A blog about food in Thailand
and elsewhere.

Khao Soi

Posted date:  January 11, 2006

Yeah, that’s right: khao soi. Those of you not prepared to go one-on-one with the deliciousliest Thai dish of all should probably leave. OK. Now we’re alone, and I can let you in on a secret: khao soi is not even Thai. This famous northern speciality is probably an amalgam of Burmese/Shan and Chinese-Muslim cooking styles. The word khao soi, which doesn’t really mean anything in Thai, probably comes from the Burmese khauk-hswe, which means simply “noodles”. Unlike most Thai noodle dishes, the broth is made with coconut milk, very similar to a dish still eaten today in Shan State Burma called ohn no khauk-hswe. It seems likely that Chinese-Muslim traders brought ohn no khauk-hswe to Thailand, and added the spices they were so fond of.

OK, enough freaking history. Now it’s time to face the khao soi:

Don’t try to deny its power, look at it, stare at it, let it take you in:

Khao soi uses flat egg noodles, some of which are deep-fried and used as a topping. To cut through the general oiliness of the dish, khao soi is accompanied by a dish of acidic condiments such as sliced shallots, slices of lime, and pickled cabbage, as seen below:

This is Noel in a bout of khao soi-induced madness trying to intimidate the noodles:

Unfortunately this photo doesn’t show the fear in his eyes.

The bowl above was consumed at Khao Soi Lam Duan in Chiang Mai, probably the best and most famous khao soi place in Thailand. The owner claims that her mother actually invented the dish, but this seems very unlikely. Unlike most Thai dishes, khao soi is usually only served with chicken or beef, which also seems to verify its Muslim origins.

11 Comments for Khao Soi

*sigh* I need khao soi. I REALLY need some khao soi.

Take a deep breath, girl!

I cannot agree less. I cook khao soi all the time, but with instant package. However, everyone of my friends love it.

When I have time and run out of my stant package, I will try your recipe.

Just returned to the US from Chiang Mai and boy am I jonesing for some Khao Soi. Gonna try to make it tonight!

I just started a blog on Khao Soi, and where to find it served in New York City, that references this blog. It currently includes Pam Real Thai, Ozen Asian Fusion, Lemongrass Grill, Kin Khao, Galanga Thai, Nooch all in Manhattan and Em Thai (Carroll Gardens):

I’d love your comments and other places in NYC that serve this dish. Thanks in advance.

That really looks like a modified version of a burmese dish I grew up with.

Khao Soi … Khao Soi… i can hear it beckoning to me now!
love your photos of this yummy noodle dish 🙂

[…] blackberry roll; sweet potato pie; foie gras; God’s five top French cheeses; Thai kanom jeen; kao soi; gaeng kio wahn gai; gaeng mussamun neua; nahm prik gapi; nahm prik plah tu; jasmine rice; sashimi; […]

[…] roll; course tater pie; foie gras; God’s fivesome crowning land cheeses; Tai kanom jeen; kao soi; gaeng kio wahn gai; gaeng mussamun neua; nahm prik gapi; nahm prik plah tu; jasmine rice; sashimi; […]

Yes, Khauk-hswe in Burmese means noodle but where does tht word come form. It comes from the Thai word Khao Soi. I don’t think Chinese calls it anything that sounds like it. The Shan people were a part of the region of Thai civilization. besides, the use of coconut milk in dishes are prevalent in Thailand, not in Burma. In Burma, coconut is mainly used in snacks, or deserts, not in dishes.


Khao Swe literally means “fold pull” in Burmese – ie the method for making noodles and hence became the word for noodles.

Like Austin says, I understand Khao Soi doesn’t mean anything in Thai – therefore it’s much more likely the Thai name came from the Burmese.

And that’s not true, we use coconut in lots of different dishes, not just snacks and desserts.

Recommended Resources…

[…]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[…]…

Wanna say something?