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Thai Khao soy in the bay area?

  • m

Has anyone seen khao soy on a menu at a restaurant in the bay area? I had this soup in Chiang Mai, Thailand and haven't seen it on a menu since I've been back.
If not, does anyone have a good recipe for it?

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  1. Not hard to find, but you'll need to pay attention to the description of the noodle soup dishes on menus rather than looking for the name. Posts on the board for versions at Champa Garden in Oakland, Thai House Express in SF. Or follow this link to another for a recipe.

    1. It's on the menu at the new Tom Yong in Chinatown, but I haven't tried it.


      1. It's on the lunch menu at the Marnee Thai location on 9th Ave. and Irving.

        1. I have had it at Thai House Express (Larkin, SF) and Thep Naree (San Pablo, Albany). I don't know that I've ever had a really good version (the only other place I've had it that I remember is Sripaphai, Queens), but neither stands out for me as something I would crave again, even though when I think of the idea of coconut yellow curry chicken noodles with assorted condiments, my mouth waters. I think both were on the salty side, even for me, salt lover, and the seasoning was not as bright as I would have hoped it would be. But it's possible that all were spot-on, in terms of a platonic ideal.

          The Champa Garden version was distinctly different, thinner and with less of a yellow curry note, and (if I recall correctly) significant hits of broad-bean chili paste (not very spicy).

          It may be that my problem is that I want it to be more like a dish called "Indian Curry Noodle" that is served at several of the Sanamluang Cafe restaurants in LA County back in the early 90's. Although I had it recently at the Van Nuys restaurant and it was still pretty good. That dish is heavier and richer, thicker in the coconut and more aggressively seasoned, tending towards a spicy Mussaman curry rather than a yellow (gang garee). It is also made with beef rather than chicken, and garnished with preserved radish rather than preserved mustard. So maybe not a fair comparison.

          I agree with Melanie that the Burmese versions I've had have been more satisfying. Most recent: Larkin Express Deli, many recent posts, though when I was there the curries with the sour vegetable/bamboo shoot side were better (though I still enjoyed the ono kauk swer a lot).

          3 Replies
          1. re: twocents

            From what I understand the Lao version of this dish is quite different from the Thai version (example: http://thai-laos-food.blogspot.com/20...). Is it possible that the one at Champa garden is the Lao rendition?

            1. re: twocents

              Is this similar to curry mee? That's one of the best dishes at Singapore-Malaysian on Clement.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                It's just not very curry-y at all, so I am guessing not. I assume it's the Laotian rendition. Lately I only crave their Lao's noodle soup with chicken.

                I'll keep S-M in mind in case I'm out there sometime but traveling to far side of SF is only marginally more common than travel to SoCal or the East Coast to me.

            2. Yes! Chiang Mai Restaurant on Geary and 14th. They list it on the menu with beef, but you can order it with chicken as it is most often served in Chiang Mai.

              1. yes, Lao khao soi and Thai khao soi are distinctly different dishes; both influenced by Burmese Shan noodle soup. Lao khao soi is very well represented at Vientian Cafe in the Allendale neighborhood of Oakland, had it just today in fact and it was spectacular. The broth is built around fermented soy bean paste, with finely ground pork, shallots, chili paste, cilantro, bean sprouts, and wide rice noodles. Northern Thai-style khao soi is curry and coconut-milk based, with thin egg noodles and nam prik, normally with chicken or beef, crispy egg noodles on top and served with small sides dishes of shallots, lime wedges, and pickled cabbage. Most authentic version we've found in the Bay Area can be had at Chai Thai Noodles on E 14th at 7th, in the San Antonio neighborhood of Oakland.

                1 Reply
                1. re: cagliostro

                  You're right on the money! Both cuisines use the name "Khao Soi" for that Burmese-influenced dish, but Lao khao soi and Thai khao soi are distinctly different in deed. The khao soi at Vientian Cafe is definitely the Lao version. For Lao khao soi, you should also top the noodle soup with some crispy pork rinds...it's so yummy!

                  Lao cuisine and Thai cuisine may seem similar due to the use of similar herbs like lemon grass, galanga, kaffir lime leaves and others, but their dishes don't necessarily taste the same (excluding dishes that are obviously Chinese-derived...i.e. Pad See Ew, Khao Mun Gai, etc...)

                  Although Lao khao soi is a northern Lao dish, most, if not all, Lao restaurants serve Lao khao soi. However for Thai khao soi, you would have to go to a Thai restaurant that offers northern Thai dishes.

                2. Having had the real thing in Chiang Mai, we have also been on the lookout for Khao Soy. The cookbook True Thai by Victor Sodsook has an excellent version - it's also easy to make and it's our go-to dinner party dish!

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Maple

                    This is one of my favorite Thai dishes. For some reason it’s uncommon to see it in Thai restaurants in the states. And I have never had a version here as good as in Chang Mai. I recently tried it at a Thai restaurant in Davis and it wasn’t that good. I tried making it once and it came out just ok. I wasn’t happy with the recipe and would love to try again. I am going to try the recipes posted on this thread.

                    1. re: Ridge

                      That's because historically-speaking, khao soi is considered a Northern Lao dish (in Laos) and a Chiang Mai dish (in Northern Thailand). Thailand is a country comprised of varous ethnic groups. When Lanna became a part of Thailand, the cuisine(s) that once belonged to that kingdom all of a sudden became "Thai" because of the annexation. That's why Thai restaurants in the U.S. typically represent only Central Thai cuisine (a mixture of Chinese, Cambodian, Mon, and Indian)...and now some Lao dishes and other non-Thai dishes (from Lanna kingdom including Chiang Mai) are thrown in for variety.

                      To give you a better example, think of Mexican food in California. Since Mexican cuisine is popular in California and there are people of Mexican ancestry in California, Mexican dishes are technically a part of "American" cuisine just like how Chiang Mai dishes are now technically "Thai" cuisine as well.

                      But to most Lao/Thai people, khao soi isn't really a "Thai" dish (i.e. not central Thai), but more specifically a Chiang Mai dish.in Lanna (Northern Thailand) and a Northern Lao dish in Laos.

                      To me personally, when I think of Khao Soi, the cuisines that come to mind are Lao cuisine and Lanna cuisine, but of course Lanna is now a part of Thailand. =)

                      1. re: yummyrice

                        Very interesting. I was in Thailand during the winter of 99-00. I remember being completely blown away by how vibrant, delicious and varied the food was.

                        1. re: Ridge

                          Most foreigners still don't know enough about Southeast Asia including Thailand to notice the difference between Thai cuisine (i.e. central Thai) versus ethnic cuisines from neighboring countries that are eaten in Thailand. Lanna (now known as northern Thailand), Issan and Laos share a close kinship with one another, whereas Thai (i.e. central Thai aka Siam) was considered a separate culture/cuisine/ethnicity from those three. So it's funny to some people including myself when I hear tourists refer to Chiang Mai (in Lanna) cuisine as Thai cuisine. Yes, Chiang Mai is now a part of Thailand and the people living there are now Thai by nationality but they still see themselves as being different from "Thai" people (i.e. the ones in Bangkok). People in Chiang Mai do acknowledge that they are now "Thai" because their land now belongs to Thailand so that makes them Thai by nationality, but culturally-speaking Lanna (Chiang Mai) and pretty much all of Northern Thailand aren't considered "Thai" at least not historically. When Lao and Lanna (Chiang Mai) people think of Thai cuisine/culture, we're generally referring to central Thailand (Siam).

                          To put it another way, think of the U.S. and how it's quite common to find Japanese, Mexican, Italian and other foreign cuisines in the U.S. However, those cuisines aren't typically considered American cuisine since Japan, Mexico and Italy are well-known countries. However, Southeast Asia is still being discovered so it'll take a couple of decades before western tourists are able to tell the dfiference between a country's traditional dishes (i.e. central Thai) versus neighboring countries' dishes that just happen to be popular in that country (Lanna/Chiang Mai, Laos, etc...). The U.S. has so much diversity as far as cuisines are concerned, but why is it that no one has bothered to lump all of the ethnic cuisines in the U.S. as a single American cuisine? Well, that's because Americans respect the diversity in the U.S. as far as cuisines are concerned. We don't have a need to refer to Japanese or Mexican cuisine in the U.S. as a branch of American cuisine. However, Thailand is highly dependent on tourism, which is why it's common for many people to refer to all ethnic cuisines in Thailand (including Chinese, Lao, or Muslim dishes) as belonging to a single "Thai" cuisine umbrella. It's an inaccurate label but so long as money is being spent by foreign tourists, that label will stick. Most foreign tourists don't know the differences between SE Asian cuisines anyway.

                          So in short, that's why khao soi is rarely found in Thai restaurants in the U.S. since khao soi is typically not considered a "Thai" dish, but rather a dish that's eaten only in Laos and Chiang Mai (Lanna region).

                  2. Go to this Thai Grocery Store in Richmond. In the refrigerator directly to your left as you walk in, they have little to-go bags of Khao Soi, all wrapped up with broth, noodles, meat and cabbage. Super tasty and cheap at $1.25 a bag.(maybe $1.50)

                    Heng Fath
                    435 23rd St. #A
                    Richmond, CA 94804
                    (510) 234-3895

                    This is more of the Lao style one sans Coconut milk.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Dookie_Boy

                      Heng Fath is not a Thai grocery store, but more like a Chinese/Asian grocery store that not only carries Chinese products, but also stocks Lao, Thai, and Vietnamese products.

                      The owner is a Laotian of Chinese ancestry, which is probably why the name of his store sounds Chinese. However, since he is a Chinese merchant from Laos, he also carries many pre-cooked Lao snacks, soups, and dipping sauces in the refrigerated section. Not only does he speak Chinese, but he also speaks Lao (since he's from Laos), Thai, and I believe Hmong as well.

                      Anyway, I've never tried the Lao khao soi from Heng Fath. I wonder how it compares to a home-made Lao Khao Soi that is made fresh.

                      1. re: Dookie_Boy

                        It's funny but I actually made a big pot of khao soi for my friends a couple of weeks ago. They had never eaten Khao Soi before, but they absolutely loved it. There's many ways to make Khao Soi, but I prefer sticking to the traditional northern Lao recipe but some Lao families have their own version of the soup.

                        Here is a little history about Khao Soi:

                        Based on the above Thai website, Khao Soi was originally a Mongolian-Chinese concept that was incorporated into Burmese cuisine. From Burma, that idea gave birth to a Lao soup called "Khao Soi". From northern Laos, Khao Soi made its way into northern Thailand and the people there kept the same Lao name for the soup.

                        1. re: yummyrice

                          Adding a link to your most recent thoughts on khao soi crossing borders of Burma, Laos and Lanna.

                          You should consider nominating it for dish of the month in this thread,

                        1. Sukho Thai in Oakland, Rockridge just started serving khao soi (amazing!)