The narrow lane that runs east of Chiang Mai's touristy Night Bazaar is home to one of the city's oldest Muslim enclaves. It's thought that around the 19th century, Muslims began to settle in the area, also known also as Baan Haw -- haw being the Thai name for Chinese Muslims -- after many centuries of trading along the caravan routes that linked China, Southeast Asia and East Asia.
Today, the neighbourhood remains resolutely Muslim, and is home to a large mosque:
a unique open-air market that unfolds every Friday morning:
and several Thai-Muslim restaurants:
Among the latter, the most famous is probably Khao-Soi Islam. Indeed, depending on which origin story you subscribe to, this area is quite possibly where the eponymous northern Thai noodle dish was introduced to Thailand. Today, Khao-Soi Islam continue to serve a version of khao soi that closely resembles the dish's likely Burmese origins:
That is, a thin, coconuty broth that carries subtle hints of dried spice powder. It's a bit bland for my taste, but I do like the smooth, pale almost spaghetti-like noodles and the pungent Shan-style pickled greens.
If you ask me, the real reason to eat at Khao-Soi Islam is the restaurant's outstanding biryani. On my most recent visit, I ordered the goat version (pictured above), which was easily one of the better versions I've encountered in Thailand. The meat was eat-with-a-spoon tender and deliciously spicy, and the rice was well seasoned and rich. Even the dipping sauce wasn't overly sweet.
And if you're missing the sweetness that typically defines Thai-Muslim food, simply cross the lane to Alee's Rotee for a dessert of roti, a thin, crispy pancake, and a tea:
Khao-Soi Islam do biryani with beef, chicken and fish, as well as Thai-Muslim standards ranging from oxtail soup to satay.
Khao-Soi Islam 22-24 Th Charoenphrathet, Chiang Mai 053 271 484 8am-5pm
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