Khao Soi is the quintessential Northern Thailand dish – a soup-like meal consisting of egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots and lime topped with deep fried crispy noodles in a coconut curry broth. After living in Northern Thailand for over a year and having traveled to every province, I consider myself to be somewhat of a connoisseur for this delicious dish. Friends and colleagues have always recommended different khao soi restaurants in Chiang Mai claiming them as “the best in Chiang Mai”, but recently I decided to put that to the test.
Khao soi is typically served only for lunch so over two mornings in Chiang Mai, I visited a total of six “top” khao soi restaurants sampling the fare to determine who truly deserves the title “Best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai.” Here are the official results:
Khao Soi Lam Duan
Khao Soi Lam Duan was a little thicker than others giving it a unique earthy flavor compared to spicier khao sois elsewhere in Chiang Mai. But while this restaurant has been talked about before, there wasn’t necessarily anything jumping out about it to put it higher up on the list. It’s worth a visit if you’ve already checked out the rest on my list. You can find the location here.
Khao Soi Islam
Khao Soi Islam has been hyped up a lot, but to be honest, their khao soi is not actually that good. Its different from the more common version of khao soi because the owners stick to the original recipie brought to Thailand by the Yunnanese Muslims. While I wasn’t a fan of this original version, this restaurant makes the list because of their massive halal menu to go along with the khao soi. They’ve got everything from goat’s milk to biryani, but you won’t find any pork here! The Muslim population in Northern Thailand is very small so coming across a restaurant like this is a real treat. Link to the location on Google Maps.
Addy’s Smoothie Shop
With a name like “Addy’s Smoothie Shop”, many wouldn’t consider it to be one of the great khao soi joints of Chiang Mai, but this little hidden shop near Thapae Gate makes a killer bowl. Originally just a smoothie location, the lady running it branched off into khao soi several years ago. Now most of her customers just come for the khao soi, but the smoothie shop name remains! Different from the rest, the broth at this shop was less spicy but rather more rich with almost a Burmese/Indian twist. Of course, when you’re done, don’t forget to get one of her famous smoothies. Google Map location here.
Khao Soi Nimman
Most of the restaurants on this list are essentially food halls for the masses, but Khao Soi Nimman serves their dish up in restaurant that is a step above the others. For those a little afraid of diving right into the street food version or those traveling with families, this is the ideal place to grab a bowl of khao soi. Extremely popular with Thais, the menu expands well beyond khao soi offering many traditional Northern Thai dishes as well as fresh espresso and lattes. While the khao soi here costs about twice as much as anywhere else, the portion size more than makes up for it. I thought generally the khao soi was good all around, but the only reason it came in third was because eating in a proper restaurant isn’t the “real” way to have khao soi at least in my opinion! Get the location here.
Khao Soi Samer Jai
Khao Soi Samer Jai is almost a Chiang Mai institution. The restaurant is massive and fills up completely every lunch rush hour with hungry local Thais. I can clearly see why they come because the khao soi was absolutely delicious. The broth was the best I’ve ever had. Usually I need to spice up my khao soi, but this one packed a punch needing nothing extra. It was very hard giving Samer Jai the number two spot, but I felt like it was somewhat lacking in meat compared to others. If you visit, make sure to order bottled water because they have their very own branded bottles – Samer Jai Water. The restaurant is so famous and popular in Chiang Mai that they went the extra step even with the branding. Click here for location.
Khao Soi Mae Sai
And the winner is Khao Soi Mae Sai! Just absolutely everything about this khao soi hit the spot. The broth was perfect, the deep fried egg noodles were crispy, and they loaded it up with meat. Not only were there thin strips of pork, but they also topped it off with a huge helping of minced pork. Once I stirred my bowl, the minced pork was spread throughout giving every bite that extra kick. In fact, this one was so good I ordered a second bowl! The restaurant is a bit smaller than some of the larger Chiang Mai khao soi institutions and located off on a small soi giving it that extra hidden feel. Make sure to order a glass of their delicious Iced Thai Tea. It was one of the best I’ve ever had. Google Maps location here.
Unfortunately when I was in Chiang Mai “Khao Soi Khun Yai” was closed for school holidays so I was unable to try, but I have heard great things. I also was not able to make it to a non-descript khao soi restaurant slightly south of the old city just called “Kaw Soi Restaurant” on Google Maps. I’ve heard the name floated around before as a possible contender for this list. Both will have to wait for my next visit to Chiang Mai.
All in all I think this was probably one of the most fun things I’ve done in Chiang Mai before. I’ve visited the city so many times that many of the sights get boring for me now, but driving around trying to taste every bowl of khao soi was a real treat. If you have some time in Chiang Mai, make sure to go on a khao soi tour yourself!