Thai Chicken Biryani, Halal Chicken and Curry Rice, Khao Mok Gai

Thai Chicken Rice Biryani

I’m filling a special request before I continue with the noodles series. This dish is not widely known among foreigners yet, but it starting to become popular because the ingredients are quite familiar to most palettes and the flavors are just simply irresistible.

Khao Mok Gai is also a one-plate dish. It consists of yellow fragrant rice sprinkled with crispy fried shallots and served with a piece of chicken that seems to be baked (but isn’t). The authentic Thai won’t serve this dish completely by itself, of course. It would be accompanied with cucumber, tomato and the most important part, Nam Jim. The dipping sauce for this dish is very specific. I didn’t write about it in the “Basic Thai Dipping Sauce” post. Even though this looks green, it’s not the same as the “Nam Jim Seafood”. It has mint leaves and ginger, which is different than in the seafood dipping sauce.

This dish was called “Khao Buri” or “Khao Bucori” in the old times. That’s how the Thai picked up the word “Biryani”. It originated from the Persian merchants who came into the region to trade and brought their own familiar cooking methods with them. It must have been a long time ago, because the dish was mentioned in a Thai literature classic from the 18th century.

If you know how to cook Biryani, you would understand how to cook this dish. Biryani is a way to prepare rice with a lot of herbs and spices cooked along with the meat, which also has been marinated with spices as well. The flavors become quite intricate from the mixture.

The Thai name Khao(rice) Mok (bury) Gai (chicken) is pretty much self-explanatory, because the way you cook this dish is to bury the chicken with the rice and cook them together.

Did I mention that this dish is a Halal dish? Yes, right there in the title. The dish is widely prepared and eaten mostly by the Muslim-Thai, so you can safely guess that there is no such thing as a Khao-Mok-Moo (pork).

The recipe I’m giving you is my own, adapted from my family recipe. This is the first time I measured all the ingredients, so you don’t need to be so strict with the amounts. You can adjust them based on your preference. The spice list is quite intimidating, but if you can’t find some of them, just omit them. It will come out all right anyway. I have done every variation possible and all of them taste good.

You probably found some recipes for this on the Internet vary in amount and type of spices used. As long as they cook it Biryani style, cooking the chicken and the rice together and not making fried rice and serving it with baked chicken, then I would say they should all be good too. Nope, unlike with authentic Thai recipes, I’m not trashing anyone else’s recipe yet. Some would add raisins, cashews, etc.  All fine by me.

I even have the super easy cheat recipe down below. The one that involves buying an envelope of the pre-mixed spices, already-fried shallots, chicken, a cup of yogurt and a cup of coconut milk, then you will be good to go (assuming that you have rice in your cupboard at all times, like a good Asian). Even at that, you will have a wonderful Khao-Mok-Gai.

Oh…if I know a simple and easy recipe, why do I sweat it? Because everything fresh and intricate doesn’t just give you pain and no gain. Doing everything from scratch, except maybe raising your own chicken and growing rice, always gives the food much more flavor. Also, I can’t voluntarily stuff too many unknown items in my system and be happy-go-lucky anymore. That’s why! Have you ever heard that food sensitivity tends to increase the longer you live and walk the earth? (Yes, the synonym for that is called “aging”…the ugliest word on earth but still not as ugly as its effect.)

Spices used for Thai Chicken Biryani, Khao Mok Gai

Top from left to right: Clove, White Pepper, Ground Coriander, Himalayan Salt
Middle: White Cardamom, Cinnamon powder, Turmeric powder, Granulated Sugar
Bottom: Garlic, Ground Cumin, Curry powder, Bay leaf

Ingredients for the marinade: (this is for half a chicken 1 breast, 1 thigh, and 2 drum sticks,  all with skin and bone attached)

Curry powder 2 teaspoons

Turmeric powder 1 teaspoons (or about 1 tablespoon chopped fresh)

Ground Coriander 1 teaspoons (or 1-1/2 teaspoons whole seeds)

Ground Cumin 1/2 teaspoons (or 3/4 teaspoons whole seeds)

Ground Cinnamon 1 teaspoon

White pepper powder 1 teaspoons (or 1-1/2 teaspoons whole)

Chopped garlic 1 tablespoon

White Cardamom 4 pieces

Clove 4 pieces

Bay leaf  2 leaves

Salt 1 teaspoons

Granulated sugar 2-3 teaspoons

Plain Yogurt 1/2-2/3 cup

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani

Method for the marinade:

1) Roast the dried spices over medium-low heat until they release their aromas.

2) Grind all the spices, either separate or together with the yogurt. I grind them together in the Vitamix but if you don’t have a powerful blender, just buy a cheap $10 coffee grinder and grind all the dry spices together before you mix them into the yogurt.

3) Using a plastic bag or large glass container, dip the chicken pieces in the yogurt mixture, put them in the bag and leave them in the fridge over night. This is REQUIRED—you can’t skip it. At the very least you should marinate the chicken for 4-6 hours.

Thai Chicken Rice Biryani

If you don’t marinate the chicken, it won’t run away while you’re cooking, but the flavors from the spices won’t have enough time to penetrate through the chicken, and the result would be the chicken and the rice, which is full of flavor since it’s in its nature to absorb anything, are going to clash. I wouldn’t do that. If I don’t have enough time to marinate the chicken, I would make the rice and eat it with deep fried chicken instead.

Now we are ready to talk about the rest of the components: the curry rice and the dipping sauce, or Nam Jim.

Let’s start with the charisma of the dish first, the dipping sauce. Thai people have the knack for “flavor adjusting”. The dipping sauce I would make to eat with this dish is full of fresh flavors to contrast with all the spices. There are several versions of the dipping sauce. I already gave you one in the dipping sauce post, Nam Jim Gai or sweet chili sauce.

You can use that one, but this is the proper dipping sauce for this dish.

ingredients for Khao Mok Gai sauce

Ingredients for the dipping sauce:

Spearmint leaves, loosely packed  1 cup (You can get this from the Asian market)

Cilantro, loosely packed 1 cup

Garlic 1 tablespoon

Ginger 1 tablespoon

(Optional) Green chili with or without the seeds, your choice also, as much as you want

(Optional) Green onion 1 stalk (I didn’t use this)

Vinegar 1/4 cup

Salt 1 teaspoon

Sugar 1/4 cup

Water 1/4 cup (My friend told me she uses Sprite or 7-up instead—try it if you like!)

(optional) Plain yogurt 2 tablespoons

Method for the dipping sauce:

1) Boil vinegar, sugar and salt together and let it rest until cool.

2) Puree the syrup, water or Sprite (yogurt too, if used) and all the vegetables together until they are all fine.

Alright, the chicken is marinated, dipping sauce is made. We’re ready for the big day.

Thai Chicken Rice Biryani

Ingredients for the rice:

Shallots, whole  about 1 cup

Vegetable oil 1/2 – 2/3 cup

Jasmine rice 2 1/2 cups

(Optional) Fresh garlic 18g

(Optional) Fresh ginger 18g

(Optional) Fresh Turmeric 18g

Salt 1/2 teaspoon

Coconut milk 1 cup

Water 2 cups

Star Anise 2 full flowers

A lot of cucumber and some cilantro

Method for the rice:

1) Slice shallots lengthwise and spread them out in a tray and let them sit to dry out for a few hours, turning them over a few times.

drying the shallots for deep fried crispy shallots

2) Put a wok or a pot on the stove at medium heat. We will be using only one pot so choose one with a lid. Wait until the temperature of the oil reaches 350ºF,add the sliced shallots to the hot oil and reduce the heat to medium-low,

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 6

fry until they’re almost golden,

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 7


turn off the heat and let them turn golden in the hot oil.Once they’re golden, take them out and lay them on paper towels to drain the oil right away.

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 8

You can’t multi-task while you fry shallots (called Jiew in Thai). You have to pay full attention or you could have a mishap just like this.

Left is the one I fry with full attention. Right: I was taking pictures, trying to do something else while frying them!

Left is the one I fried with full attention.
Right: I was taking pictures, trying to do something else while frying them!

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 3) Once you take crispy fried shallots out off the oil, keep the oil in the pan. Turn up the heat to medium-high.

4) Take the marinated chicken pieces out of the refrigerator

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 10

and fry them in the shallot-flavored oil,

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 11

just to brown the skin. You don’t need to cook them through.

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 12

Take the chicken out and rest it.

5) If you don’t want to use fresh herbs in the rice, skip to #6.

If you decided to add fresh garlic, ginger, turmeric to the rice, mush them in a mortar or chop them in a food processor.

6) Take some of the oil out of the wok, leaving only 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) in the wok

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 14

and fry the fresh herbs mixture in the oil at medium heat until fragrant.

