Kao soy from Sticky Rice
The Thai New Year of Songkran begins today, and while the Thais will be having water fights during the three-day festival, those of us in America will have to settle for steaming bowls of curry and toothsome salads to get into the spirit. One of the dishes I always get psyched to see on menus is khao soi. It's a Northern Thai dish, primarily from the city of Chiang Mai. One of things I love about it, is that it contains all of the hallmarks of great Thai food: salty, sour, spicy and sweet, as well as great textural contrasts.
At Sticky Rice, near the corner of Western and Irving Park Rd. the menu leans heavily to the North, and so, in addition to their homemade sausages, they also have a killer bowl of khao soi. The bowl itself contains two types of noodles: boiled, soft eggy ones, plus crispy noodles as a garnish. The boiled ones swim in a coconut-laced, complex curry, embedded with small pieces of chicken, but it's the garnishes that make this dish so unique. You can opt to give your bowl a jolt of heat with additional chili paste, provide a jolt of citrus with fresh lime, add crunch and a note of sour with some pickled mustard greens, perhaps a few shards of raw shallot, maybe some crisp, green scallion; even fresh cilantro is there for you, just in case you want to ramp up the herbal notes.
When you mix it all together and take that first bite, I guarantee you'll have a better understanding of why Northern Thai food is so damn good.