Chiang Mai or Northern Thai Curry Noodles : Khao SoiPosted: December 20, 2012
I want to give you another recipe right before holidays, during which I will be diving the Great Barrier Reef! This is another curry dish, the northern Thai-style wheat noodles with curry broth in coconut milk called Khao Soi. (Khao or Kao=rice, Soi or Soy=cut thinly, sometimes referred to julienne)
Naturally, I can’t resist my own urge to give you the history of the dish, so skip the next two paragraphs if you are not interested. Let’s start from the egg noodles that originated the name “Khao Soi”. This is a specific noodle that contains wheat flour, eggs, salt and water but no alkaline agent, so the result is a softer noodle. The dough is pressed into sheets and then hand-cut into thin strips. I have been told from an old lady, the owner of a famous Khao Soi joint in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that this way of cutting noodles from sheets into strips, an action called “soi” in Thai, is where the name “Khao Soi” came from. Well, the noodles were made from wheat, not rice (khao means rice, remember—not wheat) so I’m not 100% sold on that piece of history, but I tried to research more on the origins but that yielded no result, so I’m going to stick with that explanation until I find another new fact.
Originally the dish was brought to the northern part of Thailand by the Hui Chinese (known also as “Muslim Chinese” or “Islamic Chinese”) from the Yunnan Province of China who were seeking asylum from the massacres visited on them by the Qing Dynasty after they lost in the “Panthay Rebellion”, in the period around 1856-1873. In 1877, King Rama V of Thailand officially granted them permission to stay in Chiang Mai and the Lam Pang province of Thailand. They brought with them the Chinese halal food. As some of you who are interested in food culture or history of international food might already know the Islamic Chinese cuisine. They eat a lot of wheat noodles. They are true noodle masters. The hand-pulled noodles named Lamian also originated from the Hui. The dish that evolved to become Khao Soi was also one of their soup noodles, only without the coconut milk. The coconut milk was added as an ingredient for Khao Soi only after WWII, including the adjusted taste to suit the Thais.
This is one recipe that can be made more simple by using “pre-made” curry paste. If you don’t want to spend time making curry paste from scratch and want to start making a pot of curry right away, you can skip the next part and go right to the “Simple Recipe” down below. It would not be as awesome as making your own curry paste, but you can save about half an hour to forty-five minutes, plus all the time you’ll save not looking for ingredients for the curry paste.
However, before you skip the curry paste recipe, let’s have an understanding. I found that some internet “know-it-all” sites would tell you to use “Thai red curry paste” and add curry powder or turmeric powder (or both) to make this dish. Please, please, pretty please, DON’T DO THAT! Most Thai curry paste contains garlic, lemongrass, galangal and shrimp paste, which are NOT the ingredients in Khao Soi curry paste. The foreign ingredients that have strong flavor like that would ruin this pot of curry for dead sure. The Thai made each of their curries differently, or else they won’t bother call them with different names. You can’t just use red curry paste as a base anytime you want to make a pot of Thai curry. OK, I hope you understand. Now you can go to the “Simple Recipe” section by clicking on this link.
This recipe is adjusted by me, so as you can guess it will have a lesser degree of heat from chili.
Ingredients for the curry paste (serves 2 people)
Red California dry chili 2 full pods (about 3-4 inches long); discard the seeds
Shallots, diced or sliced 3 tablespoons
Fresh Ginger, diced 3 tablespoons
Fresh Turmeric, diced 2 tablespoons (you can substitute with tumeric powder)
Coriander seeds 1 tablespoon
Black Cardamom 2 pods (can be substituted with 4 pods of green cardamom, which is much easier to find but the flavor will be slightly sweeter than the savory, smoky flavor of black cardamom.)
Curry powder 1 tablespoon
Salt 1 teaspoon
Coconut cream 1/2 cup
Note: I use California chili because I like the red color and the sweetness of it. Obviously I’m not looking to make this curry hot but if you do, you have these options.
