Khao soi is a specialty of Chiang Mai, a special place in Northern Thailand, far from the urban bustle of Bangkok and the tourist-driven beach life of the South. Gold temple roofs poke out of green jungles and purple mountains rise in the distance. Vendors on the side of the road might be selling sour sausages grilled in a barrel, or sticky-rice-stuffed bamboo, or noodles.
Unlike the sausages or bamboo, these noodles are not difficult to recreate at home. The sauce gets its flavor from Thai red curry paste, coconut milk and curry powder, all readily available in Asian markets or online. And while fresh or dried Asian-style egg noodles might be more difficult to find, the sauce tastes just as good with an Italian-style egg noodle like a pappardelle.
As is usual with Thai food, the garnishes can be tweaked to your preferences. I love the combination of curry and crispy shallots, so I like to slowly cook shallot slices in oil while the curry simmers, though a more traditional topping is a few fried noodles. Chopped peanuts, cilantro and lots of lime juice are a few more of my personal must-haves. A pickled garnish helps cut through the richness of the sauce, whether you go traditional (pickled mustard greens) or a little unconventional (sauerkraut — it's good!).
The slightly spicy sauce tastes even better the next day, making this a unique make-ahead dinner party option for guests looking to try something new, or simply a comforting weeknight dinner with really great lunch leftovers.
Egg Noodles in Rich Chicken Curry Sauce (Khao Soi)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 - 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste, depending on spice preference
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 8 oz), cut into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
8 ounces fresh or dried egg noodles (Asian-style or Italian)
Thinly sliced shallots, raw or fried
Roasted chopped peanuts
Chopped green onion
Pickled mustard greens
Fried egg noodles
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and chopped shallot and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the curry paste and curry powder and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, chicken thighs, fish sauce, and sugar. Stir everything together, scraping up any curry paste that has stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook noodles according to package directions, timing it so that the noodles will be cooked when the curry is done simmering. Drain and divide between two bowls. Top with curry and the garnishes of your choice. Serve immediately.
• You can substitute the chicken with other types of meat, tofu or vegetables.
• Sauce can be made one day ahead and refrigerated. Reheat and serve with freshly-cooked noodles and garnishes.
(Images: Anjali Prasertong)