The bowl above is, for now at least, the final entry in my gratuitous khao soi series. I had eaten at this same khao soi shop nearly a decade ago when a friend and I were doing some exploring in Doi Phu Kha National Park in Nan. After a few days in the jungle, we eventually emerged at Ban Bo Klua, and at what appeared to be the town’s only restaurant found both food and accommodation. I don’t recall what we thought of the khao soi then, but I was sure I wanted to eat it again this time, the opportunity being a perfect nostalgic bookend to my seven-part epic khao soi feature.
Richard and I arrived at the shop at an early hour and I asked the vendor (the same woman from 10 years ago) if it was open. ‘Of course, open, yes, yes, we’re open. Sit down,’ she replied in an exceedingly enthusiastic, confident manner. Her attitude immediately made me suspicious; in Thailand if someone zealously confirms something, it most likely means it’s untrue.
After a minute or two she brought out our bowls, and Richard and I dug into what would be the worst bowls of khao soi either of us have ever encountered. For starters, the broth was just a step above lukewarm, and appeared to be little more than coconut milk with a pinch of curry powder. The chicken, which along with the broth appeared to be left over from the previous day, was nonetheless severely undercooked and alarmingly pink in parts. But the worst thing about the khao soi confirmed my initial suspicion; as I stirred the contents, I discovered that this bowl of noodles had no noodles.
‘There are no noodles in this khao soi,’ I told the woman.
‘Oh yes,’ she replied without hesitating, ‘the water hasn’t boiled yet so I can’t cook the noodles. I just used the deep-fried crispy noodles instead.’
As anybody who’s eaten khao soi knows, this is not an acceptable substitute.
‘When I asked you if you were open, you said that you were ready to go,’ I argued.
‘I am ready. Do you like the khao soi?’
I was not getting through. Clearly this woman just wanted to sell at any cost. When we told her, quite frankly, that the chicken was undercooked and that we did not like the khao soi, she asked, without a hint of irony, if we wanted to buy another two bowls.
Don’t eat here. I’m providing the map below more as a warning than a recommendation.
Ban Bo Klua, Nan