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Kao Soi: Chiang Mai Noodles

kao soi is a Thai red curry noodle dish often served with a crispy noodle nest

kao soi is a Thai red curry noodle dish often served with a crispy noodle nest

My wife and I spent one month traveling around Thailand last year and as you’d expect from one month in any country, there were more than a couple of highlights to be remembered. Topping that list, along with the SCUBA diving, was the food. Food carts, food stalls, restaurants, cooking classes, markets, new flavours, spices, warmth and salivary glands in over drive! Food is cheap and as a culture, Thai folks are as friendly and hospitable as it gets!

Of all of the spots we visited, Chiang Mai was the golden goose for food. Chiang Mai noodles, or kao soi is a staple of the northern region. It’s a warm red curry noodle dish served with chicken in this recipe. The garlic, curry and turmeric hit your palate like a soft slap in the mouth but the coconut milk

Photo by The Saucy Coq

Photo by The Saucy Coq

and egg noodles ease the sting with a gentle rub of the cheek.

The noodle nests are not totally necessary, but they add a great crunch and some big presentation points. To make the noodle nests, heat about 2 cups (even less will do in a pinch) veg oil in a wok or deep pan to 375. If using fresh noodles, fry them as is out of the package. If you have dried noodles, cook them as per package instructions then dry well and place noodles in oil for a few seconds per side and remove to a paper towel. [tip: be sure to dry the noodles well as you don't want to be around the hot oil when it meets water!]

Kao Soi

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste or panaeng curry past
  • 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in to big chunks
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric (or curry powder)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 pound fresh noodles (glass noodles or vermicelli are best)
  • 1/3 cup chopped shallots
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

I use a dutch oven, but a large sauce pan will do fine. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat, and then add the garlic [tip: take care not to burn the garlic as it will become acrid and unpleasant. keep the oil at medium heat and don't let it smoke]. Let the garlic cook for only about 10-20 seconds, stirring it around (again, to ensure it doesn’t burn). Add the red curry paste, mashing and stirring with a wooden spoon to soften it in the oil, about 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook 1 to 2 minutes, tossing now and then to brown it evenly and mix it with the curry paste. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, turmeric, soy sauce, sugar, and salt and stir well. Bring to a gentle boil and adjust heat to maintain a lively simmer. Cook about 10 minutes, until meat is cooked through. Stir in lime juice, remove from heat, and cover to keep curry warm while you prepare the noodles.

Cook the noodles in a large pot of rapidly boiling water, until tender but still firm, as little as 2 minutes for fresh noodles and 7 minutes for more for dried. Just read the package and do as you’re told! Drain, rinse well in cold water, drain again, and divide the noodles among individual serving bowls. Ladle on hot curry, and sprinkle each serving with the shallots, cilantro, and green onions. Serve hot and get sexy!


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  1. Good eye! Mistake. I don’t use fish sauce in kao soi. I think I just bust out all of the standard ingredients when I make Asian food and it made it’s way in to the picture!

  2. Fantastic. Making tomorrow! I have homemade chicken broth in the freezer I wanted to do something with and this is just the sort of spicy thing to scare away these slushy, depressing days. There is fish sauce in the picture up top but not mentioned later…did you put fish sauce in the broth? I have before but not sure if this is authentic.

  3. mmmmmmm – looks perfect!! Can’t wait to try this again!!

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