Khao Soi Gai (Northern Thai Coconut-Curry Noodles With Chicken)
You’ll find khao soi, a deeply fragrant, coconut milk-based stew, throughout Southeast Asia, but the dish is a specialty of Chiang Mai, a city in Northern Thailand. Chicken is simmered in a creamy, spicy-sweet broth, then served over boiled egg noodles and garnished with crunchy fried noodles. (When made with beef, the dish is called khao soi nuea.) This version is adapted from Noree Thai, a restaurant in Los Angeles, which Noree Pla owns with her partner, the chef Fern Kaewtathip. Ms. Pla serves the khao soi she learned from her mother, which requires more than a dozen ingredients, but once you have the ingredients prepared, the dish comes together in less than an hour. For a lighter broth, use about half of the curry paste; for a more pungent khao soi, use it all.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 3dried red Thai chiles (or chiles de árbol)
- 2fresh or dried makrut lime leaves (optional)
- 15cilantro stems with leaves (about 1/4 bunch)
- 2large shallots or 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2(1 1/2- to 2-inch) pieces fresh, unpeeled turmeric, scrubbed and roughly chopped (or 2 tablespoons ground turmeric)
- 1(4-inch) piece lemongrass, from the base of the stalk, sliced
- 1(3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1teaspoon curry powder
- 1teaspoon shrimp paste or 2 teaspoons fish sauce (optional)
- ½teaspoon grated lime zest (preferably from a fresh makrut lime)
- 3cups neutral oil
- 1(16-ounce) package dried, flat Chinese-style egg noodles, or dried tagliatelle pasta nests
- Kosher salt
- 2(13-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk (not shaken or stirred)
- 2cups chicken broth (preferably low-sodium)
- Kosher salt
- 8chicken leg drumsticks (about 2 pounds)
- 2to 4 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2to 4 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
- ½cup homemade or store-bought Yunnanese-style pickled mustard greens, for serving
- 1shallot, peeled and thinly sliced, for serving
- Chile paste or chile oil, for serving
- Lime wedges, for serving
Step 1Make the curry paste: Bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the dried chiles and makrut lime leaves (if using) to a small bowl; pour the boiling water on top and let steep for 10 minutes.
Step 2While the mixture steeps, separate the cilantro leaves from the stems; set leaves and any tender stems aside for garnish. Roughly chop cilantro stems and add to a small food processor (or the bowl of a large mortar and pestle) along with the shallots, turmeric, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, curry powder, shrimp paste (if using) and lime zest.
Step 3Add the soaked chile mixture (including its liquid) and process (or crush with a pestle) until curry paste is smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, about 10 minutes for either method. Curry paste can be made up to 2 weeks ahead; store in a covered container in the refrigerator.
Step 4Prepare the fried noodles: In a medium (2-quart) saucepan, bring 3 cups neutral oil to 325 degrees over medium-high heat. Add 4 ounces noodles and fry, flipping once or twice, until light brown, 30 to 60 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer noodles to a paper towel-lined plate; set aside until ready to serve. Cool, strain and store remaining oil in a covered jar for another use.
Step 5Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over medium. Add about 1/4 cup coconut cream, scraped from the top of one of the cans of coconut milk, to the pot and let it melt, about 10 seconds. Add at least half of the curry paste — or more, for a more pungent khao soi — and stir until deeply fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 1/2 cups chicken broth and the remaining coconut milk, and increase heat to medium-high. Bring mixture just to a low boil, about 3 minutes.
Step 6Use 1 tablespoon salt to season drumsticks, then add them to the boiling curry mixture. Cover, and let simmer until chicken is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes. Uncover, lower heat, and add remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock along with 1 cup water. (It should be more like soup than stew.) Season to taste with fish sauce, sugar and salt. Turn heat to very low, and cover to keep warm.
Step 7Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add 2 teaspoons salt and remaining 12 ounces noodles. Cook until al dente. Drain and portion into four bowls. Add 2 drumsticks to each bowl, and about 2 cups curry broth. Garnish with fried noodles, pickled mustard greens, sliced shallots, chile paste or oil, reserved cilantro leaves and lime wedges. Serve immediately.