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 15

7) Add the raw rice into the oil,

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 16

and stir fry it also at medium heat or medium-high until the grains are no longer translucent.

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 17

8) Add the leftover yogurt mixture to the rice, lower the heat, and stir fry until mixed well.

9) Add the chicken back to the wok.

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 18

10) Add water, coconut milk, salt and star anise, bring them to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and cover the wok.

Thai Chicken Rice Briyani 19

11) Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the rice absorbs all the liquid and the grains are cooked through.

While you are waiting you should slice the cucumber.

12) (Optional) Near the end, increase the heat to medium or medium-high. We’re creating “Tardig”, the crispy rice at the bottom, or the Thai would call it “Khao Tung”. Cook for five more minutes or until you get crispy rice at the bottom. You can see by the color turning slightly brown.

13) Turn off the heat. You are ready to serve. Add the crispy fried shallots to the top of the rice and eat with the dipping sauce and cucumber.

Easy recipe

Ingredients for the easy recipe:

Lobo pre-mixed Khao Mok Gai powder 1 envelope

Yogurt 1 8oz. cup

Chicken 1 breast, 1 thigh, 2 drum sticks

(Optional) Shallots, sliced 1/2 cup (You can buy the pre-cooked golden fried shallots)

Rice 2 cups

(Optional) Fresh garlic 1 tablespoon

Coconut milk 1 cup

Water 1 – 1 1/2 cup

Vegetable oil 1/4 cup

Salt as needed

Method for easy recipe:

1) Mix one package of Lobo with yogurt and marinate the chicken at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

2) Fry shallots in oil, if you use the fresh ones. Please look at the detail #2 and#3  in the method for the rice above.

3) Take the shallots out of the oil, increase the heat and fry the chicken, just to brown the skin.

4) Take the chicken out of the oil and stir fry the rice with another half the package of lobo and the rest of the chicken marinade. Stir-fry the rice until the grain no longer translucent.

5) Add the chicken back to the pan and add the water and coconut milk, bring them to a boil and reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for another 15-20 minutes until the rice and the chicken are cooked.

6) Served with Nam Jim Gai and A-jad, Thai cucumber salad with shallot.

Thai Chicken Rice Biryani


Thai Noodles for the Beginner, Episode III: Pork Noodles, Guay Tiew Moo

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 7

After being so patient and reading my last two posts that contained no recipes, this time you finally get one. It was so difficult to decide which one was going to be the first in this series. I know that the “Boat Noodles” are quite popular among foreigners, and both noodles with barbecued pork and chicken noodles are also well known.

But I’m going to begin the series with pork noodles. It’s the most popular among the Thais, for sure. You can easily find this type of noodles in every province, even in the Islamic-dominated provinces. No, it won’t be eaten by the Islamists there, but it would be eaten by the Buddhists. So I think this is the most appropriate for the first post.

Pork noodles usually are the noodles with multiple styles of the protein. You would get pork either as pork balls, cooked ground pork, sliced pork boiled or sometimes barbecued, every kind of pork product you can imagine. Then you might get fish balls (really…this is NOT what you think it is, gender has nothing to do with it), fried fish cakes, and some internal pig organs such as intestine and liver (they are not the same as foie gras) together with the noodles and vegetables.

I order mine without the internal organs of the pig, though. I am not a big fan of them. I’m just telling you what to expect. All of these are optional and I opt-out the same way as I opt-out for the chili flakes.

Not only are “Guay Tiew Moo” (you pronounce the last word, “moo” with a high note like you are asking a question) the most popular in Thailand, but they also remind me of my happy family times in Thailand, too.

How so?

You know that most Asians usually have big extended families. We do value our family members even when they’re not so great (like me) and we get together often, like once a month at least. When I was growing up, we saw each other once a week, on the weekends. Yes, we had weekly family reunions—so what?!

Any time Thais get together, we eat. Most Asians would do the same. Guay Tiew often showed up as a feast for the gathering because it’s perfect for that. It sure to please everybody. All the accompaniments would be lined up, a boiling water pot on the stove along with another pot for the broth.

Guay Tiew can be served as soon as the water reaches the boiling point. Whoever was ready to eat could just blanch some vegetables, cook their noodles in the boiling water, and add the broth if they so chose. They would then come to the table and compose the bowl mix personalized with all the accompaniments, and season it however they liked: sour, salty, spicy or bland, your call.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 2

Can you see how this can be an all-day eating event? We ate, then we played, and the adults would be talking while we played. Then we would get hungry again, we would make some more Guay Tiew,  then go play again. We would keep doing this until the time when we had to go home. We might end up eating about 3-8 bowls of noodles easily during the course of the day. It’s so easy to digest that it goes away easily and you need a refill.

Do you see why I associate noodles with happiness?

Here in the US, I don’t have a large number family members around me, but I still do have a bunch of Thai friends who really appreciate Guay Tiew. So we get together at someone’s house and eat them together. To make them at home is quite elaborate for just yourself. In that case, I just make a simple serving where I throw everything in the same pot, just like you would do to make “extravaganza ramen” from instant ramen noodles.

I normally don’t do the full spread of ingredients unless I have more than four people coming to eat with me. So the first ingredient is to recruit enough people; if you don’t have enough kids of your own, then borrow your neighbor’s kids as props. Once you’ve got your audience, then let’s prep your noodles.

Ingredients for the pork noodles broth

Ingredients for the broth (about 1 gallon)

Pork bones about 1 lb.  preferably the leg bones (See Note#1)

Daikon root  1 root (See Note#2)

Dried shrimp or dried squid   2 tablespoons (See Note#3)

Cilantro root  1 root

Fresh garlic, whole clove 2 tablespoons

White pepper 2 tablespoons

Salt 1 tablespoon

Tung Chai 2 tablespoon

Water 1.5 gallon

(Optional) Crystal sugar just in case all else fails to give a sweet taste to the broth; you can use it but make sure you don’t tell anyone. If anyone suspects, deny it firmly. And DO NOT use granulated sugar.


1) If you can’t get leg bones, use pork ribs or chicken backs (I know they can be expensive or hard to find). If you opt for some other kind of pre-made concentrated broth, make sure that there is no MSG in it. BTW, Knorr is unacceptable. You will be banned from my HHG club for at least one thousand and one days!

2) This is the source of sweetness in the broth. You can substitute it with sweet onion, 2 large bulbs, or a few medium sized ones should be plenty. I used to use half a head of cabbage to get the sweet taste, too.

3) This is for the umami taste. We don’t need MSG for that. You can use dried scallops or dried oysters but cut the amount in half; most any dried shellfish is good. Don’t use dried fish.

Method for the broth:

1) Put cold water in the pot and put in everything except the white pepper, then set it over medium heat and go do something else.

Making pork noodles broth

2) If there is foam once it starts to boil, scoop it out.

Ingredients for the Noodles: (for 6)

Noodles of your choice as shown in the Episode I (link) or multiple choices

Ground pork  1-1/2 lb.

Thai Trio  (cilantro root, garlic and white pepper minced or mushed together) 1 tablespoon

Pork loin  1/2 lb.

Fish balls  1 package or at least 12 balls (Did I tell you that they’re NOT what you think?)

Fried fish cakes 1 package

(Optional) Hard boiled eggs with soft yolk (See Note#4)

Bean sprouts  3-4 cups (or just the whole bag)

Green beans or long beans cut diagonally as shown in Episode II 2 cups

(Optional) Crispy fried wontons (See Note#5)

(Optional) Shrimp


Fried garlic in oil

Cilantro and green onion, cut as shown in the episode II

Tung Chai

Fish sauce

Granulated sugar

Limes cut in wedges (shown in this post how to cut the limes)

Cracked roasted peanuts (I use a food processor or coffee grinder to crush them, but you can use a mortar)

Dried red chili flakes

Red jalapeño in vinegar


4) Put eggs in a pan of room temperature water, enough to cover about one inch over the eggs. It would be best if the eggs are at room temperature as well, but if not let them sit in the water for 10 minutes, pour that water out (the temperature of that water is now colder than room temperature), and add the same amount of water back in the pot. Set it over the stove at high heat, stir the eggs gently (this is optional but stirring them before the water reaches a boil will make the yolks stay in the center). Once the water comes to a full boil (212ºF, 100ºC), turn off the heat and let the eggs sit in water for full 5-6 minutes. Five minutes would you would get a hard white and half semi-soft with runny center. Six minutes, semi-soft center all the way through.

5) Take about 3 tablespoons of ground pork that is already seasoned.

Wrap the wonton skin around 1 teaspoon of ground pork mixed

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 34

and fold the skins as shown.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 33

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 32

Fry them in medium hot oil about 350ºF.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 31

The skin should fluff right away but the wonton should stay in oil for another minute for the pork to be cooked.

