Khao Soi: Chiang Mai Egg Noodle Curry Soup

There's nothing like a good curry soup to warm you up on a winter's night!

I gave Chris an Asian cookbook: Essentials of Asian Cuisine for Christmas. It's one of his favorite types of food, and we always have fun together in the kitchen, so I thought it would be a neat stocking stuffer.  This weekend, we tried a recipe from the book: "Khao Soi," which is a classic noodle curry soup from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and a staple found at many of the soup stalls there.

I was surprised that I actually already had about half of the ingredients, and for the rest, we found almost everything in the International food aisle of our grocery store.  There were a few items we couldn't find there, and we could have gone to several other grocery stores or we could have taken a road trip to an Asian grocery store a few towns away, but we didn't want to spend the whole day searching for three ingredients, so we improvised instead (based on suggestions from the cookbook and some web searches).  And, you know what? The soup still came out terrific. So, the next time you feel the hankering to make something exotic and don't think you can find all the ingredients -- go for it.

To get us started, we made summer rolls with some shrimp I'd sautéed in sesame oil, a handful of julienned carrots and cabbage, some chow mein noodles, mint leaves and rice paper wrappers. Chris rolled his much more neatly than mine, of course. Then, once we had our snack, we got down to business and made the lovely curry soup.

Here's what we did:

  • We cooked a few cloves of garlic and some shallots in vegetable oil until they were brown and caramelized.
  • Then, we stirred in some madras curry powder,  red curry paste, anchovy paste (we were supposed to use shrimp paste, but the anchovy paste we found worked in a pinch), and cane sugar (we couldn't find palm sugar) until it changed to a darker color and became fragrant.
  • Then, in went 5 cups of coconut milk and 5 cups of chicken stock, lime zest (we couldn't find kaffir lime leaves), lemongrass stalks (we found these at Stop & Shop!), lime juice and red chilies. 
  • We brought the soup to a boil and while it was heating up, we put a pot of water on the stove for the lo mein (Chinese egg noodles) and also brought it to a boil. Into that pot went the noodles, and after about 6 minutes of cooking, we drained them and set aside.
  • Then, we sliced about a pound of raw chicken breasts into thin slices.
  • About 5 minutes before we were ready to eat, the soup was turned down from a boil and in went the chicken to cook for about three minutes on medium high heat.
  • When the chicken was cooked through, we placed some noodles in each bowl and then ladled the soup and chicken over them.  
  • We topped the soup with some sliced shallots, a handful of chow mein noodles, some cilantro, basil and mint (we didn't have Thai basil, so we used equal parts sweet basil and mint) leaves, a spoonful of kimchi (we didn't have preserved mustard cabbage, but kimchi is basically pickled cabbage so worked fine) and a few lime wedges.
  • We squeezed our limes over our bowls and dug in...YUM.  

The soup was sweet and salty, sour and spicy, creamy and crunchy all at the same time.  We did a really great job -- Chris took the lead on this, so he actually should be blogging about this one.  It was so tasty and a really fun way to spend a chilly Sunday evening.

Now, the only question is, which recipe shall we, er Chris tackle next?