Khao Soi (Northern Thai Coconut-Curry Chicken Soup)

June 30, 2015
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

When I tried Khao Soi for the first in Chittagong, Bangladesh, I could instantly tell the level of care put into the dish. The chicken was perfectly tender from slowly simmering in coconut milk, the curry base was powerfully aromatic, and I picked up notes of turmeric, garlic, coriander, and kafir lime leaf. Each bowl was topped with fresh lime, cilantro, fried noodles, chile flakes, and a crumbled hard-boiled egg. The result was a perfectly balanced dish of spicy, sweet, salty and tangy. This is my best attempt to re-create the Khao Soi of my travels.

This dish can be eaten with jasmine rice in lieu of the egg noodles. —casey_

Test Kitchen Notes

For a sweet and salty, well-balanced Khao Soi, consider adding some palm sugar and additional fish sauce and lime. —The Editors

  • Serves 6
  • For the curry paste:
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 small bunch coriander stems
  • one 2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
  • one 1-inch piece fresh turmeric, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 2 green cardamon pods (or 1/2 teaspoon black whole cardamom)
  • 2 teaspoons dried lemongrass, rehydrated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce
  • For the soup and assembly:
  • canola oil, for frying
  • two 15-ounce cans coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 8 pieces chicken thighs or legs
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce, or to taste
  • 1 package Chinese egg noodles
  • Chile flakes, to taste
  • 6 lime wedges
  • 3 to 5 hard-boiled eggs, as garnish
  • Chopped cilantro, as garnish
  • Thinly sliced raw shallots, as garnish
In This Recipe
  1. In a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, add in all of the curry paste ingredient, except the salt and fish sauce.
  2. Wrap tightly into a square package about 6 inches-wide. Toast over a medium-high flame for 10 minutes. The packet will smoke a little bit—that’s okay!
  3. Next, remove toasted aromatics, add the salt and fish sauce, and blend in a small food processor (I used the blender attachment of my immersion blender), until smooth, about 2 minutes. This is the curry paste base so make sure all the chunks are gone. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil and add the curry paste mixture. Cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the coconut milk and chicken broth. Bring to a gentle simmer and add the chicken thighs or drumsticks.
  5. Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Add more cayenne, dried turmeric, and fish sauce depending on if you want it spicier or salter. Occasionally, rotate the chicken and ladle the broth over it to keep everything tender.
  6. While the chicken is cooking, prep the garnishes: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a straight-edged saucepan and fry a large handful of fresh egg noodles, it should only take about 10 seconds. Remove from oil and drain on a paper towel. Cook the remaining egg noodles to al dente.
  7. Arrange the following toppings on a plate for self-serve: chile flakes, lime wedges, fried noodles, crumbled hardboiled eggs, chopped cilantro, and thinly-sliced raw shallots.
  8. To assemble the dish, start with a small pile of egg noodles at the bottom of a large bowl. Pour in a few ladlefuls of soup broth and 1 piece of chicken. Repeat for each bowl, then garnish with toppings at the table.

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