Method for the noodles:

1) Take the whole piece of pork loin and put it in boiling broth, wait until it’s cooked through, then take it out and slice it. I didn’t use a pork loin this time. I couldn’t get pork bones so I used pork ribs and instead of using pork loin, I used pork ribs.

2) Season the ground pork with fish sauce, Thai trio, and, if you like, a teaspoon of sugar and another teaspoon of white pepper also adds a nice touch. Add a tablespoon of water into each pound of ground pork to help make it tender.

ground pork for pork noodles and crispy wonton

3) Use two spoons to make a ball of ground pork and drop it in the boiling broth.

making pork balls

Do one at a time. Wait until they float up on the surface then scoop them out.

cooked the pork balls

Red berries are goji berries. I just decided to add them as and after-thought. It adds a  sweet taste and high nutrient.

You can either put them in a bowl waiting to be added to the noodles or just put them right in the noodle bowl.

4) If you don’t like ground pork in a ball shape, you can just cook it. We call this “Ba-Chor” style. This is how you do it. Put ground pork in a bowl

Ba Chor pork 6

and add boiling broth, about the same amount as the ground pork,

Ba Chor pork 5

stir so the hot broth cooks the pork.

Ba Chor pork 2

The first time you won’t be able to cook the pork through, so pour the broth back in the pot, add more boiling broth to the pork again,

Ba Chor pork 4

stir and pour it out, and keep doing it

Ba Chor pork 3

until you cooked the pork through.

Ba Chor pork 1

5) Slice the fried fish cakes about 1/4” thick.

6) Alright, you’ve got all your pork cooked, so now you are ready to cook your noodles. Make sure the water is boiling, add the noodle of your choice in a basket or sieve. You can buy them from the Asian market as well.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 25

Dip the basket in the boiling water, and use chopsticks to separate the noodles so they will cook evenly.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 24

7) Once the noodles cook, take them out of the boiling water, shake the sieve to get the water out of the noodles, and add the noodles to the bowl.

8) ***Important*** Toss the garlic oil with the noodles right away so the noodles won’t stick together.

toss the noodles with fried garlic and oil

9) Now blanch the vegetables

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 19

and add them to the bowl.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 18

10) Cook the fish balls and the fish cakes the same way but in the broth.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 17

10) Then start adding all of the cooked pork to the noodles,

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 15

add the Tung Chai, cilantro and green onion.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 14

Then you start seasoning it with fish sauce, sugar, chili, vinegar or lime.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 9

If you want it soup style, you better add the broth to your bowl

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 13

and season the broth.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 11

12) Garnish with crispy fried wontons, then do not wait—eat!

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 3

I mentioned before that you can have it salad style, guay tiew hang,

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 5

or soup style, guay tiew nam.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 4

If you want salad style you are ready just toss everything together after you season it. Taste to see if you get your preferred taste.

Guay Tiew Moo, Pork Noodles 1 (1)

Thai Noodles for the Beginner, Episode II: Everything Else Beyond Noodles

The essential accompaniment for Thai noodles

Noodles are just like pasta. You don’t get the full enjoyment unless there is sauce, or they’re tossed with something else to make a salad, or dropped in soup. What makes noodles great are those “accompaniments”.

What do Thai people do with noodles?

First of all, there are two types of Guay Tiew (Thai noodle dishes), one is dry like salad, Guay Tiew Haeng (Haeng=dry), noodles with no broth or very little broth. And another one is with broth just like a noodle soup, Guay Tiew Nam (Nam=water). The same vendor can make you both types and most likely Thai people would order more than one bowl and have one dry and one with soup. You have to know how to order, though.

As I already told you, Thai noodles are the “one dish meal” or “one plate food” which signifies that the dish comprises all the food groups in one bowl. Noodles take care of the carbohydrate portion, so it would be safe to guess that the accompaniments would include some kind of protein, vegetable and fat.

The main accompaniments are protein and vegetables. Those two food groups are the ones that determine what “type” of Guay Tiew we are going to be eating. Seriously, any foreigner who experienced Thai noodles for the first time would have thought, “All Guay Tiew are alike”…Noooo, they are all different, just like all Asians are, right? And you better believe me. I am not one of those Asians that you can blindfold with dental floss, my eyes are kinda round. I’m practically white, you know. :p

Let’s see what’s the possible ingredients are: beef, pork, chicken, fish, duck, meatballs, fish balls, barbecued pork, stewed pork leg, roasted duck, stewed duck, boiled chicken with herbs, tender beef, shrimp dumplings, stewed chicken wings, beef balls, stewed beef with beef blood, stewed pork with pork balls, chicken with bitter mellon, boiled fish, fried fish, and many more. This is just a short list and I haven’t counted the Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, or Singaporean variations in the list yet. I haven’t even counted the ones that have multiple meat choices in the same bowl, either!

Sometime I wonder, if I set up a competition between Asian noodles and European pasta, who would have more varieties?  I’d like  to find the answer by eating them all, eventually.

Alright, after you pick the type of protein, then you pick the vegetables. The choice of vegetables is not as wide as the meat category, but it actually can be anything. The most popular choices are
Mung bean sprouts or Thua Ngok ถั่วงอก in Thai

Mung Bean sprouts for Thai noodles
Snake bean, Yardlong bean, Asparagus bean or Thua Fak Yao ถั่วฝักยาว in Thai. This can be substituted with green bean if you can’t find them.

Yard long beans

I used this vegetable in Tod Mun, Thai fried fish cake and the Kanom Jeen Nam Ya, Thai rice noodles salad. This is how you cut long beans or green beans for Thai noodles.

Yard long beans
Chinese Broccoli or Chinese kale or Gai Lan in Chinese and Phak Ka Nar ผักคะน้า in Thai;

Chinese broccoli for Thai noodles

This is how you cut them for the Thai noodles.

Chinese broccoli
Water spinach, Water morning glory, and Chinese spinach
 are all the same vegetable with multiple names, also called Ong Choy in Chinese and Phak Boong ผักบุ้ง in Thai;
Chinese flowering cabbage or Choy Sum in Chinese and Phak Guang Toong  ผักกวางตุ้ง in Thai
Chinese cabbage or Bok Choy, Pak Choy in Chinese
Ivy gourd or Phak Tam Leung ผักตำลึง in Thai
Bitter melon or Mara มะระ in Thai
Pickled mustard greens or Phak Gad Dong ผักกาดดอง in Thai

I think I covered all of the possibilities, but I haven’t lived in my home country for nearly two decades. I might have missed something here and there.

I will discuss the proteins and vegetables in each recipe I will write about, but in this episode I would like to discuss about the common ingredients that will exist in every bowl of Thai noodles first. These are not something so prominent you would detect them right away, but they are so important.

These accompaniments are like the supporting actors in movies. You don’t really care much about them, but without them the movies would not be movies. If you miss these accompaniments, it won’t be Thai noodles.

2) The supporting characters, the accompaniments for Thai noodles

2.1) Golden fried garlic in oil, กระเทียมเจียว (Kratiam Jeaw)

fried garlic with oil, Kratiam Jiew, กระเทียมเจียว

If I don’t have freshly fried garlic, I don’t make noodles. This is how important this accompaniment is. I don’t advise you go buy the already crispy fried garlic in the jar either, because we need the remaining oil to toss with the noodles to prevent them from sticking to each other.

Golden fried garlic is a very common flavoring item in Thai household and also in Thai cuisine. Nearly every house has it in the cupboard. This is what sets Thai noodles apart from any others. We use it in many, many dishes too. The smell of fried garlic is as Thai as the curry paste, I’m telling you.

I love noodles with freshly fried garlic, or Boiled rice, Khao Tom , so I fry my garlic in small batches. Do you know why I have a microwave even though I don’t really ever use it to cook? Because there are two things that are done really well in the microwave: fried garlic and corn on the cob. Yes, I fry my garlic in the microwave. This takes about 2-5 minutes.

First you need to have at least one teaspoon of chopped garlic in oil per each bowl of noodles. (I use about one TABLESPOON in each bowl, or more if the bowl is big. It’s a little overkill but I like it this way.) Add one tablespoon of oil per each teaspoon of chopped garlic. Then you put them together in a big bowl. Yes, a  big bowl, because it is going to foam up in the microwave and eventually overflow if your bowl isn’t big enough.

I never do less than two tablespoons of garlic, so the timing here is for that amount. You can adjust it according to your microwave power.

Make fried garlic in microwave

You put the bowl in and the first round you do for two minutes. Then take the bowl out and stir. See how high the foam reached? Now you need to scrape all the garlic back into the oil.

fried garlic in microwave for Thai noodles

Then put the bowl back in, cook at high for another two minutes, take it out and stir again. This time the foam got even higher than last time. The garlic should be starting to get golden.

fried garlic for Thai noodles

I normally put it back in again for another 30 seconds and stop cooking at this point. The hot oil will continue cooking the garlic a little afterwards. You should get the more crispy garlic once the oil cools down.

