Khao Soi (Northern Thai Coconut-Curry Chicken Soup)

June 30, 2015
9 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6
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

What You'll Need
  • 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
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Boat
  • Andrew Mackenzie
    Andrew Mackenzie
  • Fari
  • Alice Swenson
    Alice Swenson
  • casey_

9 Reviews

danielle B. May 6, 2020
I second the question from Andrew M.: when you say "Remove toasted aromatics" - you actually mean "place all the toasted aromatics in the food processor" - right? including the kaffir lime leaves?
danielle B. May 6, 2020
I've only had it with lime zest (instead of leaves) because we couldn't find the leaves before we wanted to make it. I have leaves now and want to make it the correct way, but am also confused about adding the dried leaves to the blender.
Elizabeth D. November 1, 2020
I believe what the recipe instructs is to remove the aromatics from the foil pouch, add the salt and fish sauce and place all in blender. The kaffir leaves should have been included in the foil pouch, so yes, it is added to salt and fish sauce in the blender.
Boat May 7, 2019
Wow! I didn't know they have Khao Soi in Bangladesh!
Here in Thailand, it's known as a very popular noodle dish of the north in Chiangmai and Chiangrai. We call it Khao soi in Thai as well!
Andrew M. January 8, 2019
Hey - when you say "Remove toasted aromatics" - you actually mean "place all the toasted aromatics in the food processor" - right? including the kaffir lime leaves?
CanadaDan March 6, 2018
why dried, rehydrated lemongrass instead of just fresh?
casey_ March 6, 2018
I developed this when I lived in a small town with limited grocery section. I'm sure fresh would be even better!
Fari December 1, 2016
This is originally a dish from Burma.
Alice S. October 3, 2015
Would love a link to a good broth recipe for this!