Review of Khao Soi @ Soi – Seattle
One year ago, if you had asked me to go out for Thai food, my response would have likely been “nah, I don’t really like Asian food. Can we go somewhere else?” When I decided to travel to SE Asia for my Gap Year, all of my friends were extremely confused. “What are you going to eat, you hate Asian food?” “You are going to starve to death.” “That’s one way to lose weight…”
Their responses were not exactly encouraging. It’s not that I am a picky eater, because I’m not. I have eaten bugs for god’s sake, not to satisfy a dare, but simply because they were offered to me. I’m not really sure what it is about Asian cuisines that’s off-putting to me. Maybe it’s that I am not a huge fan of rice… (gasp!)
Growing up in the little city of Spokane, WA, my options for Asian food were VERY limited. We had a couple of Chinese restaurants, which were not exactly “authentic” and an Indian restaurant that was always a ghost town. My lack of exposure was my excuse for not knowing what to order when my friends were actually able to drag me to an Asian restaurant in Seattle. After a couple years here, I started to get the hang of things. I can now go to a Vietnamese restaurant and know how I like my pho. I can order dim sum and sushi without a second thought, but Thai food is still illusive to me. Don’t get me wrong, I know what Thai dishes I don’t like. Pad Thai? No thanks. Most curries? I’ll pass.
One day, I was flowing through my Snapchat feed and one of my favorite travelers, Garrett (TheTravelHuman), was talking about this Thai dish called Khao Soi, a coconut curry soup. When I say talking, what I actually mean is that he was RAVING about it. I had no idea what this dish was and had never seen it on the menu at any Thai restaurant I’d been to. Instantly intrigued, I started looking up recipes to see how hard it’d be to make it myself. Honestly, I was getting a tad bit desperate to find a dish that I liked so that I wouldn’t actually starve to death once I got to Thailand.
The dish contained a few ingredients that proved hard to find, so I couldn’t make it myself, which was a huge bummer. It was beginning to look like I was going to have to wait until my boots hit the ground to try this dish. About a week after I had completely given up on my search for Khao Soi, I read about a new restaurant that had recently opened in Capitol Hill. The name of the restaurant was Soi. The restaurant gods had answered my prayers. I made plans with a friend to try it out later that week.
Thoughts on my first taste of Khao Soi @ Soi – Capitol Hill
Words from the husband and wife team, Gabe Wiborg and Yuie Helseth :
“Our idea is to return back to what it’s really like to eat in Thailand, with a focus on the food of the raised plateau of the North Eastern region of Thailand called Issan. We believe that Seattle deserves better Thai food and that folks are tired of the typical Thai food in Seattle.”
Boy are they right. Walking into the dark wooded, industrial chic restaurant for a weekday lunch, I was surprised to find it fairly empty. As one of the most highly anticipated restaurant openings of 2015, I expected the place to be overflowing with Capitol Hill techies searching for a unique Thai eating experience. Like most people, I don’t like to wait for my food since I’m generally already hangry upon arrival, so getting a seat right away was great.
The server suggested that we order Moo Ping as an appetizer. This is a dish composed of skewered, BBQ pork tenderloin with a dipping sauce called Nam Jim Jaew. The pork was tender and tasty, but the sauce was a bit too tangy for me. I always find it a bit annoying when appetizers include an odd number of items. For example, this dish comes with 3 skewers. Since it was just my friend and I sharing the dish, we had to split the third skewer. I would have been happier with the dish if they had included a fourth skewer of pork, even though I left the restaurant uncomfortably full.
After a less than spectacular start to the meal, I was ready to get my hands on the Khao Soi that I have been impatiently waiting to try. Their signature dish was presented beautifully. The mixture of textures and colors really made the dish stand out in my mind as something to remember. The first taste was even better than I’d expected. My taste buds were greeted by a combination of the sweet coconut milk, spicy chiles, sour citrus and pickled cabbage. The tender egg noodles soaked up the broth, but stayed firm which is essential for a great soup in my opinion. I was a little confused as to what to do with the crispy noodle ball that topped the soup. I assumed it was a garnish and didn’t actually eat it, though I am not sure that is the correct protocol.
I had gone into the restaurant with the preconceived notion that I should like this dish, but it far surpassed my expectations. I had finally found a Thai dish that I loved. And I mean really LOVED. I enjoyed it so much that I returned to Soi a week later for a repeat performance. I have one rule about eating out. If I am going to spend money to eat at a restaurant, it needs to be somewhere I have never been before. I broke this rule for Soi, and I don’t even feel bad about it. I left the restaurant both times with a happy heart, and a full belly.
Though I am sure to be even more impressed with the Khao Soi in Thailand, I am glad I was able to try this dish that came so highly recommended. I can see myself now, wandering through the night market in Chiang Mai, slurping up bowl after delicious bowl of noodles. And now I know I won’t starve to death on my travels, which is a huge relief to my family and friends.
Have you tried Khao Soi in the States? What about in Thailand? Who serves the tastiest bowl of Khao Soi in your opinion? Let me know in the comments below!