This total time of 4:30 is for my own microwave and I don’t expect your microwave will work the same way. You have to try it on your own by cooking the first time for 2 minutes, then keep repeating the process one minute at a time for a few more times until you get the garlic looking golden and nearly crispy. Then stop. If your fried garlic doesn’t get crispy after you the oil cools down, then put the garlic and oil back in the microwave again. After doing this for a few times you will know the right timing for your microwave and can take it out and stir only once or twice the way I do.

Can we make fried garlic in a wok or pan?  Yes, of course. You start with medium high heat until the oil is hot then you drop the chopped garlic in and reduce the heat to medium, or even medium low.

fried garlic for Thai noodles

This method will foam up until you can’t really see the garlic, but trust it and continue cooking, stirring often.

Fried garlic stove top 2

Continue cooking, and once the garlic starts to be ready the foam will subside and you can see the garlic again. Keep the heat at the medium low at the most until you see the garlic start to golden, then turn off the heat and let it cool. Same as cooking in microwave, the hot oil will continue cooking even more so than the microwave hot oil. You should get golden crispy garlic at the end.

Fried garlic stove top 3

Traditionally, the oil of choice for me is lard, and I fry small pieces of pork fat to get it;

Making lard 2

crispy pork fat in lard for Thai noodles

Then I fry the chopped garlic in that lard. At the end I drop the crispy fried pork fat into the fried garlic mix. This is the best type of golden fried garlic. Lately, after we’ve been conned by the American soybean oil manufacturers saying that pork fat clogs your arteries, a lot of Thai vendors stopped using that…Sadly.

Well, they are starting to use it more now since they noticed that the vendors that didn’t stop using the golden crispy fried garlic with bits of pork fat didn’t cause anyone a heart attack. In fact the vendors themselves nearly got a heart attack from overwork because even more customers kept pouring in. Those lard-using vendors also employed that as an advertising point to bring in more customers.

Pork fat rules!…Yay!

By the way, please read Time Magazine’s June 26th issue (came out two weeks ago) “Eat Butter”.

2.2) Green onion and Cilantro, ต้นหอมผักชี (Ton Hom Pak Chee)

Green onion, Scallion and cilantro

This is another bits and little pieces of flavor that you can’t miss. Almost every noodle dish in Thailand would be sprinkled with roughly chopped green onion and cilantro.

You just have to slice green onion about 1/8”-1/4” long and do the same with the cilantro. You can use all the stems of the cilantro, and the green onion can be used nearly all the way down to the white part.

2.3) Tianjin preserved cabbage, ตังฉ่าย (Tang Chai)

Tianjin preserved cabbage

This is not as critical as the former two, but it would add a nice flavor to your noodle dishes. It’s an elongated cabbage, pickled. In Chinese the cabbage itself is called “michihili”. The cabbage is called Pak Kad Hang Hong, ผักกาดหางหงษ์, in Thai.

It’s salty and contains some strong flavor that also adds the smell of home (my home, not yours, obviously) to the dish. You shouldn’t use more than a teaspoon in a bowl of your noodles. You can find the Tianjin preserved cabbage in any Asian grocery store. The way to spot it is the container. The original container is small brown ceramic, never more than 3” tall, round, about 4”-7” diameter, fat in the middle with small opening on top like the picture on this site.

If you look for the container like this, you won’t miss it. It is available in every Asian market, I assure you. The shape of this container is so classic that we, the Thai people, would understand if we said someone has a “Tang Chai jar shape”, we would know that the person has a beer belly! (It’s quite insulting, even though it might be true to anyone’s eyes, and we only use it toward girls so I don’t recommend calling any girl “Kra Pook Tang Chai”, if you don’t want to get in trouble.)

I used to like the original one too, but these days there are so many pebbles in the preserved cabbage, indicating how clean the process isn’t. I’m very sketchy about buying food from China, too. I have so much food sensitivity I don’t want to risk it. I am very close to making my own, but I don’t exactly know how to yet. I will have to try someday since now I’ve got the yeast they use to ferment the cabbage already. This is the brand I’m using these days. It’s from Thailand and so far it has been clean, without pebbles and no MSG added.

Would you be surprised if I said this is the entire required list?

Yes, three items.

The rest will show up in each recipe. I am not going to discuss it now but I would like to remind you that Guay Tiew NEEDS the set of condiments called Poung Phrik. You will not see any noodle vendors in Thailand doing business without it!

3) Behind the scenes,  but still necessary for Thai Noodles, A set of condiments, Poung Phrik พวงพริก

Puang Phrik, พวงพริก set of accompaniment for Thai noodles

Remember when I wrote about Thai dipping sauce, I told you that Thai people like to dress their foods to fit their palette. This set of condiments is quite important. No one eats their noodles the same way. The chef who makes these noodle dishes is not French, you know. There are no food Nazis in Thailand.

Once you’ve got your noodles, you taste them first, then you start to add the condiments you want to adjust the taste to your preference. Sometime you don’t need to do it at all, and sometimes it doesn’t matter how many times you dress your noodles, it won’t come out the way you want.

No, I will not tell you how much of what you should put in your noodles, but I will tell you the specific condiments that you will be putting in your Poung Phrik. The basics are:

3.1) Fish sauce

3.2) Granulated sugar

Those two don’t need further explanation, and they’re staples. The other two items would be different for each noodle dish.

3.3) Vinegar, or some form of souring agent

This can be:

3.3.1) Distilled vinegar with sliced pieces of chilies.

3.3.2) Mushed chili and garlic with a little vinegar. This one can have red or yellow chilis, too.

3.3.3) No vinegar, but wedges of limes will be on the table or inside the noodle bowl.

3.3.5) No vinegar, just squeezed lime juice as the substitute.

3.3.6) Black vinegar with sliced chili.

3.4) Chili

We’re not kidding about this. Yes, you might have chili in the vinegar, but that’s not enough. We provide another type of chili as an option, too.

3.4.1) Red chili flakes or powder, the basic.

3.4.2) Chopped, cut up or mushed chilies, either bird’s eye chili or Serrano chili, dry, no vinegar of course (or else I would listed it with the vinegar section, right?)

3.4.3) Red chili flakes stir fried in oil. I’m telling you this one usually is “hellish”. Your mouth will be on fire if they serve this in the Poung Phrik. It’s a common item in Khao Soi. Scary indeed!

3.5) Cracked peanuts

This is usually shows up with the pork, duck or chicken noodles but not with beef noodles or fish noodles, but these days, I can’t guarantee you that.

พวงพริก, Puang Phrik set of accompaniment for Thai noodles

Alright, the basics are over. Next week, you will get the first noodles recipe. Thanks for putting up with me and my urge to dissect the easy task and make it complicated. ;)

Thai noodles and the essential accompaniments

Thai Noodles for the Beginner, Episode I: All About Noodles

Thai Noodles, Kuay Tiew

I just took some time off to celebrate an event which acknowledges that I’ve officially grown a year older, even though I’m constantly growing a day older every day but that doesn’t count until it totals a year. To celebrate the year, I would like to offer a present to my readers, which are recipes of my favorite food in the world, the various different kinds of noodles in Thai cuisine.

I’ve actually been wanting to write about this for a long time, but I chose to write about curries first before the non-Thais out there ruined my country’s heritage even further with their know-it-all (that really should be called “don’t know a thing”) attitude. I’m about 80% through with my curry paste recipes, so now I can start a new subject.

I love all kinds of noodles and I could live on noodles for months before I even thought about rice. Thai noodle are something you would consider as a “one plate food”, or อาหารจานเดียว, because you don’t need multiple dishes to have a meal, as you would with rice. You get all the food groups together in one bowl.

Are you thinking this is starting to look like a series?  You’re correct.

If you’ve ever been in Thailand and walked the streets, you would have seen noodle vendors on almost every corner. If not, then there would have been many vendors bunched together on one corner. They’re all selling noodles, but all different kinds.

So that’s why this is becoming a series on its own. You will get recipes for several different kind of noodles, almost like you’re walking the streets of Bangkok. I can’t guarantee that you will get every kind, but you are going to get as many as I know and love to eat.

And by the way, I’m not completely done with the curry pastes or the omelets. You will see them pop up here from time to time. I am a true gemini; I can’t be satisfied with just one of anything. You get to experience how confusing life with a gemini can be without having to be married to one, like my poor husbanditor!

Before we even begin, I need to prep you first because we have our shared ingredients that are found in every kind of noodles, and then there will be the different ingredients in each kind.

