Talent Thai’s Khao Soi is the Bee’s Knees
Ever since visiting Thailand 2 1/2 years ago I’ve been borderline obsessed with khao soi, the soup-like curry noodle dish topped with pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, and deep-fried crispy egg noodles. Despite all the great Thai food we have in New York, khao soi (being a Chiang Mai specialty) isn’t as ubiquitous here in the states as your pad thai, pad see ew, or the standard curry dishes (red, green, massaman, etc.) According to this post in the forums Sripraphai (unsurprisingly) makes a good version at their restaurant in Queens (I haven’t tried it yet), and I had a decent (but hipster’ish) version at Thai Market on the UWS.
So when I heard last week that Talent Thai (on 34th btw. 2+3rd) specialized in Chiang Mai style dishes, like khao soi, I was pretty excited. And yesterday, I traveled that extra 25 feet outside the Midtown Lunch boundaries to check it out.
The place is pretty small (and not really equipped to handle strollers) so I ordered my khao soi lunch special ($7.95) to go. Unlike most Thai restaurant lunch specials (which usually come with an appetizer and/or salad), Talent Thai’s only comes with a soda. The fat guy in me was a little bit disappointed, but that’s ok. I was there for the khao soi.
To go is definitely not the best way to enjoy this dish, but they’re smart enough to separate the crunchy noodles (and other assorted toppings) from the steaming hot curry broth. When you get back to your desk (in my case, the sidewalks of Midtown) you can combine the two… and voila!
Now, here’s where I admit that my memory (both mind and taste buds) is pretty terrible. And while I remember loving the khao soi I had in that Chiang Mai night market way back when, I don’t completely remember how it tasted. I just remember it being slightly sweet, slightly sour, and a tad bit creamy- with a mess of egg noodles and a big chicken leg in the middle. And of course the toppings… the crunchy noodles on top, the pickled cabbage, the raw shallots, and lime all adding that incredibly fresh/bright/sour thing that most of the food in Thailand has going for it. I don’t remember the original version being spicy (that’s not to say it wasn’t), but Talent Thai’s version is. And most importantly the requisite toppings were all there.
My palate isn’t good enough to tell you if they used galangal instead of ginger, or palm sugar instead of brown sugar, or even if they just doctored up their standard massaman curry (and just called khao soi.) I would have liked more of the soft egg noodles (which come in the little tin, below the crunchy egg noodles- which I also could have used more of), and the white meat chicken was the standard American Thai restaurant slices of dry boringness- but overall it tasted pretty damn good. And looking back on the photo of the original, I kind of think they nailed it (well, not really. But for Midtown it’s good enough!)
Talent Thai Kitchen, 210 E. 34th Street (btw. 2+3rd), 212-725-8888