Chicken Khao Soi
Ever since Aaron and I decided that we would be going to Thailand for our honeymoon I have been on a massive Thai food kick. We’ve been spending our weekends booking flights, planning out hotels and researching all the restaurants we want to go to and food we want to eat. It’s been so much fun to sit around together in the midst of the hectic (not always as fun) wedding planning and take the time to plan out our trip. Khao soi is a signature dish of Northern Thailand, specifically the city of Chaing Mai, which is the first stop on our honeymoon. It’s a flavorful coconut curry soup that is the perfect combination of salty, sweet and spicy.
This soup is built in a few different steps. The first step is making the paste. If you’re pressed for time you can substitute store-bought red curry paste for the khao soi paste but homemade makes it much more flavorful, plus you can customize the heat level. This version calls for 5 dried Thai birdseye chilies, which will make the soup mild (it still has a kick), but add more chilies to the paste if you want more “heat”. While the paste is traditionally pounded using a mortar and pestle, I opt to use my food processor.
The next step is making the broth. The curry paste is sautéed until fragrant and is then simmered with coconut milk, chicken broth and chicken. The soup is finished with egg noodles and then topping it with a handful of fried egg noodles, lime wedges, cilantro and red onions. The noodles traditionally used are wide Chinese-style egg noodles, similar in size to fettuccine or linguine. They are usually sold dried and are sometimes marketed as “wide wonton noodles”.
For the khao soi paste:
5 dried Thai birdseye chili peppers
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 shallots, peeled and halved
2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced (tender parts only)
1 medium piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the soup:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon Indian curry powder
2 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
4 skin-on whole chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
2 cups chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Kosher salt, as needed
1 pound uncooked wide Chinese-style egg noodles, divided
Vegetable oil, as needed for frying
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro leaves
For the khao soi paste:
Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the chili peppers, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger to the pan, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally to prevent it from burning. After 2 minutes add the coriander, cumin and pepper to the pan, continuing to dry roast the ingredients until they darken, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and let cool then add to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is completely combined and forms a paste.
For the soup:
Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add vegetable oil and heat through. Add the khao soi paste, turmeric and curry powder and cook, stirring constantly so that the mixture does not burn, until the paste is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring, until red oil separates from the coconut mixture. Add an additional cup of the coconut milk and again boil until the oil separates.
Add the chicken, 2 cups of the chicken stock, lime leaves (optional) and the remaining coconut milk. Bring the mixture back to a boil then lower the heat to medium low and cover the pot and simmer, until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes.
Stir in the soy sauce and fish sauce, continuing to simmer, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add ¾ of the noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and return the noodles to the pot. Set aside until ready to serve.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or deep fryer add enough oil to fill 2-inches of the pan. Heat oil to 350ºF. Fry the remaining noodles until golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
Divide the cooked noodles among soup bowls and add chicken to each bowl. Ladle the broth over the noodles and top with the fried noodles. Serve with red onion, cilantro leaves and lime wedges.