It wasn't till I made a post searching for new places serving Khao Soi on chowhound that I realized I'd been overlooking my favorite (only?) Burmese restaurant in New York, Mingala. Of course! I should have known that given the origins of the spices from Myanamar and the name 'khao soi' from the Burmese 'kow suer' for 'fold-pull', referring to the action of pulling the noodles integral to the dish (and not “to enter the lane” or 'big mountain' as many have attempted to interpret the name as Thai words), that this place must serve it. I'd been going to Mingala for years for their great green tea salad, made from the hard-to-find-in-NYC fermented green tea leaves. Don't let me get started on this extremely addictive dish, which I could start another whole blog on if there weren't so few Burmese restaurants in NY. I got my friends in San Francisco hooked on this dish from Burma Super Star and they would curse me as they would dream about this dish after having it and practically sleep walk to the restaurant to get it in the days before ambien and the sleep snacking epidemic. Actually you might need some sleeping aids after having the green tea salad since it packs some serious caffeine as your basically eating whole tea leaves which have more caffeine by weight than coffee beans even though when brewed coffee has more caffeine extracted. But I would advocate a nice herbal brew of catnip, hops, passion flower, valerian, chamomile, and skullcap to help fall asleep blissfully instead of pills, as long as you can wrest the catnip from your cats!
I don't know how I'd overlooked this noodle dish on Mingala's menu so long, but then when I check on the advice from chowhounder GingerSpice, yep, there it was: Swe Taung Kow Swear room temperature egg noodles, chicken cabbage, coconut milk, onion, coriander, twist of lemon and crispy noodle on top, a perfect description of Khao Soi if I'd just bothered to read it. I coaxed my friends Becca, Cassie, and Robert into going there without mentioning the Khao Soi, though it was easy since Cassie and Robert, both visiting from out of town, were recovered green tea salad addicts from SF and Burma Super Star, and I swear that whenever Robert visits NY a few times a year, he only goes to Mingala, and no other restaurants. Cassie will hopefully become my Chicago Khao soi correspondent if she can make it to the other side of the city for it.
Maybe since it was getting late and we didn't want to be kept up all night, we didn't order the green tea salad for once. Instead we ordered in addition to the Kow swear some thousand layer bread, tamin let-thoke (cold rice noodle salad), and some other tamarind thoke salad, the last two of which we couldn't tell apart at all aside from one having more rice and the other more noodles. I was bit disappointed with these other dishes this time around at Mingala, being nothing in comparison to the Rangoon night market noodles, Basil Soybean, and Mango vegetables that I usually get. I'm not sure whether it was an off night there or if it was those dishes. Both were pretty bland and needed a good amount of hot sauce to spice them up.
The Kow Swear was totally different from the Thai version I'm used to, but as this is the first Burmese version I've had of it, it's hard to know if that's just Mingala's version of it or the Burmese always prepare it like that. It had a few of the toppings I love like the fried shallots and mung beans, but lacked much curry and sourness from the lime and pickled mustard greens, again needing hot sauce to enliven the dish. Perhaps if we'd asked for some lime to squeeze over it, this would've helped, but otherwise just a novelty to order if you want to try the full gamut of Khao soi. Now I just have to find the Lao version of it. Too bad the only Lao restaurant I can find in NYC has its menu solely in Chinese, so I may just have to go hang out there all day and night till someone orders something remotely Khao-soi-looking so I can point at it!
Definitely check out Mingala for their other dishes, but don't make the Kow swear the first or only dish you order. Unfortunately, the other Upper East Side branch of Mingala does not serve the Kow Suer.
21 E 7th St
New York NY 10003
between 2nd and 3rd ave.