Burmese Noodle Bowl

January 30, 2013
2 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4 hungry people
Author Notes

Khau Swe, as these noodles are called, originate from the Golden Triangle area that encompasses Myanmar and Thailand. I slurped a bowlful in Chiang Mai, but Myanmar is
still a mystery to me. I hope you enjoy my hearty spoon and fork soup. —nykavi

Test Kitchen Notes

Nykavi's brilliant "fork and spoon" soup is genuine cold winter Sunday fare. It was also quite an education for me: I've never prepared a soup's vegetable base in this way before (I didn't have shrimp paste, so I used shrimp powder instead) . The flavor changes remarkably as a result, and nothing interferes, texture-wise, with the tender chunks of chicken, bits of boiled egg, and silken rice noodles. The brazen 2 tablespoons of chili powder first caught my eye; I even added a few drops of Sambal Olek, too. In short, I love this soup, and I am so glad to have precious leftovers in the freezer. Thank you, nykavi, for taking me outside my comfort zone into a brand new one. —boulangere

What You'll Need
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger, grated
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (belachan)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 packet rice noodles
  • 1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced and fried to a crisp
  • 3 eggs, boiled and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped fine
  • 2 limes, quartered
  1. Peel and chop the onions and garlic cloves into chunks. The size doesn't matter as they are to be ground.
  2. Place the onions, garlic, ginger, shrimp paste, and water in a blender or food processor. Pulse well till you have a smooth paste.
  3. Clean and chop the chicken into bite size pieces. Wash well and drain.
  4. Heat canola and sesame oils in a Dutch oven.
  5. Add the onion paste and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes to get the rawness out of the onions.
  6. Add turmeric and chili powder . Stir to incorporate them into onion mix.
  7. The chicken goes in next. Sauté the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring well to coat with spice mixture.
  8. Add coconut milk and 1 cup of water . Stir well and bring the soup to a boil.
  9. Lower the flame, and let the soup come to a simmer .
  10. Cover the saucepan and let the soup simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  11. Fill a large, deep saucepan with water and bring to a boil on a high flame.
  12. Add rice noodles to the boiling water. Take the saucepan off the heat and let rice noodles steep in water for 20 minutes. Drain well and keep aside.
  13. Assemble the soup with a large helping of rice noodles in a soup bowl. Top with ladlefuls of soup. The noodles should swim in coconut broth. Add pieces of chicken. Garnish with fried shallots, chopped egg, a sprinkling of chili powder, some cilantro, and a large squirt of lime juice.
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  • nykavi
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39 Reviews

