Khao Soi is all about the seasoning.
Its origins go back to the Hui people from the predominantly Muslim Chinese province of Yunnan. Since its inception, Khao Soi has evolved over the years, drawing from different cultures and traditions. Today it is mainly associated with the Northern Thailand region, particularly Chiang Mai.
The dish is traditionally made from red Thai chilli, ginger, turmeric, shallots, roasted coriander seeds and black cardamom, which is ground into a thick paste in a mortar. This paste is fried in a pan, marinated in a protein of your choice (usually chicken), and then dipped in coconut milk. And despite the scorching hot weather, Khao Soi is a year-round clue that deserves to be fed, no matter how badly the meat (or curry) sweats. Here are the best we’ve seen in and around the city.
Where: 8101 S Quebec St, Centennial
hours: Closed on Mondays. Tuesday-Friday: 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Saturday: 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
The low point: Owned and operated by married couple Chuthamet Panthawong and Kritcharat Chainarongsophon, At Nine Thai first opened in December 2018 in Greenwood Village. The opening of another location in the Denver Tech Center is planned for the end of July. Originally from Chiang Mai and Bangkok, the couple, with the help of their family, mixes northern and southern Thai cuisine together to offer Centennial with a much needed and long overdue authentic, local Thai place.
The Khao Soi here is an eye-catcher. Although the menu features staples like Som Tum (green papaya salad) and a Tom Yum hot pot, which are must-haves, Khao Soi ($ 10.95) is particularly spot on with traditional Chiang Mai flavors. Served with a variety of protein options, it is prepared with a special curry sauce. We don’t exactly know what’s in there, but that’s not for the faint of heart when it comes to seasoning. There are ways to keep it down, but don’t do it badly.
Where: 845 Colorado Blvd, Denver and 4370 Tennyson St, Denver
hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The low point: Swing Thai has expanded its presence in the greater Denver area since its inception in 1998 when Denver-based Jay Dedrick and Bangkok-based Siriporn “Duke” Tayaputch opened the restaurant’s first location near Wash Park. The chain now has a location on Colorado Boulevard, Tennyson Street, and the original location on Alameda Avenue and Pennsylvania Street was rebuilt to a new concept late last year, Hey Bangkok, which also serves up some delicious Khao Soi.
Swing Thai’s take on the signature dish “Kaw Soy Curry” ($ 14) is garnished with pickled cabbage, lime, and fried crispy egg noodles over the yellow curry sauce. It’s spicy, it’s rich, and it’s entitled to zero leftovers.
Where: 2134 Larimer Street, Denver
hours: Monday-Thursday: 11 a.m. – 9.30 p.m. Friday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday: 12 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday: 12 a.m. – 9.30 p.m.
The low point: Located in Ballpark, the modern twist on traditional Thai cuisine opened its first Denver location a decade after it was originally founded in downtown Boulder, Aloy Thai Cuisine. Owner Kim and her two daughters Bo Bean and Arisa Chanchokpong immigrated to Boulder in 2006 and opened their doors to serve authentic Thai dishes based on family recipes. The sisters Bean and Chanchokpong presented their contemporary concept at LoDo, Aloy Modern Thai, in 2016. The two combine traditional Thai cuisine with a focus on sustainability, community and awareness through a seasonal menu and working with local farmers to source healthy, local ingredients.
The atmosphere, quality of food, and culinary passion that goes into every meal extends to Kao Soi ($ 20.25) which is presented under special plates. Served with slow-cooked chicken, yellow coconut curry, and then topped with a fried egg, it’s surprisingly light and yet leaves you feeling full. Pair it with a Thai adult tea to cool off the heat.
Where: 406 E Colfax Ave, Denver
hours: Closed on Wednesdays. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. Friday: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday: 12 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The low point: Tasty Thai opened its first Denver location in April 2018 from Aom Roon with the help of their son Jortamoit (Jor) Dam Roon. The family-run, now three-member chain expanded to include Aurora after acquiring Bua Thai Traditional Thai in 2019. The most recent place, Tasty Thai and Sushi, opened in Westminster in January 2021. Part of the Mon ethnic group, the Roon family fled the genocide in Myanmar and looked for refugees in Thailand, eventually settling in Colorado in 2005. After holding multiple jobs, Aom brought her love and passion for Thai culture and food to Mile High City with the help of Jor.
