Home > Asian, food, noodles, soup, Thai > Khao Soi: Northern Thai Curry Chicken Noodles

Khao Soi: Northern Thai Curry Chicken Noodles

Khao Soi

It has been a busy month of travel (both for work and fun) so I have a lot of catching up to do.

One of the most unforgettable dishes I had when I visited Thailand in 2009 was Khao Soi, a specialty from the northern city of Chiang Mai. It is a soup dish that consists of egg noodles with chicken stewed in a coconut curry base topped with crunchy fried noodles, pickled mustard greens, cilantro and lime. Other variations that I saw included bean sprouts and fresh shallots. One of my favorite things about Thai and Vietnamese dishes is the complex and juxtaposed flavors and textures: hot and cold, soft and crunchy, fresh and pickled, spicy, sour and sweet.

Below are pictures of two amazing bowls I had in Chiang Mai:

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

I forgot that I had bookmarked a recipe for this dish until my friend Tom, who traveled with me in Thailand, made some. The recipe is surprisingly straightforward except I had some trouble finding “Chinese Bah Mi Noodles” as prescribed in the recipe. I stood for several minutes, a bit overwhelmed, staring at the vast selection of fresh noodles available at the Asian market, none which were labeled “bah mi”…so I just chose some thick egg noodles and went with that. Mine were shaped more like chow mein…and when I fried up some noodles they even tasted like fried chow mein noodles but the package said they were thick egg. I think traditionally, you want wide, flat egg noodles, but like any recipe, everyone’s is a little different and you work with what you have.

Khao Soi

Chicken Curry (recipe barely adapted from Chez Pim)

makes ~4 servings

  • 3 lbs of bone-in chicken (legs, thighs, breast…whatever you like)
  • 4-5 Tbsp red curry paste
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth (or more depending upon the consistency you want)
  • a pinch of palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • fish sauce to taste
  1. In a hot heavy-bottomed pot, add the oil, red curry paste, curry powder and turmeric. Fry spices until fragrant.
  2. Stir in 1 can of coconut milk and let everything come to a boil. Continue stirring and let the mixture bubble for a few minutes on high heat until you see the red oil separating from the coconut milk mixture. Add another 1/2 can of coconut milk, again waiting until the oil separates.
  3. Add the chicken to the pot, with the 1 cup of chicken broth and the rest of the coconut milk. Let the pan come back to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer.
  4. Add a pinch of sugar and some fish sauce, starting with 2-3 glugs. Close the lid and let it simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through. At this point, the curry should be salty, spicy, and have a very slight after taste of sweetness. When you taste the curry at this stage, it should be a bit saltier than how you’d like the final dish to taste (remember you’ll be adding fresh ingredients to the final dish).
  5. Add more fish sauce if you want and if the curry is too thick for you, add more chicken broth until you have the consistency you would like. I forgot this step and the soup was more of a gravy. It tasted great but I want my noodles a little soupier next time.
  6. As your curry cooks, start prepping your garnishes (below).

Khao Soi

This is definitely a 3-pot meal, but clean as you go and the end result is totally worth it!

Khao Soi

Khao Soi

Everything Else

  • fresh Chinese egg noodles (don’t buy thin egg noodles like you’d use for wonton noodles)
  • oil for frying
  • thinly sliced fresh shallots or fried shallots (fresh shallots are more traditional. fried shallots are due to my Vietnamese influence and general distaste for raw onions)
  • fresh bean sprouts (optional but recommended!)
  • pickled mustard greens, thinly sliced (available at the Asian market. Chinese or Japanese style works great)
  • 1-2 limes, cut into wedges
  • handful of cilantro, chiffonade
  1. Take a handful of the noodles and chop into 1-2 inch pieces. In hot oil, fry noodles until golden and set aside. I would recommend only doing a small amount at a time as the noodles fry up quickly. Turn around to do something else and the noodles will be burnt. Also, don’t be lazy. Fry your noodles! It’s not a lot of work and adds a satisfying crunch to your final dish.
  2. After your chicken curry is done, boil your noodles according to the directions.
  3. Put the noodles in a bowl, top with the curry and add your garnishes to taste: fried noodles, pickled mustard, bean sprouts, cilantro, fresh or fried shallots and a healthy squeeze of lime.
  4. I like to serve this with a side of sliced cucumbers to cool things down while eating these spicy delicious noodles. Joel loved pairing the Khao Soi with a big hoppy IPA.

Khao Soi

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Categories: Asian, food, noodles, soup, Thai Tags: , ,
  1. tom
    May 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    next time i say you pickle your shallots

  2. ajawon
    May 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    Man, that looks really good!

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