Finding the best khao soi in Chiang Mai is difficult, as the quality of this curry in this city is so incredibly high. That’s because the curry has it’s origins in Myanmar, Laos and the Northern parts of Thailand, with each region its own version of this hugely popular curry. Even when you go to different cities close to Chiang Mai, for example, Chiang Rai, you will taste a completely different version of khao soi. For example, the khao soi in Chiang Rai is less creamy compared to the khao soi in Chiang Mai. Vendors serve their Khao Soi for decades while fine-tuning their recipe to its perfection. Together with our test panel, we came up with a top list of the best khao soi in Chiang Mai.
In this article, we cover the following aspects related to the best khao soi in Chiang Mai:
- What is Khao Soi;
- A brief history of Khao Soi;
- What are the five best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai?;
- Map of the restaurants that serve the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai.
What is Khao Soi?
Khao Soi is a Northern Thai curry made with shrimp paste, lemongrass, ginger, turmeric, coriander seeds, lime leaves, cardamom, chillies and palm sugar. As you can imagine, the aromas and scent of this curry are extremely herby and the taste is loved by many Thai and foreigners. The curry itself is finished with a dash of coconut milk, which makes the curry rich and creamy. Depending on how much coconut milk is added, Khao Soi is usually not super spicy, but instead, it has a nice little kick at the end. On the bottom of the curry, you find soft boiled egg noodles, but on top of the curry itself, there are deep-fried noodles added to give the curry an extra crunch. Usually, Khao Soi is served with a chicken drumstick, but stewed beef is a common type of protein as well. Especially in Chiang Mai, where you can find plenty of vegetarian restaurants, vegetarian Khao Soi can be found easily too. Khao Soi is always served with pickles, red onions and lime, similar to Pad Thai which is always served with chilli, peanuts, fish sauce and vinegar, the equivalent of salt and pepper in the Western cuisine.
A brief history of Khao Soi
Back in the days when Thailand was divided into several Kingdoms and current borders did not exist, food was heavily influenced by minorities, Chinese merchants and other groups of immigrants. This is a common effect when migrants move to a new region. But as the current borders did not exist yet, these regions influenced each other heavily. The Isaan-region in Thailand is heavily influenced by the Laotian cuisine and have many similarities when it comes to flavours. This rule also applies to Northern Thai cuisine as it's heavily influenced by Burmese cuisine. Khao Soi comes from Burma, where a Chinese Muslim minority group called Chin Haw brought this dish with them when they fled China. Over the years, Khao Soi evolved into the dish what we know it right now. When you pay attention to the flavours of Khao Soi, it has similarities with Massaman Curry, also introduced by a Muslim minority. As Khao Soi has Muslim roots, you won't easily find traditional Khao Soi with pork, while other Northern Thai curries are often served with pork. It's fascinating how immigrants often bring such incredible food to a country that eventually, the country or region gets famous for.
What are the best khao soi in Chiang Mai?
Now that you know what Khao Soi is made from and where it comes from, it's time to give you, what we believe are...
The best khao soi in Chiang Mai:
1. Khao Soi at Khao Soi Maesai
Listing a restaurant in the top position when it comes to the best certain dish in town always comes with the necessary arguments. For the best khao soi in Chiang Mai, there is no exception. People will always argue and disagree, and will tell you they found a much better version somewhere at a yet undiscovered local restaurant. Fact is that Khao Soi Maesai is extremely popular among locals, digital nomads, ex-pats and tourists for years and ninety-nine per cent of its visitors leave the restaurant with full satisfaction.
What makes the khao soi at Khao Soi Maesai so special? It has the deepest and richest flavours we’ve tasted and the curry is heavenly creamy with a little bit of spiciness. There are four options available: beef, pork, chicken leg, and vegetarian options. So if you are looking for the best vegetarian Khao Soi in Chiang Mai, you can get it at the restaurant that serves the best khao soi in Chiang Mai!
Besides khao soi, this restaurant also serves four other popular local noodle dishes, although the Khao Soi is the main attraction. The prices vary between 30 THB and 50 THB. The restaurant is open from 08:00 until 16:00 from Monday until Saturday. As Khao Soi is often eaten as lunch, it's always busy during lunchtime. The restaurant has only sixteen seats. Although the service is quick, we still advise visiting Khao Soi Maesai after 14:00. For more information, such as the location, the menu, pictures of the restaurant, other recommended dishes and what TopTravelFoods users have to say, check out the TopTravelFoods review page of Khao Soi Mae Sai.
Khao Soi Chicken Leg (45 THB) at Khao Soi Maesai
2. Khao Soi at Khao Soi Khun-Jay
I have to admit, it was difficult to choose between Khao Soi Maesai and this restaurant. Like Khao Soi Maesai, Khao Soi Khun-Jay is extremely popular among locals for its deliciously tasting and oh-so-creamy Khao Soi. After a long debate, we believe Khao Soi Maesai does have a deeper flavour, although the difference is small. In the back of this small local restaurant, you find an open kitchen where you can see and smell the large pots full with their famous curry. Between 10:00 and 14:00, when the restaurant is open, people constantly walking in to enjoy the special khao soi. During peak hours, around lunchtime, the few seats are completely occupied but due to the quick service, you don’t have to wait long. Keep in mind that occasionally, the curries do sell out.