Wait…I almost missed one step due to my excitement writing about my favorite food of all time..the history! (Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can skip the next six paragraphs then, if you don’t care.)

I’ll start with what we say noodles in Thai. We call them “Guay Tiew”, ก๋วยเตี๋ยว. All noodle names start with guay tiew, such as guay tiew moo = noodles with pork, guay tiew neua = noodles with beef, guay tiew tai = noodles with chicken and so forth. The words are from the Teochew Chinese word 粿條/粿条 pronounced “guotiao”, meaning cooked rice strips.

Guay Tiew arrived in Thailand probably since King Narai Maharat or King Ramathibodi III of the Ayutthaya Kingdom from 1656 -1688. Ayutthaya was the former capital city of Thailand before Bangkok. King Naria was the most famous Ayutthayan King, and he allowed trading among several international merchants. He opened the population’s eyes to the existence of other countries overseas and accepted their cultures, including food cultures.

However, there is no written evidence regarding the penetration of the most important food culture to Thailand (and to me), the noodles invasion. It could be hidden somewhere in those dusty documents in the “control room” of the Thai National Library but I have not come across one yet. I need to take Claratin and go back there someday to do more research.

The written evidence of the second noodle invasion happened during the King Taksin era, in 1734 – 1782. Thon Buri, the capital city in his era, was on the right (West) bank of the Chao Phraya River and was combined as a part of Bangkok during the current era, the Rattanakosin Kingdom. During his time, just as in the King Narai era, Thailand traded with several foreign merchants who brought their own food cultures to the Thai people.

Guay Tiew is the simple dish that Chinese people cook and eat in their boats.  You boil noodles, the meat of your choice and vegetables, you put them in a bowl, add broth in the bowl together with seasonings, then you are done, ready to eat. This is a dish eaten with chopsticks, not the fork and spoon of the typical Thai etiquette.

Of course, the Thai adopted the dish but they twisted it to fit their palate. So, the noodle dishes these days are quite different than the guay tiew of the old time. If you ever paid attention to the noodle dishes you saw in each country, you would have observed that they each have their own character. You can also tell the origin of that particular noodles dish by the ingredients.

We’re now going to discuss the character of said Thai noodles. Are you ready?

1) The leading characters, The Noodles.

The first thing we need to talk about is the noodles themselves. We can’t talk about the plays without talking about the lead characters, right? The noodles that are popular in Thailand are rice noodles and wheat noodles. I can tell you the four staples noodles that we eat, but it’s really not limited to just four. I will introduce you to the rest as I expand the Noodles series.

1.1) Sen Yai (Sen=line or noodles, Yai=big), the big fat rice noodles that the Cantonese Chinese called ho fun, or shahe fen in Mandarin Chinese.

Sen Yai (1)

These are the noodles made with rice and tapioca flour. They have been mixed with water, then steamed to cook and greased with oil to prevent sticking to each other while they stack them like this before they are packed in a bag and sold to you at the Asian market.

Sen Yai

What do you need to do?

Of course, separating them is a must.

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You will have to peel them apart, which is not difficult, before you use them, or else you will get the whole stack stuck to together, which is not pleasant to eat.

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This is the same noodle I used for Pad See EwPad Kee Mao, the drunken noodles, and in the future I will give you more recipes that use these noodles: Guay Tiew Rad Nah – the rice noodles with meat, chinese broccoli and gravy sauce, Guay Tiew Neau Sub – noodles with ground beef and curry powder, Cha Guay Tiew – noodles stir fried with many ingredients Singapore and Malaysian style, Guay Tiew Kua Gai – noodles stir-fried with chicken, and much more.

Do I need to tell you that this is my favorite type of noodle?

How do you buy and store Guay Tiew Sen Yai?

Fresh noodles are recommended. You can buy them at any Asian market.

Thai Noodles, Sen Yai, Ho Fun, big fat rice noodles

This is the most popular brand in the West Coast US.

You can store them outside the refrigerator for a day or two and after that you have to store them in the fridge to keep them another week or longer. The noodles will turn in to a hard brick once you put them in the fridge. You’ll need to pop them in the microwave for a minute or two or steam them again for another 5 minutes to soften them up before peeling them apart. If you don’t warm them up you’ll end up breaking them in pieces. Not good.

You can also buy the dry ones, too. I don’t use them at all because I can always find the fresh ones. The dry ones need to be soaked in water (room temp) for a while before they can be used.

I can also give you a recipe to make your own fresh noodles. If you care to know, ask me.

1.2) Sen Lek (Sen=noodles, Lek=small), the small rice noodles about the size of linguini. This kind is sometimes called Sen Chan or Guay Tiew Chantaburi, and also rice sticks.

Thai Noodles  17

These are also cooked rice noodles that have been dried partially before being packed in a bag for sale as fresh rice noodles. These noodles are more stretchy and chewy than Sen Yai. I used Sen Lek in my posts for Pad Thai and Sen Chan Pad Pu (Easy Pad Thai). You’ve probably seen them in Pho, the Vietnamese noodles soup too.

Thai Noodles  16

Sen Lek are also available both fresh and dried. I don’t object to the dried Sen Lek as much as dried Sen Yai because their quality and texture doesn’t deteriorate as much. You can buy dried Sen Lek if you can’t find fresh ones and just soak them in water before use.

Where to buy Sen Lek?

Same place as Sen Yai, an Asian market. This is the same brand and usually they store them in the fridge.

Thai Noodles  15


You should store these in the fridge. They can be stored up to a month or longer. Before use, just see if the noodles have some moldy spots. If you know you are not going to use them for a long time, you can dry them out and store the dried Sen Lek outside the refrigerator.

1.3) Sen Mee, the rice vermicelli. This is a very, very thin rice noodle that makes angels feel like their hair is too rough and coarse. They are so fine and the texture is so delicate. These are the noodles that I use to make Mee Krob and Mee Kra Ti (Those are two very popular Thai dishes among foreigners. Please remind me to share those recipes here in the future in case I forget).

These are also called Mee Hoon or Bi Hun in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. I think in Hong Kong they call this type of vermicelli Singapore noodles. (Please advise if I’m wrong here. I’m not so sure about it since I don’t speak Chinese.)

Thai Noodles  14

They are white, fine and delicious. This type is not my favorite, but that’s just me. My sister loves Sen Mee so much. Sen Mee don’t come fresh, but always in a dried form. I like the brand Wai Wai the best because I’ve eaten this brand since I was a kid. Noooooo, not because the manufacturing company just happens to belong to my friend’s family, not at all…(I can’t be lying through my teeth when I didn’t “say” the words past my teeth, I typed them).

Sen Mee, Rice vermicelli

I really am telling you the brand I prefer. (Again if they’re weren’t good, they wouldn’t be able to sell Sen Mee all over the country and all over Asia, right?) I BUY my Sen Mee from the store, too; No one gives them to me for free or anything.

Anyhow, you have to soak the vermicelli in water before you use them.

1.4) Ba Mee, the egg wheat noodles. I am introducing the first wheat noodles here. Do not get confused between Sen Mee and Ba Mee. Ba Mee is the Chinese egg noodle, so they appear to be yellow, either by food coloring or by egg yolk. I gave you the recipe of fresh egg noodles here in the past, if you want to make the fresh ones.

If you don’t want to make them fresh, you can buy them from the Chinese market.

Thai Noodles  10

I also don’t like the dried ones because they seem to lose their stretchy and chewy properties once they’re dried.

Thai Noodles  8

From left 1.1) Sen Yai, big fat rice noodles 1.2) Sen Lek, small rice noodles 1.4) Ba Mee, egg wheat noodles 1.3) Sen Mee, rice vermicelli

These four are the staple noodles in the Thai noodles market. The rest of them here are not as popular, but since I’m going to write about all kind of noodles, I might as well list them all here.

>>>>>>>>>>>>1.5) Woon Sen, the cellophane noodles made from mung bean flour, are also another popular choice. I have a recipe for Yum Woon Sen, or cellophane noodle salad, here and in the near future I will have more recipes. You can use Woon Sen to make Pad Thai too. It’s delicious.

Thai Noodles  13

Cellophane noodles also don’t come in fresh form. They’re always dried and packed in a bag. You have to soak them in water before use.

Woon Sen, Cellophane noodles, mung bean noodles

1.6) Guay Jub, the rolled rice chips or rice flake sheets, is another rice noodle that is rolled together in a tight tube.

Thai Noodles  3


When you buy the noodles they look like chips, but once you boil them, they will get rolled in together. This type of noodles would be served with two types of soups in Thailand. One is a clear broth, and  another one is a dark soup filled with Chinese spices.

Thai Noodles  2

I’ll show you photos of this type of noodles in cooked form when I get around to the recipe.