Made with a homemade curry paste and an assortment of proteins, the Khaw Soy ($ 12) is an authentic method of hearty and delicious curry-based soup. And the menu says it’s spicy. So keep a couple of napkins ready, it could drip.
Where: 8000 E Quincy Ave, Denver and 218 Union Blvd, Lakewood
hours: Monday-Sunday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The low point: Tuk Tuk Thai Grill opened in Colorado in 2000, expanded at Denver Tech Center in 2004, and Lakewood in 2009. Sumalee (Mama Sue) and Vichol (Papa Vic) Chinsomboon emigrated to the USA 50 years ago. Today the company is family-run by the daughters Minty Chinsomboon and Mildy Sundarapura as well as Mildy’s husband Chawanon.
Mama Sue’s recipes have evolved to be more in line with western-style pallets. But even if it’s not entirely traditional, it’s still a worthy game. The Khao Soi ($ 14) here is made with a mix of yellow and red curries that tailor them for seasoning and flavor. Last October, Mama Sue launched her own homemade chili oil brand – she’s not big retired – Mama Sue’s Kitchen, which had pop-ups in Denver, including at Dairy Block and Infinite Monkey Therom, with plans to announce more pop-ups soon.
Where: 2120 S Broadway, Denver
hours: Tuesday-Friday: 11 a.m. – 2.30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday: 4.30 p.m. – 9 p.m. Saturday & Sunday: 4.30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
The low point: Owners Rick and Noy Farrell opened the first Taste of Thailand restaurant in Englewood in 1994 and moved to its new location on South Broadway in 2015. Chef Noy brings visitors – literally – a taste of Thailand; She travels home every year (minus in 2020) and returns from Thailand in large quantities with spices from the region to be stored and used in recipes all year round. Noy and Rick grow herbs, leaves, seeds, fruits and more in their garden to throw in dishes as well. So Denverites not only get a literal taste of Thailand, but a full helping of love and fellowship with every dish and ingredient.
Noy’s Khao Soi ($ 14.95) is on the special menu for obvious reasons. It takes time to cook, and she uses a mix of turmeric, curry, and herbal spices for the broth, while the chicken legs marinate overnight in red curry, coconut milk, and lemongrass. This is slowly cooked in the curry, topped with crispy noodles and classic spices, including basil leaves. She is a seasoned cook, to say the least, who has taught Thai cooking classes in Boston and Denver. For an authentic taste of Thailand in Denver, head to South Broadway.
Where: 1700 plate St Suite 140, Denver
hours: Monday-Thursday: 5pm – 10pm Friday & Saturday: 12pm – 10pm Sunday: 12pm – 9pm
The low point: Chef Ounjit Hardacre started running a small noodle cafe in Bangkok and then worked in upscale Thai restaurants in San Francisco while completing her MBA. She brought her cooking skills to Daughter Thai Kitchen & Bar in 2019 and runs it together with Dueanphen Rungru-eang and Orrapan Bottaisong
Khao Soi Kai ($ 19) is served with shredded chicken and topped with a hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts, and crispy red and green onions. For a sturdy upgrade, try Mae Sai-style, served with slow braised rib and then drizzled with thick, creamy curry sauce – a common way to cook the dish in Thailand’s northern Chiang Rai province. Choose your fighter: mild, medium or spicy. But that’s Thai spicy so be ready to work up a sweat if you go for the brave choice.
Where: 98 Wadsworth Blvd # 117, Lakewood
hours: Closed on Monday. Tuesday-Saturday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sunday: 11:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
The low point: The family-run mother-daughter duo May Uree and Toon Imjart are running the show at this cozy Lakewood restaurant, which in May 2019 infused traditional Thai cuisine with Californian-inspired culinary skills – think loaded vegetables – and an inviting and relaxed ambience in the heart of one of the busiest areas of Denver Metro.
Authentically Thai, Farmhouse Thai Eatery offers an endless variety of options, but the Kao Soi ($ 15) flavor profile is excellent, with spices that have it all. Served with egg noodles in coconut curry sauce with a quarter of chicken legs, presentation alone is what you might find closest to Thai street food in Denver.