Next to the khao soi, which is available with beef, chicken and pork in the price range of 40 until 60 THB, you can also order two different noodle soups: the so-called Guay Tiew Nam Ngiao (40 THB) and a classic pork noodle with crispy wonton (30 THB). The restaurant is open from 10:00 until 14:00, except on Sunday when it's closed. For more information, such as the location, the menu, pictures of the restaurant, other recommended dishes and what TopTravelFoods users have to say, check out the TopTravelFoods review page of Khao Soi Khun-Jay.
Khao Soi Beef (60 THB) at Khao Soi Khun-Jay
3. Khao Soi at Kao Soi Nimman
Compared to the other restaurants in this list, Kao Soi Nimman is more upscale. It has an outside area, but you can also choose to sit inside where there is air-conditioning. Although you might think it’s all about the khao soi when you see the restaurant name, Kao Soi Nimman offers a wide variety of Northern Thai specialities and is widely known for these delicious dishes. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on their delicious khao soi only.
There are twelve different versions of the khao soi available, but the curry itself is the same. The difference is with the type of protein you want. Customers have the option to choose from stewed beef to Thai omelette, all in the price range between 79 and 99 THB. There is one bowl of Khao Soy named the Super Bowl (169 THB) which has Northern Thai sausage, squid, prawns, pork and chicken drumstick in it. Our favourite was the Kao Soi Kai (79 THB), which is a perfectly balanced khao soi with a chicken drumstick. In general, a chicken drumstick is the most tender option in the khao soi and therefore the most common version. Kao Soi Nimman is open daily from 11:00 until 20:00. For more information, such as the location, the menu, pictures of the restaurant, other recommended dishes and what TopTravelFoods users have to say, check out the TopTravelFoods review page of Kao Soi Nimman.
Kao Soi Kai (79 THB) at Kao Soi Nimman
4. Khao Soi at Pakorn’s Kitchen
This restaurant does not pop up your common top lists of best khao soi in Chiang Mai. Perhaps because it does not have the words Khao Soi in its restaurant name? Or maybe because it's more common for its heavenly Massaman Curry. Fact is that Pakorn’s Kitchen is hugely popular among locals, and especially for its creamy curries. Pakorn’s Kitchen serves one of the creamiest curries I’ve ever tried in Thailand. As this article is solely for khao soi, I will stick to the Khao Soi Curry.
Pakorn’s Kitchen offers four different khao soi options: chicken, pork, seafood and stewed beef. Next to its amazing creaminess, the curry itself is very aromatic and a little bit spicy, but safe enough for most tourists. They do serve a less spicy version though. The restaurant is open daily from 10:00 until 23:00, except on Sunday. On Sunday, Pakorn’s Kitchen opens at 11:30 instead of 10:00. For more information, such as the location, the menu, pictures of the restaurant, other recommended dishes and what TopTravelFoods users have to say, check out the TopTravelFoods review page of Pakorn's Kitchen.
Khao Soi Beef (80 THB) at Pakorn's Kitchen
5. Khao Soi at Khao Soi Muslim Noodles
Khao Soi Muslim gained its popularity by serving the most authentic Khao Soi in Chiang Mai. It’s said that it’s the only restaurant in Chiang Mai that kept the original Khao Soi recipe, while other restaurants experimented with other spices and ingredients. In general, this authentic recipe is milder than others. Nonetheless, it’s hugely popular and tasty. There are six different Khao Soi options, with beef, chicken, seafood and a vegetarian version and the prices vary between 50 THB and 80 THB. Next to khao soi, this restaurant serves many other Thai options, which are all halal. The Khao Mok Gai (50 THB) and the Satay (Beef & Chicken) (80 THB) are highly recommended as well. Khao Soi Muslim Noodles is open daily from 08:00 until 17:00. Want to know what TopTravelFoods users think of Khao Soi Muslim Noodles? For more information, such as the location, the menu, pictures of the restaurant, other recommended dishes and what TopTravelFoods users have to say, check out the TopTravelFoods review page of Khao Soi Muslim Noodles.
Khao Soi Beef (50 THB) at Khao Soi Muslim Noodles
Map of the restaurants that serve the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai
There you have it, the best khao soi in Chiang Mai. All these restaurants are listed in our food recommendations app called TopTravelFoods. This app is completely free and is available for both iOS and Android. Instead of only recommend good restaurants, TopTravelFoods recommends the best food these amazing restaurants have to offer. So when you are on your trip to Chiang Mai, you never have figure out what is good or not. Just simply see the rated and reviewed dishes recommended by fellow-food-lovers. Would you like to know what people think of all these restaurants that serve the best khao soi in Chiang Mai? Download the app now! Or when you are on a desktop, you can explore the best local food in Chiang Mai.