao Soi in town. Customers love them for their affordable and fresh food as well as the peaceful ambiance and floor seating upstairs. They also offer other non-Thai dishes. They are located down a narrow alley which is a bit of a disadvantage location-wise.
- Location: 1/4 Suriyawong Alley | small alley opposite Chiang Mai Gate Hotel (20 M. from main alley)
- Hours: 10:30 AM – 8:30 PM
Tips when ordering Khao Soi (useful Thai phrases)
- Khao Soi Moo – pork
- Khao Soi Gai – chicken
- Khao Soi Neua – beef
- Khao Soi Talay – seafood
- Kin jay – vegetarian
- Mai pet – not spicy
- Pet mak – very spicy
- Mai sai prik – no chili
How to make Khao Soi
And if you want to learn how to make Khao Soi as I did, you can take a cooking class in Chiang Mai. I enrolled in a full-day course with Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre, which is the first cooking school in Chiang Mai. Aside from learning how to cook popular Thai dishes, we also got to tour the wet market and learn about Thai ingredients.
More cooking class options here:
More of Thailand:
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