1) Keep the seeds; the curry will be slightly hotter, but California chili isn’t that hot so it would be a nice balance.
2) Use some other different kind of chili. The original recipe uses 4 pods of Thai chili (that will be HOT!)
Method for making the curry paste
1) Take the seeds out of the Black Cardamom pods and roast them in a dry pan with the coriander seeds.
2) Put the shallots, ginger and turmeric in the pan and roast them until they release their aroma.
3) Put all of the roasted ingredients in a blender, add the chili with half a cup of coconut milk and puree them. If needed, gradually add more coconut cream because the blender might eventually stop as the puree thicken.
4) Blend until it’s all a smooth, cream-like texture, then add the salt and curry powder.
Note: Traditionally, after roasted all the ingredients you would grind them in a mortar. If you choose to do it that way you won’t add coconut cream at that point, but should add the curry powder and salt in the mortar and grind them finely until they turn in to a paste. If you make curry paste this way, read the method of cooking number 1.3 down below to cook your curry. By the way, this traditional method, even though it takes more time, yield the best result.
Ingredient for the curry soup (for 2)
Curry paste that we made, or Lobo Kao Soi seasoning
Chicken drumsticks 2 pieces (if you want to use only dark meat then use 4-6 pieces)
Chicken breast, diced 8 oz. (If you want to use only white meat then use 1 lb.)
Chinese egg noodles, flat and slightly wide, 1 package, or you can use make your own noodles: see the recipe in the past blog “Oodles of Noodles” (for Khao Soi, I would use the recipe for the egg pasta. Do not add the baking soda. You would use about one cup of flour.)
Coconut milk 2 cups
Water 3 cups
Soy sauce 2 tablespoons
Crystal sugar 1 teaspoon
Note: You can substitute the chicken with beef.
Pickled mustard cut into thin strips 1 cup (Traditionally they would use only the stem part. You can skip the leaves part if you want but I use them all)
Shallots diced or, if you prefer, sliced 1/4 cup
Cilantro cut about 1/4” long 1/4 cup
Scallion cut about 1/4” long 2 tablespoons
Wedge of lime
Chili flake stir-fried in oil (optional)
Bean sprouts, or cabbage cut into thin strip (optional) 2 cups
Method for cooking the curry soup
1) Cook the curry paste with oil or coconut milk
1.1 with Lobo Kao Soi Seasoning mix, just heat up the 1/2 cup of coconut milk or oil with the contents in the envelope. Cook until it boils, then let it bubble for at least one minute, adding the coconut milk if you see it dry up.
1.2 with fresh-made curry paste pureed in blender, pour the whole contents from the blender into the pot and cook over medium high heat until it bubbles. Let it boil for 2 minutes, adding the coconut milk as needed to prevent it from drying up or burning.
1.3 with fresh-made mortar-ground curry paste, heat up 1/2 cup of coconut milk over medium high heat until it bubbles, then add the curry paste, stirring until the content bubbles again. Let it boil for 2 minutes, adding coconut milk as needed to prevent it from drying up or burning.
2) Add the chicken and the rest of the coconut milk, along with one cup of water.
3) Bring it boil and then let it simmer until drumsticks are tender, about 30 minutes to an hour, and keep adding water. Don’t let it get dry.
4) While you’re waiting for the curry to be ready, fry about half a cup of noodles in hot oil over high heat. This will yield about one cup of fried noodles. Set them aside for garnish.
5) Season with soy sauce. I would season the curry to my taste here with salt or fish sauce and sugar, but you can also season it later after you put fried noodles and every other seasoning in it.
6) Once the curry is ready, set another pot of water to boil, then cook the noodles and bean sprouts or cabbage( if you decide to use them).
7) Assemble in a bowl by putting the chicken drumstick and the white meat in the bowl first, then add the curry soup and all the garnishes.
I shouldn’t have to tell you what to do next, right?