How Chinese Genocide Created One of Thailand’s National Dishes

Discover the delicious and satisfying dish of Khao Soi, a Northern Thai street food. Learn about the flavors and ingredients that make it so special, and the dark origins rooted in the genocide of over one million ethnic minorities. Explore how the dish was adopted and adapted by the Thai people to become a beloved national dish and the cultural heritage it represents.

Introducing Khao Soi: A Delicious Northern Thai Street Food

Eating khao soi is an experience; an experience that everyone should try at least once in their life. It is a must-try-dish and one of the favourite Thai dishes to have if it is on the menu. It is spicy, sour, sweet, and savoury all at once and perfectly balanced. Each bite of this soup satisfies all your tastebuds and brings great happiness. If you haven’t tried it, you should at least try it once.

What actually is khao soi (ข้าวซอย)? Khao soi (sometimes called Thai curry egg noodles) is a Northern Thai street food typically made of deep-fried crispy egg noodles, pickled mustard greens, shallots, lime, ground chillies fried in oil, and meat in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk.

Every ingredient in this dish serves a purpose. Frying the chillies in oil brings out fragrance and taste. Coconut milk is added to balance out the heat of the chillies. Lime is added as an acid to tenderize the meat and let the soup flavours penetrate the meat better. Pickled mustard greens and fried noodles give a crunch and add sour notes to balance the hot and sour tastes of the soup. Shallots are added to give the creamy and spicy soup a richness. It all comes together and is perfectly balanced to create an amazing flavour.

However, this dish has dark origins; origins rooted in the genocide of over one million ethnic minorities and the displacement of them from China to Southeast Asia.

From Yunnan to Thailand: The Displacement of Ethnic Minorities and the Birth of Khao Soi

The year is 1856 in Yunnan, China. The atrocities committed under Qing Dynasty imperial rule are innumerable. Men, executed for not following Mongolian fashion standards. Artists and writers, hanged, jailed, or fined for writing or painting anything deemed subversive. Books, banned and burned. Unmarried and widowed women commit suicide at unprecedented rates due to being classified as unpure and segregated from society. Homosexuality was also punished and criminalized.

Of course, those who sought to criticize officials enforcing such tyranny were rounded up and executed publically, often, in extraordinarily humiliating and painful ways such as ling chi (凌迟), the slow process of slowly slicing someone with a blade over and over until they eventually died.

Not only that, but imperial rulers also instituted race and class warfare through segregation between the two main ethnicities living in Yunnan: the Han and the Hui. Han people are the largest ethnic group in modern China, making up 94% of the population. In fact, they are the world’s largest ethnic group today, making up about 18% of the global population.

Meanwhile, the Hui people are an ethnoreligious group composed of Chinese-speaking adherents of Islam. They descend from Han Chinese and Silk Road immigrants. Hui ancestors were primarily East Asian and Central Asian in origin; however, by the time, most Hui was very similar to East Asian populations and had similar genetic homogeneity with Han Chinese.

The Hui people were subject to extreme discrimination and persecution by the imperial rulers. They were forced to wear special clothing, forbidden from owning property, and were not allowed to intermarry with Han Chinese. They were also heavily taxed and had to pay extra fees to practice their religion.

Adapting and Adopting: How Khao Soi Became a Beloved National Dish

Eventually, pressures created by such extreme discrimination by imperial rule boiled over and caused the local population to rebel. This rebellion led to the displacement of over one million ethnic minorities, primarily Hui people, from China to Southeast Asia. Many of these refugees settled in present-day Thailand, bringing with them their unique culture and cuisine, including the dish khao soi.

It is important to note that while khao soi may have originated from the displacement of Hui people, the dish has since been adopted and adapted by the Thai people and is now considered a beloved national dish. However, the origins of the dish serve as a reminder of the atrocities committed under imperial rule and the impact it had on the lives of ethnic minorities.

The Hui people, who settled in Thailand, brought with them their unique culinary skills and knowledge. The dish khao soi, which was a staple of their diet back in China, was adapted to include local ingredients and spices to suit the Thai palate. Over time, this dish became a popular street food in Northern Thailand and eventually, it became a part of the Thai national cuisine.

The Hui people’s influence on Thai cuisine is not limited to khao soi. Many other dishes, such as khao kha mu (stewed pork trotters) and jin deui (deep-fried sesame balls), have also been adopted and adapted by the Thai people, becoming popular street foods and national dishes.

Remembering the Past: The Human Cost of Khao Soi’s Origins

As we enjoy the delicious dish of khao soi, it is important to remember the history and the human cost behind it. The origins of this dish are a reminder of the atrocities committed under imperial rule and the impact it had on the lives of ethnic minorities. It is also a reminder of the resilience and adaptability of the Hui people, who despite facing persecution and displacement, were able to preserve their culture and cuisine, passing it on to future generations.

In conclusion, khao soi is a delicious and satisfying dish that is a must-try for anyone visiting Thailand. However, it is important to remember the dark origins of the dish and the human cost that it represents. As we savour each bite of khao soi, let us remember the history and the people who brought this dish to us. Let us appreciate the unique blend of flavours and the cultural heritage that it represents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *