The one, the only, The Khao Soi Cowboy at Soul Food 555. All photos by the author.

This Khao Soi Burger Is No Joke

In Thai, the number five is pronounced “ha,” so instead of typing “LOL,” Thais write “555.” That's what inspired Soul Food 555's namesake and its unserious approach to Thai mash-ups, like its over-the-top Khao Soi Burger.

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Apr 18 2016, 4:00pm

The one, the only, The Khao Soi Cowboy at Soul Food 555. All photos by the author.

There's nothing funny about Soul Food 555—well, except for its name and its insane menu.

In Thai, the number five is pronounced "ha," so instead of typing "LOL" or "ha ha ha," Thais write "555."

"I thought 'ha ha ha' would be kind of funny," owner Jarrett Wrisley said of coming up with a name for his new concept.

(From left) Soul Food 555's head chef Sathid _Tum_ Kangsungnern and Wrisley are all laughs at

(From left) Soul Food 555's head chef Sathid Tum Kangsungnern and Wrisley are all laughs at "Ha Ha Ha." All photos by the author.

Because 555 is a casual iteration of his popular Bangkok Thai restaurant, Soul Food Mahanakorn, it makes sense that the menu is filled with some hilariously bastardized dishes.

For example, the Khao Soi Cowboy Burger is a khao soi-ed burger named after one of Bangkok's most notorious strip club streets.

I take a $2.85 shot of tequila with a sour green mango and chile pickleback while Wrisley breaks down where the burger came from.

Tequila blanco goes down smooth with mango pickleback.

Tequila blanco goes down smooth with mango pickleback.
The Khao Soi Cowboy pork gets cooked in khao soi gravy before it gets pulled apart. The Khao Soi Cowboy pork gets cooked in khao soi gravy before it gets pulled apart.

A few years ago, the American expat was tasked with catering an event for a local bar. Wrisley realized it would be difficult to make party-friendly Thai food for the occasion.

"Thai food is not very portable, so I was thinking of ways to make a Thai dish that you could eat with your hands, standing up in a crowded parking lot with drunk people."

The result of his brainstorming was a Thai/American mash-up way better than typical fusion food.

"I just sort of came up with the idea of doing a pulled pork khao soi burger with all of the elements of khao soi inside of it," Wrisley said. "You still have the mustard pickles, the fresh herbs—I add a little mint and coriander—fresh shallot and crispy noodles."

The Khao Soi Cowboy Burger has found a permanent home at 555 alongside other epic eats like The Risky Chicken, a burger that brings together the popular som tam and fried chicken street food combo under one fluffy bun—peanuts and all.

"The idea is to serve really high-quality product but in an unconventional way," Wrisley said. "So we have sandwiches that are logical in a Thai way, but served on bread which is completely illogical to Thais."

The Risky Chicken's som tam even includes peanuts and fresh Thai chiles.

The Risky Chicken's som tam even includes peanuts and fresh Thai chiles.
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There's more to 555 than burgers, although Wrisley had intended to only offer five food items and five drinks.

"Originally we did do that, but people wanted more food, and actually I have a pretty substantial kitchen here," Wrisley said, "So I added some ap klaem, some bar snack stuff, homemade sausages, banana flower fritters—shit that you want to eat when you're drunk."

One of Wrisley's favorite menu items is the Australian wagyu grapow with shimeji mushrooms.

"I just love grapow, so I wanted to do different kinds of weird grapows," he said. "Like lamb with cumin. We use a cumin leaf, organic rice, and a duck egg."

Grab some pickled watermelon to nosh on between bites of The Risky Chicken.

Grab some pickled watermelon to nosh on between bites of The Risky Chicken.
The Atlantic

During Wrisley's first year in the Kingdom, the journalist-turned-restaurateur explored the country in search of stories, learning from locals, and working in kitchens. Eight years later, he's had the time to find some amazing ingredient sources for his restaurants. Like the rice farm in Yasothorn he found while reporting for .

"There's a collective of these kind of weird ex-communist Thais that have an organic commune up there," Wrisley said.

The more I talk to Wrisley, the clearer it becomes that he's a serious expert on Thai food, but not so serious that he can't have fun with the cuisine. And that's what makes Soul Food 555 seriously good.