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Dec 30, 2008 07:22 AM

Khao Soi Noodles

I've spent the past couple of chilly post-holiday days and nights cooped up at home generally avoiding the outdoors, thoughts bent towards warmer climates and spicy foods that in no way involve turkey.

Besides developing a seriously unwholesome craving for laksa (which although scarce is still available in a couple of places around town) i've also been curious about the lao (although apparently popular street food in chiang mai as well) dish mentioned in the post title. Can anyone recommend a good place laotian, thai or otherwise to get my khao soi fix?

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  1. Laksa and Khao Soi - 2 of my favourites. Can't say I've had either of them here so no personal rec's. Vanipha Lanna has Khao Soi. And yes, I had lots of khao soi in Chiang Mai and northern Thailand (more than I had it in Laos actually). Where do you go for laksa here? Restoran Malaysian?

    1 Reply
    1. re: peppermint pate

      yup. restoran malaysia or if i'm feelin' like splurging and don't feel like driving i'll hit matahari grill. sadly, Malaysian food is seriously underrepresented in this city...

      thanks for the tip on Vanipha Lanna, I'll have to check it out and report back.

    2. sukho thai has a khao sai, I haven't gotten around to trying it though. Everything else I've had there has been very authentic, affordable too.

      8 Replies
      1. re: aser

        I can confirm Suhko Thai makes Khao Sai (and other North Thailand delights). Big fan of Sukho Thai, for their authentic delicious food. Great value too! Two notes: mostly for takeout, open only Friday & Saturday. Well worth a visit!

        274 Parliament St, Toronto, ON M5A, CA

        1. re: JonasBrand

          A follow up, I finally got a chance to try their khao soi a few weeks ago. Needless to say, it's great. Everything is pretty much bang on there, and a great value for these depressing times.

          Although khao soi is no longer listed on the blackboard menu. It's available though, all you have to do is ask.

          1. re: aser

            i've been putting off a visit for too long...gonna try and hit it this weekend!

            1. re: aser

              Had the khao soi noodles on valentine's day and they were every bit as good as i'd hoped! and more good news is that i'm right at the eastern-most edge of their delivery area! can't wait to try some of the other dishes they offer!

              1. re: yoyodyne

                This thread and the slushy weather have set off a craving - so does Sukho Thai only offer delivery or take-out? And on Friday and Saturday - evenings - only?

                1. re: peppermint pate

                  They do deliver and they were opened for lunch on Saturday. As for Friday, I can't say...

                  1. re: yoyodyne

                    Thanks yoyo - so I'm out of luck for tonight (or anyday BUT Friday or Saturday?). Jeepers.

                    1. re: peppermint pate

                      they are open for lunch and dinner for both Fri & Sat. There is a gap from I think 2:30-5:30 where they're closed to prep for dinner. My times might be a little off but I'm sure of the gap.

        2. Cannot understand why fellow chowhounders keep on recommending Restoran Malaysia? IMO, the food went downhill big time after they renovated1 Nowadays, for Malaysian, I head down to 'South Asia Malaysia Cuisine' on 3380 Midland Avenue. Overall much more tasty and aromatic food. Pretty good Laksa too.

          26 Replies
          1. re: Charles Yu

            Thanks for the recommendation Charles, I'll have to check it out! I don't actually get out to explore richmond hill/markham very often so Restoran Malaysia is pretty much the only Malaysian place i know out that a-way.

            1. re: yoyodyne

              I agree Restoran Malaysia isn't very good at all.
              Also the Laksa Restaurant in Chinatown should be avoided as well.

              1. re: ndawg

                I've heard nothing but bad things about Laksa Restaurant which is a real shame since there's obviously some demand for serious Malaysian food downtown.

                Laksa Singmathai
                254 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T, CA

            2. re: Charles Yu

              South East Asia Cuisine has been my favourite too.
              However, I was recently served some takeout from Gourmet Garden and it was superb - top on my 'try next' list.

              Gourmet Garden Restaurant
              4465 Sheppard Ave E, Toronto, ON M1S, CA

              1. re: estufarian

                Hello Estufarian! Happy New Year and welcome back!

                Is this the outfit in the food court of a strip mall? A Chinese b-b-q place next to it? If thats the place then, I concur their Malaysian food is very, very good. Unfortunately, its a bit of a drive for me! South East Asia Cuisine is closer. BTW, they'll be moving this month to a brand new location further up north, still on Midland.

                1. re: Charles Yu

                  If it is the same place as the food court yes I concur it's very good. It's been around for years. However, the name does not sound familiar.

                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    Ah, Charles. Font of infinite Asian food knowledge.

                    We visit South East Asia Cuisine on a fairly regular basis. We are usually the only Caucasian faces in there. The chicken laksa is a perennial favourite. Do you know what the new address will be. (My question mark key seems to be screwed up - displaying a weird character - so pardon my grammar) The young lady who serves us always has a warm smile.

                    The meals are about $6 and three of them leaves enough to take home. Excellent value. They have a `Lunch Menu`from 11-00 am to 5-00pm, and that includes the weekend.

                    This menu is from 2 years ago, but I think the only thing that may have changed are the prices - possibly another 50C to $1.

                    Lunch Special (11am-5pm)
                    Malaysian Curry Beef Brisket 4-99
                    Malaysian curry chicken brisket 4-99
                    Lemon grass pork cho^p or chicken chop rice 4-99
                    Singapore fried rice vermicalli 4-99
                    Fried noodle with seafood and egg sauce 4-99
                    Special fried rice vermicelli 5-99
                    special fried rice with pineapple 599
                    Malaysian fried kwai teow 5-99

                    Special menu 11am-3pm

                    Ba-Kut Tea (Ribs Soup) with rice 5-99
                    Curry lak-sa (Soup noodles) 5-99
                    Penang praw soup noodels 5-99
                    Tom Yam seafood soup noodles 5-99
                    Vietnamese sausage or Fish and beef ball soup noodles 5-50
                    Malaysian spicy cocunut rice 7-99
                    Roti Canai + curry chicken 6-99
                    Roti Canai + curry beef brisket 6-99
                    Roti Canai + curry fish 7-99

                    Then they have the Set dinner where all the dishes are $10 and you take 2,3,4 or 5 of them.

                    And finally the à la carte`where the dishes vary in general from 8 to 12 dollars.

                    One word of warning, the flavour in the chicken curries, the laksa and the singapore noodles are very similar, so only take one from that bunch.

                    1. re: Paulustrious

                      I saw this on the menu at Eastern Twist on St Clair. I asked the staff about it and they said the owner is part Burmese, so that would explain.
                      Personally I prefer the Northern Thai version, but it's originally Burmese, so might be worth a visit.
                      Chiang Mai is the place to eat this, I've even given up on ordering it in Bangkok. The lime, pickled cabbage and chili paste on the side are essential, as are the two kinds of noodles.

                      1. re: Paulustrious

                        LOL.. they're similar.. because the laksa they give IS curry noodles.. not laksa... which is why I haven't been back. If I want curry noodles .. I'll ask for that.. but I want laksa spices.. which is different!

                        1. re: vincechan

                          hi vince,

                          care to elaborate on what makes laksa different from curry noodles? i know that assam laksa is very dfferent from curry laksa but what differences are you talking about exactly...

                          1. re: yoyodyne

                            It's true that curry laksa variety has curry as one of its ingredients... for me... the distinction is that real laksa broth.. curry or assam is lighter... more fragrant and flavorful... Perhaps I didn't describe it well.. but "curry noodle" broth IMHO are quite starchy, thick and viscous... Laksa broth is thinner... and many styles incorporate Sambal Belachan which really changes the complexity of the broth.

                            The term Curry is too broadly used, but typically representing a dry spice mixture. You buy curry mixture.. that's what you get. But when you buy Laksa.. it comes in paste form. My cousin-in-law owns a factory in Singapore that sells/distributes laksa paste. The ingrdients found in typical laksa are a little different as well... could possibly include tamarind, sambal chili paste, shrimp paste/dried prawns. The shrimp paste changes the flavor quite a bit.. and I know I'm only getting curry with my noodles if that component seems absent in a non-assam laksa broth.

                            Lastly.. curry noodles and curry laksa noodle broth just looks different! A good laksa broth almost looks like its broth ingredients (the curry, the coconut milk, the spices) can't quite mix well together but do work in harmony. I can't quite describe it adequately.. so I'll try this little experiment I did on Google Images by searching "curry laksa"

                            These are how I know Curry Laksa broth should look like

                            This next one (in my opinion) does not look appetizing, isn't fragrant or as flavorful.. and is just curry plopped over noodles.. and doesn't qualify as laksa to me. :)

                            1. re: vincechan

                              Hi vincechan - thank you for bringing back such amazing memories of my trips to Malaysia and Singapore - and Sydney, where I had one of the greatest bowls of laksa ever (from a subterranean no-frills Malaysian resto where I was the only "white" person). Your photos and descriptions are bang on.

