KHAO SOI HAPPENS TO HAVE THE RIGHT BALANCE OF BOTH EXOTICISM AND SAFETY IN THE EYE OF A CAUTIOUSLY CURIOUS BACKPACKER.
Scad has been said about khao soi on the internet — some well-informed and some, not so much — so I think I will not bother. It’s possibly the most famous dish from Northern Thailand, a somehow debatable status in my view. Being back from a quick trip in Chiangmai Thailand, the capital of khao soi, I’m attempted to assume that its popularity among foreigners is contributed to its relatively benign characteristics if compared to the other more “adventurous” yet far more stunning dishes the region has to offer. Khao soi, being chicken or beef in coconut curry with egg noodles, happens to have the right balance of both exoticism and safety in the eye of a cautiously curious backpacker. It certainly isn’t, by far, the best thing we’ve tasted on this trip. But I’ve always wanted to formulate a khao soi recipe after I’ve actually tried it at its source, so here it is.
Pushing it further on its muslim Chinese origin, I’m replacing dried chilis with Sichuan douban chili paste for a more complexed flavor, as well as inviting the mild tinge of numbness and floral quality from Sichuan peppercorns. Another trick is to dial down on the amount of coconut milk in the broth itself so it can be reintroduced again right before serving, increasing depth and layers of flavors as how it is done in some of the better khao soi restaurants we’ve encountered. In a bit of a disagreement with the blunt, under-processed pickled mustard greens that are often mindlessly chopped and scattered in the noodle as a failing contrasting agent, I’m replacing it with pan-fried pickled caperberries that provides sharp pops of sourness and complexity. Then last but not least, a reminder of Sichuan peppercorns in the topical chili paste to bring it all together.