My Citizens, many in Thailand feel that the apotheosis of Thai cuisine is found in the northern half of the country, in the province of Chiang Mai. The dish most aficionados feel is the best example of the region’s cuisine is Khao Soi.
Khao soi or khao soy (Lao: ເຂົ້າຊອຍ, Burmese: အုန်းနို့ခေါက်ဆွဲ ) is a Chin Haw dish served widely in Myanmar (known as: ohn no khao swè), Laos and northern Thailand.
The Chin Haw are Chinese people who migrated to Thailand via Burma or Laos. Most of them were originally from Yunnan, the southern province of China and they speak Southwestern Mandarin. Generally, the Chin Haw can be divided into three groups according to the time of their migration.
In the 19th century, the Qing army had sent troops to suppress the rebellion in Yunnan, known as the Panthay Rebellion, which caused up to 1,000,000 lives lost – both civilians and soldiers. During this time, many people fled to the Shan state in Burma, then to the north of Thailand.
The Panthay Chinese merchants who traded between Yunnan, Burma and Lanna from their base in the Wa States. Some of them decided to settle down along this trade route. Lastly, after the Chinese revolution in 1949, the 93rd Corps, which supported the Kuomintang party, fled to Burma and to the north of Thailand.
Khao Soi’s name means “cut rice” in Thai, although it is possible that it is simply a corruption of the Burmese word for noodles which is just ‘khao swè’ which may account for the variations. Traditionally, the dough for the rice noodles is spread out on a cloth stretched over boiling water. After steaming the large sheet noodle is then rolled and cut with scissors. Lao khao soi is still made with the traditional noodles, and in some markets in Luang Namtha and Muang Sing vendors still cut the noodles. These traditionally cut noodles can also be found in several places in northern Thailand.
There are two common versions of khao soi:
Lao khao soi is a soup made with wide rice noodles, coarsely chopped pork, tomatoes, fermented soy beans, chillies, shallots, and garlic, then topped with pork rind, bean sprouts, chopped scallions, and chopped cilantro. Though northern Laotians have a special way of preparing this dish, different versions of it can be found at Lao restaurants.
Northern Thai khao soi is closer to the present day Burmese ohn no khao swè, being a soup-like dish made with a mix of deep-fried crispy egg noodles and boiled egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chilies fried in oil, and meat in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk. The curry is somewhat similar to that of yellow or massaman curry but of a thinner consistency. It is popular as a street dish eaten by Thai people in northern Thailand, though not frequently served in Thai restaurants abroad.
There is some reason to believe that the Thai version of khao soi was influenced by Chinese Muslim cuisine and was therefore likely served with chicken or beef. Different variants of khao soi that are made without any coconut milk and with rice noodles instead of egg noodles are mainly eaten in the eastern half of northern Thailand. Khao soi is also featured in the cuisine of the Shan people who primarily live in Burma. This version of khao soi, as well as the version in Chiang Rai Province, can contain pieces of curdled blood.
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