THE DISH Khao soi, Thailand
PLATE UP Fellow foodies, prepare for one of the world's all-time great dishes. Khao soi has it all: it's a rich, spicy, tangy, filling noodle soup, a dish of chewy egg noodles drowned in a broth of curry paste and coconut milk, with hunks of chicken or beef, topped with deep-fried noodles, coriander, raw shallots, pickled mustard greens, chilli oil and lime. This cherished dish of northern Thailand – a staple around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai – hits every flavour receptor you have, with that hot-sour-sweet-salty combo that Thai food is renowned for.
FIRST SERVE Though the history of khao soi is, much like the soup, a little murky, it's widely believed to have its origins in the Yunnan province of China. When the Chin Ho people – Chinese Muslims from Yunnan – opened a trade route through what was then Burma into northern Thailand in the 18th century, they brought with them a rice-noodle soup that gradually morphed into the dish we know today. Local Thai purveyors subbed in flat egg noodles for the rice, added curry paste to appeal to local sensibilities, and first used coconut milk – rare in this part of Thailand – to wow visiting officials from Bangkok.
ORDER THERE Khao soi is easy to find in Chiang Mai – it's served everywhere, at all times. Try one of the city's originals, Khao Soi Islam Noodles (Charoen Prathet 1 Alley, Tambon Chang Moi, Mueang Chiang Mai), where the khao soi neua is a classic.
ORDER HERE Melburnians, take yourself to Bangkok Jam (bangkokjam.com.au) in the city for a solid "Chiang Mai style egg noodle". In Sydney, visit Show Neua Thai Street Food (facebook.com/showneuathai) in Haymarket for great khao soi.
ONE MORE THING Laos also has a dish called khao soi, though it's very different to the Thai version. This is a dish of rice noodles with clear broth, topped with a sauce of minced meat, tomatoes and fermented bean paste, plus fresh herbs. Different, but delicious.