Khao Soi, Part 2: By Neil Robinson

Searching for the best - with your help

Last week, I wrote about what Khao Soi is, and reviewed Khao Soi Samoe Jai. But where did Khao Soi come from? The answer is that it turns out to be a fusion food. It probably originated with Chinese Muslim Chin Haw peoples. This dish was then influenced by both Shans from Burma, (Burma has a related, but not identical, dish with a similar name), and northern Thais, who spiced it up so it finally became present day Khao Soi.

Khao Soi Lamduan
The area around the mosque on Charoen Prathet Soi 1, near the night market, used to be known as Baan Haw, because so many Chin Haw people settled there. This seemed like a good place to see if I could get an earlier style of Khao Soi. I tried two places on Charoen Prathet Soi 1, within a very short distance of each other, Khao Soi Islam and Khao Soi Feung Faa. And indeed, I found quite a different style of Khao Soi there.
The appearance of Khao Soi Islam is typical of a Thai restaurant in this price range, and a bit untidy. The friendly manager speaks good English. I tried both vegetarian and chicken. Both had a less spicy, flavourful broth than I am used to in Khao Soi. Indeed, the chicken Khao Soi broth tasted more of chicken soup than curry. Of course, it can be spiced up some to taste by adding condiments. I was surprised by the absence of crispy noodles on top, which I certainly missed. However, there are obviously many who prefer this style, since it is a well known, popular restaurant with no shortage of customers.
Khao Soi Feung Faa also served a similar, mild, style of Khao Soi. However, they did have crispy noodles on top, which I welcomed, and the broth for the chicken was less chicken flavoured and a little more curry flavoured, (and thus more to my taste), than at Khao Soi Islam. I tried both beef and chicken and the meat for both was noticeably tender. This type of Khao Soi probably should be judged a bit differently from the spicier northern Thai version. My own feeling is that northern Thais improved the dish when they added more curry flavour. However, if your preference is for food which is not very spicy, then this style is right for you.
Khao Soi Lamduan is another well known, popular restaurant. I tried the branch on the Superhighway. It is on the frontage road, just north of the Superhighway, immediately before the junction with Chotana/Chang Phuak Rd., on your left if you are coming from the direction of the Rincome. The building is very recognisable. It is a pretty, three story building in what I think of as Shan/Lanna style, (I’m a restaurant reviewer, not an architect, so I may be wrong about the best way to describe the style). I hope you can see what I mean in the photograph. It is very nicely done, both inside and out. In fact, it is such a nice building that I found myself thinking what a pity it is that it is not kept tidier. From where I sat I could see unsightly clutter in the area leading to the kitchen - in a lesser building this would stick out much less.
I tried the chicken Khao Soi. The broth was noticeably thicker than in any of the other places I have reviewed so far, in what I believe to be nearer to the Burmese style. The curry flavour was there, but somewhat bland by comparison with Khao Soi Samoe Jai, reviewed last week, and the noodles topping it were not as crispy. So, Khao Soi Lamduan would probably win hands down in any competition for nicest building, (and it is worth visiting just for that), but Samoe Jai is still my favourite so far for food, but it’s early days yet, and, with your help, I’m looking for a place to topple it from its perch!
Next week, I will take a break and go Chinese. However, Khao Soi will be back the week after, with reviews of a couple of small, neighbourhood places and, I hope, readers’ comments. So, if you have not yet tried Khao Soi, rush out and do so now! Then tell me about it at: [email protected] .com. If you already have a favourite place, please let me know why you think it is one of the best - I need all your input for Khao Soi, Part 3, in a couple of weeks.

Khao Soi Feung Faa

Khao Soi Islam


The ‘Perfect’ Chip

Chips are a European staple, potatoes being a most important food item in the cold countries. However, there are many different styles of chip, ranging from the commercialized “French fries” to the British chunky chip. Adding to the mystique is the fact that the Belgians have laid claim to inventing the humble chip! Nationalities aside, here is how to make the perfect chip.

Cooking Method
Cut the potatoes into chips (your selection of thin or hefty) and soak in cold water to remove excessive starch. Drain and pat completely dry with a clean tea towel - essential for a crisp finish.
Blanche the chips frying at 170C for 4-6 minutes and lift out just as they start to color.
Raise the heat to 190C and then plunge the chips back into the oil for a further 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
Drain the chips on absorbent paper and season lightly with salt.

Ingredients            Serves one to an army
Potatoes (many types including King Edward, Maris Piper, Cara, Wilja, Saxon, Maris Peer, Desiree, Sante, Pentland Dell, and Fianna, Idaho, but most potatoes will do). 1 kg will feed 4 people.
Polyunsaturated cooking oil to half fill your deep-fryer.