nykavi February 2, 2015
Thanks for catching the missing salt. One teaspoon goes in the sauce and the other in the water for the noodles.
nykavi February 2, 2015
Thanks for catching the salt mistake. You should add 1 teaspoon to the coconut sauce. And the other to the noodles.
Joy H. February 2, 2015
I'm looking forward to making this but wasn't sure what to do with the 2 teaspoons of kosher salt in the ingredients list. Does it get added to the soup or used to cook the noodles in?
nykavi December 30, 2014
Hi Jennifer.. I'm sorry that the paste didn't quite come out smooth
nykavi December 30, 2014
I use a blender to make the paste as it does come out smooth and creamy. If you don't have one then by all means go with the processor but add a little liquid ( 2-3 tablespoons water or canola oil ) to help the paste along. Hope this works for you.
Jennifer December 30, 2014
The onion/garlic mixture never got to a "paste" consistency for me, more of a very fine mince, and I kept the food processor going for quite a while. Any suggestions? The soup had a good taste, but the onion mix gave it a not-quite-smooth consistency.
nykavi December 19, 2014
I'm so glad you enjoyed the recipe. I like the idea of grinding dried shrimp!! As for the coconut milk. I use canned coconut milk which never breaks. Prior to this convenience I would scrape and squeeze milk from fresh coconut which would break if I didn't add 1-2 tablespoons of chickpea flour. My suggestion would be to dissolve some into the coconut milk before you add it to the broth. Most Khau Swe recipes call for this step. Since the canned variety doesn't curdle I eliminated it. Sorry
TheResa December 20, 2014
Thank for the tips! I did use canned coconut milk, which is what I always use and doesn't usually break. I'll try the chickpea flour next time.
TheResa December 19, 2014
Thank you for the delicious (and very accessible) recipe! It made an indulgent lunch for me yesterday and I'm looking forward to the leftovers today. I didn't have shrimp paste, so I just ground up some of the dried shrimp from my Chinese relatives. That worked for me! My only question was: did the coconut milk break in your soup? Mine did, and I'm wondering if I should have mixed the coconut milk more before I poured it in or maybe the chicken/oil was too hot...
nykavi November 1, 2014
Jeff, you could use 1-2 teaspoons fish sauce in place of shrimp paste, more if you like a pronounced flavor, up to 3 teaspoons. I have used fish sauce with much success.
jeff W. November 1, 2014
My grocery store only had fish sauce. How much do I add since I am substituting the shrimp paste
Eva October 22, 2014
I'm really looking forward to making this soup! Chili powder is listed twice in the ingredient list: 1/2 teaspoon, and later 2 Tablespoons. Can you clarify? Thank you!
Ruthy October 22, 2014
Wow, looks amazing! Glad I read through the comments on how to substitute the fish sauce as I am kosher and can't use that. I'm excited to try it!
nykavi October 22, 2014
Hey Susan.. You sure have a ton of chili powder to choose from!! Normally I use cayenne. You need something with a little kick to offset the somewhat mild taste of coconut. Enjoy!!
SusanKP October 22, 2014
This looks so good. I was wondering what kind of chili powder? I live in south Texas and have many to choose from.
nykavi October 22, 2014
Yay!!! Rainy days are perfect soup moments!! Thanks for making Khau Swe recipe of the day!!!
nykavi November 12, 2013
Hi Don
It's always reassuring to hear great feedback. A new twist makes life interesting!! Slurp away!
[email protected] November 11, 2013
nykavi, I just tried your noodle bowl and it was delicious! I had to use oyster sauce and for my noodles had to use Udon. In spite of this it was an exciting flavor! A great flavored soup! Don
nykavi March 19, 2013
Thanks for the vote of confidence SallyNyan. I used to make an earlier version with fish sauce and chickpea flour but I prefer the belachan paste. I love and cook Burmese food. I hope I could talk to you about my discrepancies .
SallyNyan March 19, 2013
Of course! Message me whenever you need to check something! :)
SallyNyan March 19, 2013
As a Burmese who routinely cooks traditional food, I can confirm that recipe is quite accurate!
I'd like to suggest a few alterations, though. Now I can't confirm this for the Thai version, but the traditional Burmese version doesn't typically use belacan. Instead, we use a powder made from ground yellow lentils, chicken stock and fish sauce. A vegetarian version can be made by substituting soy sauce and veggie stock for fish , and dried tofu skin for chicken. We also use yellow, wheat noodles instead of white, rice noodles. :)
Musebe March 19, 2013
I don't have balacan handy, would you know how much soy sauce and veggie stock to use in lieu of the paste?
SallyNyan March 20, 2013
I don't have a set recipe (I usually cook to taste), but I'd say about 1-1.5 cups of stock (you'll be replacing .5 a cup of the water in the recipe) and 2-3 tbsps--or to taste--of soy sauce. This is just my guesstimation. Nykavi, if you've got any further suggestions, feel free to jump in! This is your recipe after all!
Musebe March 20, 2013
Thank you for the clarification!
Treebird October 22, 2014
Hi. What kind of wheat noodles? Like ramen noodles?
nykavi March 6, 2013
Abeth, good to know that every recipe lives another life! Enjoy
abeth March 6, 2013
I have made this soup twice. My 10-year-old daugther loves it, and it tastes even better the next day. I don't have shrimp paste and use anchovy paste instead--it works for us!