1.7) Giam Ee noodles, the rice pin noodles, are rice noodles that have a diameter about 1/4”, round, are short, about 2” long, with pointed tips on both ends.

Thai Noodles  12


This is really a unique noodle but you still see it at street vendors from time to time. It’s not as popular, but also not forgotten.

Giam Eee, rice pin noodles

1.8) Mi Sua, the extremely thin salty wheat noodles, only eaten in the Southern part of Thailand. This type of noodle is made by pulling the dough and stretching it so, so super far until the dough comes out very thin and fine. This link is showing the picture of the factory who makes these noodles.

See the unevenness of the noodles strand. This happened only from hand pulling method.

See the unevenness of the noodles strand. This happened only from hand pulling method.

Think about how thin the Sen Mee are, and Misua are even thinner!

1.9) Kanom Jeen; I think I’ve mentioned all of the noodles that we use in Guay Tiew, but I don’t want to omit these rice noodles even though we don’t normally eat them in the category of Guay Tiew, but we make a specific sauce to eat them with. I gave you a few recipes already to eat with Kanom Jeen, Kanom Jeen Sao Nam, Kanom Jeen Nam Ya Tai. You will find that people eat green curry, Kaeng Khiao Wan, with Kanom Jeen as well, or even eat them with Som Tam, the green papaya salad.

All right, now I’ve really completed the noodles list. You now officially know the lead characters of Thai Noodles, Guay Tiew. In the next episode I will tell you more about Krueang Guay Tiew. Sorry, you have to put up with me for another episode before I even give you any recipes.

Thai Noodles, Kuay Tiew (1)

Thai Coconut Rice Custard, Kanom Tuay

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 20

I’m filling another request, in part because I’m impressed and genuinely surprised that there are foreigners who know about our little Kanom Tuay. It is considered street food, not from any royal court anywhere except a court under a bridge in Bangkok!

You know that in Bangkok there will be people erecting their houses from pieces of cardboard, plywood, and bits and pieces of items found under the bridges and freeways, right? They live there with stolen electricity, using safety pins jammed through the rubber casing of the main power lines, with their electric cords attached to those safety pins. (My dad used to be the CFO of The Metropolitan Electricity Authority and had to deal with the various ways that people stole electricity all over town. This is the most popular method, even though it has killed large numbers of people already.) Of course, it’s illegal, but when money isn’t that readily available to buy or rent a home, you learn several different ways to survive.

I didn’t mean to teach you how to steal electricity or educate you about the life of the Bangkok homeless. I was just telling you that this dessert I’m giving you the recipe for this time isn’t anything complicated, or for the elite. In fact,  it is just a very common dessert that every household at every level can enjoy.

Kanom Tuay might have many different spellings, such as Kanom Thuay, Kanom Tuai, Khanom Thuai or even Khanom Thuay, but all refer to the same thing, as long as they don’t have “fu” or “foo” attached as part of the name.

In the past, you could find this dessert everywhere in the city, but it might not be as common these days as Westerner desserts seem to be taking the leading role in Thailand. Kanom Tuay used to be sold by a solo merchants, either a man or woman (but mostly women), who carried two baskets hanging from cradles that hung from the tips of a beam balanced on one shoulder, calling the customers by proclaiming, “Kanom Tuay Mai Ja”, asking “Do you want any Kanom Tuay?” (You can see the image by clicking on this link; the site is in Thai language but shows several pictures of those baskets).

These days, sadly, they are seen much less around the country, both the merchants carrying the balancing baskets and the Kanom Tuay!

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard (1)


I asked the person who requested this recipe how she knew about this rice custard. She said she went to a noodle place in Bangkok and they just had them sitting on the table, and she saw people eat them after their meal or while they were waiting for their noodles to arrive. So she tried them and fell in love, so now she wants to know how to make them.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 10

I can’t find the history of Kanom Tuay. It seems like it is too common, and so no one cares to reveal its history or origin. My guess is it’s just because it’s made from basic local ingredients that can be found in any household, so no one bothered to trace it.

The Kanom Tuay name is actually is shortened from the real name, Kanom Tuay Talai. Tuay or Thuay means cup and Tuay Talai is a very tiny cup. As you can see from the picture below.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 2
The cream-colored and the white cups with the blurred stripes both are the “Tuay Talai” or ถ้วยตะไล; the smaller size has an opening that isn’t much bigger than a quarter coin. The shallower cups are the big Tuay Talai; we use these kind much more these days because it’s easier to scoop the custard out. You don’t need to use these cups. You can use small ramekins cups or any small cups you can find.

For someone who’ve never eaten this rice custard, it has two parts: the bottom is the sweet part, we call it the body or “tua” (ตัว), soft but sticky, and the top part is called the face or “nah” (หน้า) and is salty and creamy.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 14

It’s unlike any Western dessert. The bottom (sweet) part has the texture of custard but there is no egg in it. The closest thing I can compare it to is caramel custard or flan, but it doesn’t break or fall apart as easily. It stays together due to some stickiness of the rice flour. Then there is the creamy, salty coconut top, which is not sticky at all, but creamy. It’s a blend of sweet and salty, sticky and creamy; heavenly!

I think you might have to try to make it once just to get the idea. It’s quite easy, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Ingredients for the body part:

Rice flour  60 g or 1/2 cup

Mung bean flour  10 g or 1 tablespoon (If you can’t find it use tapioca starch instead)

Arrowroot starch (Bob’s Red Mill’s)  35 g or 3 tablespoons, or use tapioca starch (See NOTE #1)

Palm sugar 165-175 g or 1/2 cup

Thin coconut milk 200 g or 1 cup (See NOTE #2)

(Optional) Pandan leaf extract 1/4 cup (See NOTE #3) If you can’t find it or don’t want to use it add 1/4 cup of thin coconut milk.


1) I never tried the recipe with tapioca starch myself, but I’ve been told it works as a substitute.

2) This is how you extract thin coconut milk:

Take the coconut milk out of the can, put in a jar, then refrigerate the coconut milk jar overnight.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 1

The cream will stay on top and the water will drop to the bottom. Skim the cream and save it for the top part, and use the rest for the bottom mix.

Another method would be to mix coconut milk with water at a ratio of 1:5.

3) Pandan leaf extract

Use 5 pandan leaves,

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 3

crushed and mixed with 1/2 cup of water,

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then squeeze and squeeze until you see the water turn green, then extract about 1/4 cup of green water out.

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Method for mixing the body part:

1.1) Mix all the flour

1.2) Add the thin coconut milk a little at a time, using a whisk to stir them together.

1.3) Add palm sugar and pandan leaf extract and let it sit until the palm sugar softens, then mix until it becomes smooth.

1.4) Rest the batter for at least half an hour, stirring every 10 minutes.

Ingredients for  the face part:

Coconut cream 385 g or 2 cups

Salt 6-8 g or 1 teaspoon

Rice flour 45 g or 5 tablespoons

Method for mixing the face part:

2.1) Mix everything together and stir with a whisk

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard

You should end up with 2 cups each for both body and face.

Method of cooking Kanom Tuay:

3.1) You need to have a steamer. I use this but you don’t need to buy one, just use your steamer or modified steamer setup is fine.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 5

Put water in your steamer and put your cups in the rack. You need to steam the cups empty for 10 – 15 minutes first before you put any batter in them. This will help when releasing the custard from the cups.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 4

3.2) After your cups are ready, stir your batter again before you pour the contents into the cups, starting of course with the body mixture first. Fill only 3/5 of each cup. If you like sweet sweet you can fill 3/4 of the cup.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 6

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 7

Warning: I take the section of the steamer where I put the cups out away from the steamer to pour the batter in. If you want to do it over the stove, lower the heat and wear a mitt.

3.3) Steam the bottom-filled cups at high heat for 8 – 10 minutes, depending on the size of your cups. You might need more than that. You can test if the body part is firm by touching the top. If it’s firm to the touch then you are ready to pour the face part.

3.4) Open the steamer again; you can take the pan section away from the steam or lower the heat. We are cooking dessert here, not your hand.

Pour the top mixture onto of the partially cooked bottom part. This time you fill all the way to the rim of the cups. You can see some green part mixed with the white surface here. It’s because the body that wasn’t cooked got mixed with the face part. It’s ok. I was worried that the face wouldn’t stick with the body if I steamed the body too long  so I ended up undercooking the body a bit.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 8

3.5) Steam for another 8 – 10 minutes. You don’t want to steam too long because the top part has so little rice flour, and cooking for too long will cause the coconut cream to break and the custard will have a cracked face. If the face part doesn’t set, next time you might want to add more rice flour, but do it little at a time. You don’t want it to be too hard either.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 9

3.6) Take the custard cups out of the steamer and let them cool down completely before you dig in to them, or else they won’t release from the cups that easily.

