Khao Soi and Coffee in Nan Town, Northern Thailand.
This past weekend, we were lucky enough to travel to the beautiful, little visited province of Nan in Northern Thailand and we absolutely loved it. The first two days were spent on a tour checking out the surrounding countryside and meeting the locals through a company called thaiguide.com.
The third day we had to ourselves so being that Nan is in Northern Thailand, and Northern Thailand is famous for my two favourite things in Thailand – Khao soi and coffee, I only had one thing on my mind; to find the best of both! I did my research and decided on a restaurant called Wanda for the khao soi, which is bang in the middle of town and Cafe Soodgongdee for the coffee, which we had passed earlier across the river.
After a wander around the town’s most famous and significant temple, Wat Phumen, we got on Google Maps and had a little stroll down towards the river to find the restaurant.
Wanda is a classic, open air restaurant with big pots of different dishes to choose from right at the entrance as you walk in. So far, so good.
There are two different types of meat to choose from for the khao soi here, chicken and pork. We decided on a bowl of the chicken each, and I was also pleased to see khao kan jin (rice with pork blood steamed in banana leaf) on the menu, so I had to order a portion of that as well!
If you follow my blog on a regular basis, you’ll know how fussy I am when it comes to khao soi, especially in Bangkok, so I was a little nervous that I’d made the wrong choice of restaurant as this was going to be the only chance I had to review somewhere this weekend. As soon as the khao soi came and I took a mouthful, though, my fears were quickly allayed; this was a proper khao soi!
There are different styles of khao soi, depending on where you go; some are heavy on the coconut milk, some are thinner and oily, the khao soi at Wanda sits nicely in the middle. It comes with a thinnish broth heavily spiced with coriander seeds and black cardamom and a gentle drizzle of reduced coconut cream over the top that adds a pleasing richness. It’s very reminiscent of the khao soi at my favourite restaurant in Chiang Mai – Khao Soi Samer Jai.
Under the broth, you’ll find blanched egg noodles and on top, thinner, crunchy, deep fried noodles which add a great texture to the dish. As with all khao soi, you get all the usual condiments; fresh lime wedges roasted chilli oil, sliced shallots/red onion and pickled cabbage so you can adjust the taste of the dish to suit yourself.
I tasted the soup as it came and was happy enough but once I added the lime, chilli, and cabbage, it took the whole thing to another level. It’s a bold statement, but I’m going to say it anyway, this is one of the best khao soi I’ve had anywhere in Thailand!
Next up was the khao kan jin. This simple rice dish is one of my favourites, and the version at Wanda didn’t disappoint. The rice had a soft, chewy texture and was rich from the blood and fat it’s steamed with. It comes served with crispy, fried garlic for extra taste and texture. The one thing I will say is that it definitely could have been warmer but I guess they steam them all at once in the morning so It would have been hotter if we’d got there earlier.
So, the two khao soi and the khao kan jeen came to a grand total of 90 baht which at the moment is around £2 or $2.80!
If you’ve got time, you can check out the video below for a full review.
Here’s the map to Wanda:
After we finished we hopped on our scooter and headed back across the river to find the coffee shop. Cafe’ Soodgongdee isn’t on the sign in English but it does say ‘coffee shop, bakery, and bistro’ so you’ll know you’re in the right spot. Besides, Google Maps took us right to the door so as long as you have data, you’ll find it no problem.
Cafe Soodgongdee looks quite small from the outside but opens out into a great space once you get inside. Its decor is funky, with lots of bare wood, beer signs and different shaped mugs and glasses on display. There’s a fairly large open air seating area which runs up to another seating area overlooking the Nan River.
I ordered a hot Latte and Helen grabbed an iced coffee and we went to sit upstairs and take in the river view.
We were told by Peter, the manager at Sangthong Resort on the first day that Nan produced the best coffee in Thailand and on this evidence it would be hard to argue with him. The coffee was incredible, as was every cup we had the whole weekend. The Nan coffee has a slight sweetness to it without any need for sugar, which is hard to explain.
I wouldn’t say that the coffee at Soodgongdee was that much better than anywhere else we tried but they do serve amazing coffee in by far the best space in the town which makes it the number one choice for us. They also have a variety of craft beers, cakes and Thai and Western food here, making it the perfect place to spend a late afternoon evening relaxing after a walk around town.
Two coffees and a bottle of soda water set as back a whopping 140 baht which is £3 or $3.90!
Here are the directions to Cafe Soodgongdee: