There are many things that keep me up at night - Glenn Close not having an Oscar, this video of a cat holding onto a hang glider, and the band Creed. But the main source of my perpetual sleep deprivation is thinking about the next time I’m going to be able to eat khao soi. This Northern Thai curry noodle soup is sweet and savory, rich and spicy, and capable of improving your day with one bite. It’s also a dish that’s fairly easy to find around town, which is why I’m here to help you narrow things down a bit. Here are six excellent bowls of khao soi in LA.
You could drive past this tiny Thai Town spot 100 times and not notice it, but don’t let that happen - they serve a khao soi I’d rank among the most essential dishes in the city. What makes Pailin’s version so good is the unabashed brightness of the broth itself. It’s buttery and sweet, with huge punches of citrus even before you squeeze the lime over it. And for that reason, you’ll find me picking up an order here any time I’ve had a bad week or just want to feel better.
I love the creamy, sweet broth at NTFC, but what makes this tiny Thai Town shop’s khao soi one of my favorites is how they prepare the chicken. The massive drumstick sitting in the middle of the bowl is perfectly-seasoned and absorbs the rich broth around it, so you barely even have to touch the leg for the meat to fall off the bone. If the drumstick was its own entree, I’d rank it among the best chicken dishes in town.
There are several reasons you should order from this tiny strip mall spot at Santa Monica and Normandie (the jackfruit salad, pork patties, and BBQ pork, to name a few). But the most important reason is their khao soi. The curry broth here is rich and gravy-like, making the whole dish feel more like a stew than the other soupier versions on this guide. For a protein, I typically go with the tofu which is cooked to silky perfection and provides some much-needed lightness to the dish. This is also one of the spiciest bowls of khao soi you’ll find in the city, so prepare accordingly.
This West Hollywood original has become one of the most recognizable restaurants in the city with locations in both Silver Lake (Song) and Venice (Sahm). One could argue that the crispy rice salad and fried chicken sandwich are the signature dishes here - and they might be right - but the khao soi needs to be in the conversation. N+M actually has two versions on their menu, the mushroom and tofu-filled khao soi jay and the khao soi neaua, which comes with braised short rib. Both are excellent, but I prefer the khao soi jay as its umami flavor matches up perfectly with the dark and earthy broth. That said, go for the version with the tender braised short rib if you’re looking for something a bit more savory.
Sri Siam has been in operation since the 1980’s and is LA Thai restaurant royalty. While no meal here is complete without some crispy rice salad (one of the first versions of its kind to be served in LA) and their off-menu radish cakes, the khao soi should always be part of your order. It’s a perfectly balanced bowl of soup that’s rich and creamy with a massive kick of heat at the end of each bite. Be sure to load up on the fried egg noodles that come on the side as well. They’re thicker than other versions around town, meaning that even after soaking in the broth for a while, they still provide the soup some extra crunch.
Lum-Ka-Naad’s menu has over 150 items on it, but an easy way to narrow things down is to concentrate on two sections: “Northern Cuisine” and “Southern Cuisine.” These dishes, like turmeric fish soup, spicy pork sausage, and the excellent khao soi, are specifically from the owner’s home regions. What makes LKN’s version of khao soi stand out is the herbaceous and tangy pickled cabbage, and also the slightly smoky flavor of the soup. The chicken drumstick in the middle is remarkably tender, and the thin egg noodles soak up the curry broth while still staying light and springy. Also, if you ask to get it spicy, just know that Lum Ka Naad is very liberal with their red chile sauce.