Dish: Khao Soi Gai
Place: Little Uncle, Capitol Hill
On the plate: Per the menu: "Chiang Mai curry egg noodles, stewed chicken, pickled mustard, fried shallots." "Mustard" is mustard greens. There's also red onion, bean sprouts, ginger strips, cilantro, a lime wedge, and fried noodles.
Supporting cast/What to do: Buy this to-go, and you'll get separate packages--noodles and fresh ingredients in one, and curry in the other. Mix them together at home. But if you eat on-site, it all comes in one bowl, with a side of dried chile flakes. Squeeze some lime, mix the broth well, and add flakes as you like.Noodling around: Little Uncle's Khao Soi Gai gives you two types of noodles. Get your bowl and you immediately notice the tangles of fried noodles tempting you to grab them by hand and start eating them. Below the broth you find the soft noodles. Little Uncle uses Rose Brand egg noodles from the International District's Tsue Chong Company.
Leading with the two kinds of noodles, texture is the most compelling aspect of this bowl. The fried shallots add more crunch, and there's also the ginger, the bean sprouts, and the flavorful chicken--both dark meat and white meat--from Mad Hatcher.
The balance of flavors is also fabulous. I especially like the use of pickled mustard greens, with both stems and leaves present. I only wish there was more depth to the light, chicken-based broth, which is clean and refined and made with fresh-squeezed coconut milk. The curry flavor does get a boost from the dried chile flakes, so I eventually emptied the whole cup into the bowl.
Pricing is perhaps a little high for the portion size, but you're paying for high-quality ingredients.
If you want more: Sala Bao ($3.30 each) are braised beef cheeks in a steamed bun. They come with pickles and fried garlic, and are a nice starting bite. You can also check to see what dessert is being featured. The day I tried the noodles, I opted for Nam Keng Sai ($5.50), made with an old-fashioned shaved ice maker. Mine had lychee, jackfruit, and rhubarb along with coconut syrup, but the fruits will change with the season.
Be aware/beware: Little Uncle is essentially a street food place right on Madison Street. You order at the "window," or online where you can designate a 15-minute window for arrival. Most people get their food to go, though there are a few tables on the sidewalk, and one tucked into the building alongside the kitchen, safeguarded a bit from the elements. Your food is freshest if you eat on-site, but you'll be dealing with bus noise and the like.
The menu changes frequently, so you'll want to check online to see what's on offer.