                              I've bought various laksa pastes in Chinatown and tried to replicate but I think you really have to start from scratch with the right spice mixture to get it right. There is nothing quite like a steaming, rich bowl of laksa filled to the rim with all kinds of goodies. I'm going to make it a point to check out the various rec's on this thread in the not too distant future.

                          2. re: vincechan

                            As per most people I can only assume that the name on the menu is what it is. so to me it just means a curry sauce that includes coconut.

                            I also presumed (and am presumably wrong) that like all curries there is no definitive set of spices that defines it, but that each region / household / vendor / restaurant has their own. The Aussies are big into it., just like Indian restaurants in the UK.

                            1. re: Paulustrious

                              I don't have any quarrels with having noodles with curry.. and calling it curry noodles... (because I'll avoid it like the plague) its when I see the word "laksa" and get that.. that I feel cheated... :)

                              By an unwritten convention.. saying laksa noodles is the equivalent of saying curry laksa noodles.. with curry as ONE of its broth ingredients..and not Curry as the broth. (not sure if that made sense) At least I don't know anybody that mixes drimp shrimp.. or sambal paste,, or belachan paste and still call it a curry mixture.

                              To me.. curry noodles.. vs. curry laksa noodles/laksa noodles will always be different things in my mind.

                              1. re: vincechan

                                By an unwritten convention..

                                I think you have just created an oxymoron.

                                1. re: Paulustrious

                                  A rule, method, or practice established by usage; custom: the convention of showing north at the top of a map.
                                  Or, a general agreement or consent; accepted usage, esp. as a standard of procedure.

                                  How is "unwritten convention" an oxymoron? A convention is not, by definition, something necessarily expressed or composed in writing, or not. Unwritten may be a somewhat redundant adjective, but I wouldn't say it's oxymoronic. Getting back on topic, though, any suggestions for some tasty noodle soup?

                                  1. re: redearth

                                    Purely on the ground that you have written it - wasn't meant to be offensive.

                                    Paradox would have been a better choice of word.

                        2. re: Charles Yu

                          Charles, This marks the first time I'll be disagreeing with you.. I've been a big fan (and still am) of your reviews here... and always wondered when our opinions would differ.

                          Granted that everything written on boards are subjective.. but I cannot in good conscious say that SE Asian on Midland is a place I'd recommend to CHers looking for flavors from that region of the world.

                          Closeness being a criteria was not what I'd expect from you when we're talking about the distance from Midland/Finch to Brimley/Sheppard! Yikes! The difference in quality far outstrips the difference in distance. IMHO. There is not 1 dish I'd rather have at SE Asian than at Gourmet Garden. I've been too many times to SE Asian with high expectations and was thoroughly disappointed at the un-authentic attempts. If it has improved since then.. I might find the courage to go and try again.. but ever since I've found GG.. I haven't looked back.

                          You feeling ok, Charles? LOL

                          1. re: vincechan

                            Hello Vince,

                            Its OK! I'm used to seeing totally opposite viewpoints on this board! A great example being 'Splendido' which I've seen posting calling it the Best of TO to a 'scam' and the worst the city has to offer!!

                            Anyways, ref: your comment ' looking for flavours from that region of the world', and 'unauthentic attempts', I would like to defer and reserve making any comments until after I return from my trip to Singapore early next week. For now, I just wanted to say, whether the taste is 100% authentic or not, the food is delicious enough for some of us chowhounders including our board's resident 'curry' expert - Estufarian to drive all the way from downtown to eat there!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              I grew up in Singapore and I have been looking for 20 years for a place that really reminded me of home. I live closer to restoran malaysia than anywhere else for SE asian so unfortunately that's my occasional fix. The fact that my fav. dish there is the wat tan ho should say a fair bit. I do like Gourmet Garden in that tiny food court on Sheppard. Their flavours are pretty decent. Not fantastic but they are offering a lot of choices, unlike the hawker stalls in Singapore where each one specializes so that's going to happen. Their laksa is decent (my mom likes it), the nasi lemak of fair, bak gut teh is similar to a lot of the places in Singapore so its good for a fix. I also like their Mee Goreng but I can't vouch for authenticity, it was not a dish I frequented growing up. Their Chow Kueh Teow is not great which is unfortunate because that's was my all time comfort food back in Singapore. I also find their food a little too salty. I'll have to try Eastern Twist, my wife loves Khao Soi duk and O no Khao Soi ( don't really know the spelling, sorry).

                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                I grew up with those flavors.. and Gourmet Garden helps take me back down memory lane. Though I'll admit... they spread themselves thin with that extensive menu. Not every menu item is using authentic ingredients or done particularly well (example: CKT not good.. Hokkien mee good, but not the way I remember it).. plus.. speaking with the boss lady.. they're from Ipoh.. so Malaysian way of doing things might differ from my Singapore-bred taste buds (ex: Hokkien Mee). But good wok hey helps you overlook a lot of things. =)

                                Hope you'll have a gastronomic pig-out in Singapore.. The food is cheap and good! No, great! Make sure you get Chicken Rice & Satay because I've read you writing about them for Toronto. I guess you've already scoped out all the good places to eat.. still looking? I'm writing down names and lists of places I want to hit up on my next trip there next year. Do share if you find some gems that are not in the MakanSutras and food blogs.. :D

                                P.S. if Estufarian is driving from downtown.. I still say Gourmet Garden is just as convenient coming from the DVP/401 exit Kennedy or McCowan.. maybe he'll have enough room to try both and decide for himself? LOL

                                P.P.S. The prawn mee's broth at GG is to die for.. only available on weekends though. I like it even more than the laksa noodles

                                1. re: vincechan

                                  Just found this thread - it had dropped off Page 1 of my posts (still don't understand why Chowhound can't fix this) and I only check the 'old' posts monthly.
                                  A simple answer. I 'discovered' SE Asian (on Midland) a few years back and go periodically. I only heard about GG last year - and haven't been back to SE Asian since!!!
                                  My problem seems to be that I wasn't properly plugged in to the foodie community! And until this discussion hadn't fully appreciated the many 'forms' of Laksa. I discovered it on a visit to Australia and sought it out here.
                                  And I'll be at GG next weekend - so your recommendation on Prawn Mee will undoubtedly be 'put to the test'. Thanks for the recommendation(s).

                                  1. re: estufarian

                                    So, curious to know if the Prawn Mee passed the test?

                                    1. re: vincechan

                                      It was good - but not life-changing!
                                      Certainly a generous portion for the price and the flavour was good - but I didn't find the spices as layered as I'd hoped. Just a sensation of 'hot'.
                                      But everything was freshly cooked and excellent textures. Nothing overcooked or mushy.
                                      We ate in the court (was on our way to a show in Markham) - not the finest ambiance - but at that price no criticism is warranted (just wanted to make casual visitors aware that the eating area is for "eating" rather than "dining").
                                      I absolutely understand why this reminds people of the 'authentic' experience (OK the extensive menu really isn't typical). Absolutely a recommendation for the food - Chowhound followers should lap this up. But realistically, people who value the 'dining experience' may be a little challenged.
                                      At least I now better understand the criticisms of Susur (and others) who take an 'authentic' dish and repackage it at much higher prices - but the added value is the 'whole package' of service, ambiance, pampering, and the deveining, deshelling and other adjustments that fine dining can offer. I think there's a place for both (after searching for more serviettes to wipe my hands subsequent to removing the parts to be discarded).It didn't bother me here, but I rarely order lobster (anywhere) for example. The work to extract the meat is messy and the food is cold by the time I finish.
                                      But I'll be back - whenever I feel like it - won't necessarily wait for the weekend specials.

                                      1. re: estufarian

                                        After reading this post a few days back and thinking about it almost non-stop since, I returned to GG. Slowly I'm working on trying everything on their menu. A bit of a trip for me, but worth it, as I concur with how there are too few authentic Malaysian/Singaporean food-stall-y sources here in Toronto.
                                        I am SO looking forward to my trip to SE Asia this year. Yes, it's partly a culinary tour. I'd love to hear suggestions from the experts on where to go...

                        3. re: Charles Yu

                          Restoran Malaysia is a real shame as it truly was great pre-renovation. Nowadays, it's much too expensive for what it is.

                          South Asia Malaysia Cuisine has the cha chaan teng feel to it. It was ok, but I'm not dying to go back. I'll have to check Gourmet Garden out...

                        4. I saw Eastern Twist mentioned a couple times in this post, and I want to emphasize that I definitely think it's worth a visit. Huge portions, delicious and spicy... the khao soi is great. Still have to try the St Clair spot, but I have visited the Scarborough location.

                          Get your fix there :)

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Rienna

                            I tried to go to the Scarborough location and there was a sign on the door saying that the location was closed, and to go instead to the st. clair one (the sign was dated august... i went in January). i can't remember the exact wording, but it was the impression that this was permanent

                            so a phone call might be in order before heading out there

                            i did manage to make it to the st. clair one and i thought it was good. we tried the butter chicken wrap which was quite tasty and the Noodles in Creamy Coconut Milk which was good, but i think it needed maybe a squeeze of lime or something

                            i would def. go back if i was in the area

                          2. Surprisingly, the Queen Mother has a version of Khao Soi! It's okay - the spices are correct but there's something off about it. I LOVE the KS at Vanipha Lanna though. Everything there is so authentic and amazing, even if the service usually ranges from okay to abysmal.

                            I'll definitely have to try Eastern Twist! I've passed by that place dozens of times.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: flashy_mcflash

                              Went to Sukho Thai on the weekend and the khao Soi was fantastic. I only ever had my Mom-in-laws version which is a home made Burmese version and the two are very different (and good of course). Sukho's broth is extremely rich, almost gravy like, and coats each strand on noodle making every bite a great mouthful of flavour. The blend of herbs and spices is delicious. Chef/Owner and her husband are wonderful people. They let us into the restaurant early (didn't open until 11:30 and we got there at 11) and took our order and chatted with us while we waited. Service was a little slow but we were there before they actually opened so that's probably our fault. I wish the portion was bigger so I could have enjoyed even more of that great noodle. I will definitely go back to try some of their other offerings. Might have to check out Eastern Twist (went to their Scarb. location and found out it was closed, wish they mentioned that on their website) and a few others mentioned for comparisons but Sukho's is really very tasty.

                              1. re: theel

                                I've been hesitant to jump in on Sukhothai only for fear that the poor little place will be overwhelmed and people will be disappointed with the waits. But here's the scoop, bad news first: as others have said, they're only open on Fridays and Saturdays - 11:30-10:30, I think, with a one hour break mid-afternoon at 2:30. The odd hours are attributable to a bunch of things, not least of which is the Thai owner's need to complete her nursing accreditation before a certain deadline. Next, this isn't the place you're going to go for a nice dinner out (like Linda's or Mengrai) - think Maroli when it was on Balliol or that kind of a place - few tables and stools, tiny place, not much decor. And because it's pretty much a 3-person operation - the young couple who owns it along with hs father - the waits can sometimes be long. End of bad news.

                                Now the great news. It's the best authentic Thai food in the city. Period. I've been to Mengrai and to Linda's, the only other 2 real contenders for this title that I've come across. I'd put Sukhothai in first place with a comfortable lead. The owner is from Pai, a sleepy little town a couple of hours north of Chiang Mai. She is a phenomenal cook, passionate about the food she makes, infusing each dish with passion and heart. She imports many ingredients directly from Thailand, including these gorgeous smoky chilies. She and her husband are amongst the kindest most gracious people you will meet. It's the kind of place you love to love.

                                I've tried about 4 or 5 dishes off the smallish menu, including the khao soi (twice) - delicious. This food and these people transport me back to Thailand. I've also had the penang beef and green curry chicken - amazing layers of spices and flavours. So if you're patient and accepting of the little quirks, go to Sukhothai - it's the closest thing to Thailand in the GTA. I hugely appreciate the chowhounds who sussed this place out - at Dundas and Parliament, it's highly unlikely I ever would have found this spot on my own. This is what chowhound does best.

                                Vorpal, you might not have left if you had found this place.

                                1. re: peppermint pate

                                  Have to agree with PP. The owners are gracious and welcoming and the food is top-shelf. going back this weekend for a khao soi fix.

                                  1. re: yoyodyne

                                    Yes, one of my favourite discoveries of 2008. One of the friendliest operations around town, they make an effort to remember you. I can't say enough good things about this place.

                                    Best of all, you can satisfied for under $10.

                                  2. re: peppermint pate

                                    Add a hear hear to the praise for Sukhothai!! I've been going since November and now friday's are a mainstay there for their pad thai-though this thread has tempted me to stray into the khao soi. I saw one couple trying the 'yellow noodles' a few weekends ago and the ooohs and ahhhs coming from them were hard to resist!

                                    Also tried the yellow curry-good heat level and their aromatic noodle soups. Very lovely people there, once in awhile I am lucky enough to benefit from a free snack from them.