What makes Somebody Feed Phil different from other docuseries of a similar genre is that Phil Rosenthal, a famous sitcom producer, takes viewers on a journey of discovery as they learn all about the background behind delicious meals. From the history and culture to the people and places he meets along the way, all the ingredients come together to make his programs as interesting as the food he eats on his journey.
“Khao Soi” is one of the local Chiang Mai dishes that Phil invites the viewers to discover while learning about Chiang Mai’s culture at the same time. Despite choosing to sample Khao Soi from just an average streetside food vendor that you can find anywhere in Chiang Mai, Phil is treated to an original Khao Soi recipe that is just like what the local people eat. If you visit Chiang Mai and want to try local Khao Soi, you must stop by vendors like this to get an authentic Chiang Mai Khao Soi taste.
There are 2 stories that have been passed down through generations about the origin of Khao Soi. The first one states that it originated from Chinese Muslim merchants from Yunnan who came to Chiang Mai to trade. Before the late 19th century, three trading routes passed through this region. The one that passed through Chiang Mai was considered to be the most important. Having started as a traveling merchant, the Chinese Muslim merchant relocated to Chiang Mai and opened a Khao Soi shop selling fresh homemade noodles that were made from wheat flour, eggs, salt, and water. The mixture was then kneaded, flattened, and chopped into strips, hence the name Khao Soi (Soi means ‘chopping’ in Thai.) Originally Khao Soi was a clear broth without coconut milk. It used chicken as the meat ingredient as the Yunnan Chinese merchant was Muslim. Later the dish was adapted to the Thai palette by adding coconut milk with shallots, fried chilies, and fermented vegetables as side dishes.
Another origin story states that Khao Soi was influenced by a Burmese dish called Ohn-No Khao Swe (chicken noodle curry.) The noodles in this dish were made from rice and chicken broth was added. In this version, it is believed that the word “Khao Soi” was derived from the word “Khao Swe.”
Chiang Mai Khao Soi today can be enjoyed both with and without coconut milk. The curry varies depending on each recipe: some are spicy and some are milder, especially in Muslim recipes. Some recipes have even been further adapted to attract younger consumers and tourists, including Khao Soi with pork, chicken, meat, goat, stewed pork, stewed meat, or imported meat. Moreover, food cultures from abroad have been fused to make more variations, including Japanese-style Khao Soi, a rich dry-fried Khao Soi. Whether you like the original or adapted version, Khao Soi is a must-try if you visit Chiang Mai.
Khao Soi is usually easy to find from food vendors around Chiang Mai, but locals often recommend popular ones around Fa Ham Subdistrict in Mueang Chiang Mai District. There are also several ones around the Nimmanhemin area or behind Chiang Mai University, which are tourist hotspots. The bottom line is that wherever you stay in Chiang Mai, delicious Khao Soi is never too hard to find. Have fun exploring the options yourself, or ask locals for their recommendations.