Kanom Tauy, Thai Coconut Rice Custard 18

(But they’re good warm too; who cares about the cup once the custard is already in your tummy, right?)

Northern Thai Style Tempura, Gra Bong Tod

Thai tempura, Gra Bong Tod 1 (1)

Here I’m filling another request for a rare item that you won’t find anywhere in any restaurant outside Thailand. (Well I can’t find it myself. If you know of any restaurant serving this item, please let me know so I can keep the list.)

There are two reasons that you won’t find this item in “foreign” restaurants. First, not many people know about this delicious snack; it is pretty region-specific. I posted a picture of these on my Facebook page and instagram and even my Thai friends asked me what they are! That should be enough proof about their rare existence.

Second, this is more of a street food item. They are very simple to make, and so restaurants don’t normally serve them.

GraBong is a Thai tempura. It’s made of vegetables deep fried in flour batter. The difference from Japanese tempura is these are gluten free! The Thai don’t make the batter from wheat flour, but instead use rice flour. Also, the liquid to wet the batter is coconut milk, not plain water. There are also two other unique ingredients: shredded coconut and curry paste to add flavor.

Also, the way we cut the vegetables is very different, too. The Thais don’t fry big pieces of vegetables, but instead shred them into small pieces. And we haven’t even talked about the “type” of vegetables yet.

This is a regional Thai dish, as I mentioned earlier. It’s from the Northern cuisine. Originally this snack was of the “Shan” people, who called it “Khang Pong”, which in Shan language translates literally this way: Khang=pan, and Pong=golden. So Khang Pong simply means “golden fried in a pan.”

The Northern Thai people adopted the recipe and also “simplified” the name from Khang Pong to…Gra Bong!  As I dug into the history of the dish, I was nearly on the floor when I found out how “gra bong” originated. Not because it was from the Shan people, but the way the Thais had morphed the name.  This is because Gra Bong has a different meaning in Thai. It means a club or a stick. Yes, things like the nightstick that policemen use, or what you use to bat a baseball are called “Gra-bong” in Thai. Absolutely has nothing to do with “golden fried” as in the Shan language! But it’s sounds similar to Khang Pong, doesn’t it?

The reason I laughed is because I’ve been wondering about this for such a long time. I went to high school in the northern province of Chiang Mai, and Gra Bong was one of my most favorite items that I could get in the cafeteria at lunch. I never understood why this harmless little fritter would carry such an intimidating name like Gra Bong.

The vegetables used to make GraBong are Kobocha squash (Thai people call this pumpkin, or FuckThong ฟักทอง, meaning golden squash, Fuck=squash, Thong=golden), banana blossom, green papaya, bamboo shoots, taro root, sweet potato root, and I’m sure there could be much more.  This time, for example, I tried it with carrots and it came out fine.

This is how I make my Gra Bong.


Rice flour  1 cup

Coconut milk  1 cup

Kaeng Kua curry paste, either store bought pre-made, or you can make it fresh from the recipe here. I used 1 tablespoon, but you can adjust it;

Salt  1 teaspoon

Sugar  1 teaspoon

Shredded coconut  1/2 cup (You can use the dry one, but soak it in water before use. I used the frozen one.)

2-3 cups of oil, unless you want to do it as a pan fry, then you only need one cup or less of oil

Vegetables of your choice, cut in small pieces; this amount of batter would be enough for 2-3 cups of shredded vegetables.

I used all of these vegetables:

1 cup cut-up kubocha squash

1 cup banana blossom

1/2 cup of shredded green papaya

1/2 cup of shredded carrots


1) Cut or shred your chosen vegetables. Soak all the vegetables in water, separately of course. Note that banana blossom has to be kept in water mixed with vinegar after cutting to prevent it from turning dark.

2) Mix all the batter ingredients: flour, coconut milk, salt, sugar, curry paste and shredded coconut all together. Make sure that there are no dry lumps of the rice flour left in the batter. The batter will look very, very thick, like this.

Thai tempura, Gra Bong Tod 2

This should yield about 1-1/2 cups of batter.

NOTE: As much as I like organic everything, in this case I don’t recommend using Bob’s Red Mill rice flour. It not ground fine enough, the way I like it. So go to an Asian market and get the rice flour that has been shipped from Asia; from Thailand or Vietnam is the most preferable.

3) Take the vegetables out of the water.

Thai tempura, Gra Bong Tod 3

You will need about half a cup of batter per each cup of vegetables.

Thai tempura, Gra Bong Tod 4

Mix them well. You want to see the batter coating all the vegetables nicely, like this. (Sorry my pictures aren’t so clear this time.)


Thai tempura, Gra Bong Tod 6

This is the banana blossom.

Thai tempura, Gra Bong Tod 7

Green papaya

Thai tempura, Gra Bong Tod 8

Green payaya ready for frying


Shredded carrots

4) Put oil in a wok and set it over medium to slightly high heat. Wait until the oil is hot before you drop the vegetables in. Try to clump the vegetables together before you drop them in the oil.

Thai tempura, Gra Bong Tod 5

5) Flip each wad of vegetables once or twice, until they’re crispy but not dark.

6) You will serve these with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, Nam Jim Gai, with added crushed peanuts. (Click the link for Nam Jim Gai recipe.)

Thai tempura, Gra Bong Tod 10

How easy is that?

As I child I was under strict orders from my aunt not to eat Gra Bong after 3pm. You should follow that rule, too, because you will be so full you can’t eat dinner, that’s why!

Kubocha Squash, Gra Bong Fuck Thong กระบองฟักทอง

Kubocha Squash, Gra Bong Fuck Thong กระบองฟักทอง

Banana Blossom, Gra Bong Hua Plee กระบองหัวปลี

Banana Blossom, Gra Bong Hua Plee กระบองหัวปลี

Left: Green papaya, Gra Bong Malagor กระบองมะละกอ Right: Carrots, GraBong Carrot กระบองแครอท

Left: Green papaya, Gra Bong Malagor กระบองมะละกอ Right: Carrots, GraBong Carrot กระบองแครอท

Thanks to Nok Nittayaporn and Guzzie Ang for providing the original recipe. This recipe was developed from their recipes.

Thai Curry Puff filled with Curry Chicken and Potato, Karipap Gai

Karipap, Thai Curry Puff  1 (1)

One of my readers asked me if I know how to make the little snack called “karipap” that she had eaten in Thailand. And If I did know them, what type of curry paste they used in the filling and also how to make the flaky circular puff pastry dough. Pretty much asking me for the recipe of this snack.

Of course I do know the little “karipap”. I ate plenty of them and even participated in stuffing them many, many times before in my childhood, but the recipe, ahem…errrr…not really. Someone else–my relatives, my aunt, my grandma, my friend’s mother or one of those “adults”–would make the dough and the filling, then I would just sit down to perform the fun part, wrapping the dough around the filling and waiting for the finished wrapped snacks to be fried so I can eat them.

I had to dig around, make some phone calls, and nearly had to strangle my relatives for the recipe. Luckily, there is an ocean on one side and another ocean and about two continents on the other side to separate me from them, so they managed to keep themselves alive! I finally got the recipe.

This is the first time I made them all by myself, so, there will be a second post in the future. I can’t say when yet, but you will get another one when I perfect it to the point that no further improvement can be made.

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This little curry puff is a very popular snack in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The official name in Thailand and Malaysia is “Karipap”, spelled กะหรี่ปั๊บ in Thai. Malaysians also have a different name, Epok-Epok, which is well understood in Singapore as well. I had no idea about the existence of this pastry in other country until I posted the pictures of the prepared curry puffs on my Facebook page before frying them, and a Chinese friend commented on it and said she knows this snack too, but I think she meant gali-jiao, the other Chinese baked puff pastry without the spiral layer crust.

Someone who’s never heard of this little snack before must be furious now. What the heck is it, already? It is a deep-fried pocket of pastry stuffed with savory ingredients, including spices and meat. The most popular filling is chicken with potato, flavored with curry powder, but it’s not limited to just chicken. Beef is also a popular filling choice as well.

Karipap, Thai Curry Puff  4 (1)

The character of the dough is quite special too. It’s called a “Spiral Curry Puff”. The spiral is applied to the appearance of the dough that has several layers of paper-thin dough stacked up in a spiral shape, resulting from the way we laminated the dough that you will learn from this post.

I tried my best to find a history of this little snack to fill my own little brain cells and for your knowledge as well. I failed, since it is eaten primarily in three countries. (Note: I only count the countries that make these puffs with the spiral pastry dough and not the ones with the smooth dough or even the ones that bake the pastry instead of frying, because in that case I would have to include all the South American countries that make empanadas, too!) I googled all three names in English and got multiple results.

