Those who regularly follow this blog (shout out to all six of you) may have noticed that I haven’t posted anything in a while. That’s largely because I’ve been away travelling around the world for a bit, a trip I had to cut slightly short due to the combination of a Colombian carnival, the world’s worst stomach infection and the most incompetent doctors I’ve had the displeasure of encountering. Sounds like the start of a bad joke, but unfortunately it was far from funny.
But what better way to treat my stomach after weeks of literal starvation than with the soothing, coconut-cream flavours of Thai food? Khao soi gai (or just khao soi for short) may not be the first name on people’s lips when they think of Thai cuisine, but this dish, hailing from the north of the country, is a truly underappreciated gem.
There are heaps of different ways you can make this dish, but this recipe is simple enough to get started on. Here’s my take on it.
Making the soup
The first step is to create the actual soup/broth that forms the foundation of khao soi. Heat some vegetable oil (I used sesame) in a saucepan, then chuck in four tablespoons of Thai red curry paste. Bring the heat down so you don’t fry the paste to a dry crisp, and let it sit for a few minutes.
Add two teaspoons of curry powder and a large pinch of chilli flakes, mix around for a minute or so, then add your coconut milk, coconut cream, chicken stock, fish sauce and a dash of lime juice.
Make sure you really give the soup a good stir, breaking up any remaining lumps of curry paste on the bottom of the pan. You’ll soon start to notice the soup thicken and the delicious scent of chicken curry waft up from the pan.
Once the soup is simmering, add your chopped chicken pieces and let it cook on a low-medium heat until the chicken is done. This should take no longer than 15-20 minutes.
Where the carbs at though
The second major component of the dish is, of course, making the noodles that go with it. Use any kind of egg noodles you want – dried or fresh, thick or thin.
Cook your noodles according to the packet instructions, drain and make sure you have a little bit left over – because we’re going to be doing this:
The cheeky layer of crispy noodles that tops khao soi is one of the dish’s distinguishing features, and it’s easy to make. Simply coat the bottom of a wok or similar saucepan with a thin layer of vegetable oil, heat and drop in a handful of your cooked noodles.
Let it fry for a minute, then turn over with a pair of tongs and fry the other side too until golden-brown and nice and crispy. Transfer onto some kitchen paper on a plate and season with salt. You may have to do this in one or two batches depending on how much you’re serving.
Finally, to serve, place some of the cooked noodles in a bowl, ladle in some soup and chicken, and garnish with mung beans, chopped spring onion, coriander, sliced red onion, fried shallot, chilli oil, the crispy fried noodles and a lime wedge.
The end result
My trip getting curtailed meant I missed out on a planned stopover in Thailand, but who cares when you can make khao soi this good yourself.
Despite the significant presence of chilli in its various forms, the dish is surprisingly mild, thanks to the amazing creaminess of the soup. The zesty greens and condiments in the garnish go well with the thick broth, while there’s also a cool interplay between the crunchy and soft noodles.
- Be liberal with the ingredients that go into the soup, and use a bit more than what’s stated in the recipe. Khao soi is often eaten with minimal soup, just enough to “lubricate” the noodles and allow you to swish it around in the bowl. Some people will prefer to have a lot more broth with their noodles though. Up to you.
- While it’s pretty standard for the most part, what you include in the garnish is completely up to you as well. For example, I left out the pickled chilli and shallots that the above recipe mentions (because I couldn’t find them at the supermarket lmao). Add or remove whatever you wish, and think about what else goes well with South East Asian dishes, such as pickled cabbage.