Khao Soi

Khao Soi

Chiang Mai signature dish is a creamy, spicy
Thai comfort curry with noodles two ways and
a side order of zesty pickled cabbage.

Khao soi is thought to have roots in Myanmar (Burma), where Chinese Muslims from Yunnan province brought an early version down to Thailand and Laos. Originally said to be halal (so, pork free), it now can contain pork, as well as the more usual beef and chicken. Curry paste was added later, along with coconut milk, to create a rich, reasonably spicy dish that is enjoyed mainly in the afternoon and evening.

You’ll need
2–3 cups vegetable oil, plus
2 tbs, for frying
2½ tbs red curry paste
1 tsp curry powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cardamom
3 cups unsweetened coconut
1½–2kg (3–4lb) chicken, cut
into 6 pieces
1¾ cups chicken stock
1 tsp sugar
2 tbs fish sauce, or more to
700g (1½lb) fresh egg noodles
or 350g (¾lb) dried
2–6 dried red chillies
⅓ cup shallots, thinly sliced
¾ cup Chinese pickled
mustard greens, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
handful coriander leaves
(cilantro), chopped
⅓ cup spring onions, chopped

Cooking Method
1 Heat 2 tbs of the oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat then add the red curry paste, curry powder, turmeric and optional cardamom. Cook, stirring constantly for about two minutes.
2 Add one cup of the coconut milk and bring to a boil, stirring well for about two minutes. Add one more cup of coconut milk, return to a boil, and again boil for about two minutes.
3 Add the chicken pieces, one cup of chicken stock and remaining coconut milk then bring to a boil again. Simmer and thin the broth as needed with chicken stock or water.
4 Add the sugar and fish sauce. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
5 If you’re using dried noodles, cook all the noodles in a large pot of boiling water, stirring well till they are tender but firm, about seven minutes or more. If you’re using fresh noodles, set aside one cup, then boil the rest till tender and firm, about three minutes. Drain and rinse well in cold water then add a dash of oil and mix well to prevent the noodles from sticking together. If you used dried noodles, set aside one cup of the noodles and dry them with a clean dishtowel.
6 Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Place the cup of towel-dried noodles or the cup of uncooked fresh noodles into the saucepan a few strands at a time. Fry them, turning once, until crisp and golden. Remove from the heat and set aside. Add the dried chillies to the pan and fry for a few seconds until they puff up; set aside.
7 Divide the remaining boiled noodles into four bowls. Ladle the chicken curry over the noodles and top with shallots, mustard greens, fried noodles, lime wedges, fried chillies, coriander leaves and spring onion, and serve.

Tasting notes
If you’re lucky, the noodles might still be made manually, with the wheat ground, boiled, stretched and sliced by hand. What you want in the dish is balance: spice, but not so much it overpowers;  milk, added in just the right amount so it doesn’t overwhelm and make everything dull and overly sweet. The meat should be cooked in the broth, the noodles soft and chewy. The deep-fried noodles on top should shatter between the teeth. Oh, and that pickled cabbage is essential: it adds a welcome sour note, along with the lime. Sit down at the rickety table, and slurp and sip to your heart’s content. Khao soi satisfies every eating urge.

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