I was sceptical, but in my opinion, justifiably so; khao soi, the northern-style dish of wheat noodles in a curry broth, should not be served with shrimp or fish:
I was also sceptical about the khao soi I ultimately ordered — the more traditional chicken version — as it arrived with chunks of boneless chicken meat rather than the standard drumstick.
But all this before I actually tasted it. The khao soi at Khao Soi Phor Jai, in Chiang Rai, may inspire scepticism in those familiar with the more traditional versions of the dish, but it turned out to be rather delicious: mild, pleasantly rich and oily, and surprisingly meaty.
It’s also practical. The curry broth here is essentially a combination of three things: a thin, watery broth; meat in a thick, oily curry paste; and coconut cream. These three ingredients are kept separately and are only combined to order. When asked why it was done this way, the vendor explained thusly: “Other vendors combine the curry and coconut milk in advance. If they don’t sell it all, they have to throw it away. This way I can use the curry paste later if I don’t sell it all.”
I didn’t ask her why she chose to sell khao soi with shrimp, but suspect the answer would be equally practical.
If you can’t get past the oddities of the khao soi here, they also do a short menu of northern Thai standards, including sai ua (ไส้อ่ัว):
the herb-and-pork sausage, served here, Bangkok-style, with thin slices of ginger and sprigs of coriander.
naem (แหนม), tart fermented pork, here wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled over coals:
and nam phrik num (น้ำพริกหนุ่ม):
Fresh, green chilies that, along with garlic and shallots, have been grilled then pounded to a spicy, stringy paste.
Khao Soi Phor Jai
Th Jetyod, Chiang Rai
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