Summaries of all researches: One said it had British influence, of which I disagree. I’ve never seen British transporting layered or laminated dough as they colonized the planet. Not only that, Malaysia could not have been the only country that adopted these laminated doughs, right? The Brits were all over the globe at some point. Why didn’t other countries inherit this circular dough?

One said it is from Portuguese influence. This is slightly closer than Brit, but I still disagree. This is a FRIED dough, not a baked dough. The empanada idea cannot be discounted in this case, but I still don’t see a trace of the circular layered dough there.

One said it has Indian influence, with the proof of the samosa as the instigator. I don’t discount that as well. True, samosas have almost the same filling (minus the meat part) as this karipap, but the shape and the dough isn’t the same.

I have my own theory. I think Asians for some reason like to label the “influencer” as the Westerner first and forget to look in their own region. I think this curry puff resulted from a combination of Chinese influence and Indian influence.

Why do I think the Chinese have a part in this? The circular dough, if you really look into the way it is layered, is very similar to the Chinese bean cake’s layered dough. They don’t use pure butter to separate the layers of the dough like the French, but they use flour mixed with lard as the “layer separator”. How clever. It’s also much easier to roll the dough in the hot climate too.

Another proof is the way they layer in a circular tube instead of rolling a big sheet in layers like the mille-feuille or other normal pastry. This is very typical of the Chinese, who are much more efficient. Why bother rolling the whole sheet when you still have to cut it later into small pieces to use it, right?

The filling  definitely has Indian influence, with the curry powder and potato in the mix. I’m not going to argue with that. The southern part of the Malay Peninsula was the melting pot in the olden time because it was the port for vast trading and the docking place for ships heading back and forth from Europe, and India to China and vice versa. It makes sense to assume that the spiral curry puff has been born of multi-cultured influence.

If my assumption is wrong, please, send me more proof. I’m open to all the facts beyond what I could find.

In the meantime, let’s make the karipap.

I used a chicken filling because this it the most popular and most well-known filling. You can substitute the chicken with ground beef or come up with your own filling once you know what to expect. I also make some with shrimp, or purple yam, or taro root too. The sky is the limit when it comes to the savory filling of the Asian dumpling.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style


Ingredients for the filling

Chicken meat, cut in cubes about 1/2” size, 1-1/2 cups

Onion, diced 1 cup (or one small onion)

Cooked potatoes, cut in cubes, 3/4 – 1 cup (or one medium potato)

Curry powder 1 – 1–1/2 tablespoons

Salt  2 teaspoons

Sugar 3 – 4 tablespoons

Butter or oil to stir fry 2 – 4 tablespoons (depending on the type of pan or wok you will be using. I used 2 tablespoons for a non-stick wok)

(Optional) Ground white pepper 1/2 – 1 teaspoon

(Optional) Thai Trio, garlic, cilantro root and white pepper, mixed  1 teaspoon

(Optional) Maggi or other seasoning sauce  1 tablespoon

(Optional for chili lovers) Ground paprika  1 teaspoon

Method for the filling

1) I cooked the potato in the microwave. Cut along the length and cook on one side first for 2 minutes then turn and cut the other side (to release the steam and prevent the potato bomb in the microwave) along the length again and cook for another 2 minutes. This makes it easy to peel. Cube it and you should be ready to stir-fry the filling.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 4

2) Cut and prep everything before you even think about taking your wok or pan out.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 3

3) Put oil or butter in the wok at medium heat and start with the Thai-trio and onion.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 6


Cook the onions until nearly transparent.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 7

4) Add the chicken, half of the curry powder and half of the seasoning (salt, seasoning sauce and sugar, but keep the paprika and the pepper aside for now)

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 8


stir fry them until the chicken is done, or at least 85% done. You will continue cooking it in many steps.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 9

5) Add the potato and the rest of the seasoning, including the paprika (if you are using it; I don’t, as you might already know),

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 10

stir fry until they’re all mixed well. Let the potato absorb the liquid, which is the duty of the potato here.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 11

The content has to be dry or the dough will get soggy.

6) Taste-test it and adjust to your preference. If you follow my ingredients exactly, it may seem borderline too salty–don’t worry, we will have the dough wrapped on the outside and everything will be fine at the end.

7) Turn off the heat and stir the white pepper in. Then you leave it to cool while you are preparing the dough.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 12

The dough

This is a laminated dough.

What is laminated dough?

It is a dough that is stacked in multi-layering. The method is to layer the dough alternating with fat–either butter or oil–so each layer won’t stick back together again. You don’t do it one layer at time. It’s not that smart to do it that way. You start with two layers, sandwiching a layer of fat in the middle then roll the whole thing flat, which of course makes it longer. Then you fold. From two layers, one fold will give you four layers, right? Two folds will give six layers.

They you roll it out again because after the first fold, you dough get too short and too thick to fold again. After another roll, from six layers one fold you will get twelve, two folds you will get eighteen layers. Do you get the idea? Normally you will do one more roll and this time you will get many, many more layers, about 18 times 3, at the least. You get 54 layers. If you want more one more fold you will get over hundred layers, if the dough allows you to.

This is the mysterious “mille-feuilles” secret. Do you know that the dough of the mille-feuilles would be folded six rounds, with three folds in each round. (No, I never been able to do the whole six, my dough was fighting furiously at round four, so I never got more than 200 layers :( but I will someday. (Someone else claimed that over two thousand layers has already been done—come on!)

The method is not that much different between the French and the Chinese way, except that the French roll and fold a rectangular sheet of dough. Let’s see how the Chinese would do it.

There will be the main dough. In this case I will call it the “water dough”. This is flour mixed with oil, water, salt and sugar. This is the dough that would be eaten after frying. It will be the “outside” dough at the start. Then there will be the inner dough, and this is called “the oil dough”. It is just flour and oil mixed. This layer of dough would served as butter in puff pastry or, if you ever made mille-feuille, this will be the same as the butter block mixed with a little bit of flour.

Ingredients for the water dough

All purpose flour 300g

Oil 5 tablespoons

Sugar 2 tablespoons

Salt 1/2 teaspoon

Water 8 – 10 tablespoons

Baking soda 1/2 teaspoon

Ingredients for the oil dough

All purpose 120g

Oil 3 – 5 tablespoons


1) I need to explain why I gave the ingredients in ranges and not exact. It’s depends on how moist your flour would be, and this is not up to you as much as your environment. I used the recipe from Thailand for the water dough and it always too dry; I have to add water every time because California is definitely dryer than Thailand. My friend in Florida has no problem following the recipe from Thailand with the exact same amount of water in her dough.

How about the oil dough? Same problem—it depends on the level of moisture in your flour. So start with the low number first and see if the dough comes out right, then gradually add more water or oil as needed.

Good news, I am developing my own water dough recipe that replaces the oil with egg, and I will give it to you as soon as I can perfect it.

OK…Mix all the ingredients except add water–just 8 tablespoons first–then knead it, then add more water if you need it. Mix until the dough is smooth in your hands. You can use the stand mixer (I do) but do not over-mix, and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes.

2) Mix the oil dough by using 3 tablespoons of oil first and if the flour won’t become cohesive then add more. I used 4-1/2 tablespoons for mine.

3) After the resting period,

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 13

divide both doughs in two or three portions. I divided mine in three but I’m sure two would be ok too. You will get more layers with two.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 14

4) Roll the dough into balls, flatten the water dough balls and put one of the oil doughs inside and wrap it completely. Repeat with the rest of the balls.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 15

5) Roll the dough out flat

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 16


and start rolling one side of the dough into a cigar shape. Repeat it with the rest.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 17

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 18

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 19

6) Now turn the rolled dough so it sit 90 degrees from the edge of the counter.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 20

Roll them all out flat again.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 21

7) Roll them back into a roll again. This time the roll will be so much fatter and much shorter.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 22

8) Prepare to cut the rolled dough in to discs. I expect you to get about 20-22 discs from all of this flour.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 27

9) Roll the disc flat. You can see the circular pattern.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 28

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 29

10) Fill the dough with the filling.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 30

11) Close the dough around the filling.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 31

You can close it with fork, but the traditional way is to twist the edge of the dough the way I do here.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 32

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 33

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 34


Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 37

12) Put the finished wrapped dough in a tray and cover so they won’t get dry. Do it until you fill every piece of dough.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 23

13) Put oil in a wok, enough to cover the karipap. Set it over medium heat.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 25

14) Fry the karipap in the medium heat, turning repeatedly so they get even heat until they’re golden brown. If your oil is not hot enough, you will see the pastry start to fall apart.

Karipap, Curry Puff Thai style 1

If the oil is too hot, the karipup will brown on the outside but be wet and sticky on the inside.

15) Eat it with Ajad that I gave you the recipe for  long time ago here.

Karipap, Thai Curry Puff  3 (1)


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