I zoomed back to reality after inhaling the best bowl of noodles I have ever encountered. I sat back and looked around. Did anybody notice me devour that meal with no mercy? What a sight that would have been. But I didn’t care. I just discovered Khao Soi, and I will never look at a bowl of noodles the same way again.
I regretfully admit that I had never heard of Khao Soi before a recent trip to Pai, Thailand. I learned about it after chatting with two guys from America who, quite literally, had to cut our conversation short because they were on their way to get Khao Soi at a local restaurant and didn’t want it to run out. I was stunned. But also, intrigued.
The next day, I grabbed lunch at the first spot I saw with a sign outside for Khao Soi. And I kid you not, I walked out of that restaurant a different person.
Khao Soi is the type of food that you accidentally eat super fast because you’re scared that if you look away from the plate it will disappear. It’s a simple Burmese influenced dish that’s popular in Northern Thailand and Laos. There are two, similar, yet strikingly different recipes for each region. And I fell in love with the Khao Soi of Northern Thailand.
It’s made with boiled, hand-cut yellow egg noodles, coconut milk, curry soup base, and chicken or beef garnished with crunchy fried noodles. It’s served with a side plate of pickled mustard greens, halved shallots, and a lime for you to embellish the dish at your heart’s desire.
This bowl of noodles is so simple that you can taste each ingredient as it hits your taste buds. The sweetness of the coconut milk, the spice of the curry paste, the tender chicken you had to settle for because they ran out of beef, the hint of lime you meticulously splashed on it and the egg noodle you didn’t realize held a flavor until now.
It smells spicy, but it’s not. It holds the type of heat that lingers on your lips and produces a slight, glowing sweat across your forehead
When you slurp your first bite of Khao Soi, you’re transported to a version of heaven where your mouth is in a constant state of drool for the spicy, yet sweet curry broth of the soup.
As you’re noisily slurping it down, you sneak a glance at the person sitting across from you and pray that they’re so involved in their meal that you don’t have to stop yours to make conversation. Because doing that would take precious time away from your Khao Soi, and to be honest, it’s all that matters in the world at that moment.
Then all of a sudden, your spoon makes a dreaded scraping noise. You look down and scoop the spoon across the empty bowl of noodles desperately searching for any sign of life. You’re done. You take a deep breath and enter the real world again.
Life seems more colorful now as if you’re noticing that the sky is blue for the first time. You walk out of the restaurant in a happy daze, satisfied and counting down the minutes until your next date with Khao Soi in Northern Thailand.
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