Khao soi (Chiang Mai noodle soup)

Marion Grasby

Marion: Recipe and stories from a hungry cook, 222pp.
by Marion Grasby
Pan Macmillan Australia, Sydney, 2011
Cooking on page 32

Marion was a contestant in the second season of Australia’s Master Chef competition. The audience loved her engaging smile, cheerful personality and creative dishes. No doubt about it—she was a favourite to win. Until the peanut sauce showdown!

I can’t remember exactly what happened but Marion, who has an Asian background and has been making peanut sauce for most of her life, bombed out in a cook-off with another contestant. She over-engineered her sauce until it was a disaster, and she was eliminated. Australia was gobsmacked. We really did adore this chirpy and talented young woman from Darwin, whose mum is from Thailand and dad from Australia.

But Marion has survived in her own way and gone on to make a name for herself in the world of food. She writes for food magazines, has a line of Asian food products and now this cookbook.

Today we’re cooking on page 32. Marion says she discovered this recipe when she was doing language study in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand.

Khao Soi (Chiang Mai noodle soup)

Khao soi (Chiang Mai noodle soup)

200 g fresh thin egg noodles
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 cups coconut milk
2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
300 g chicken thigh fillets, thinly sliced

Noodle condiments
150 g deep-fried egg noodles, gently broken into large chunks
3 red shallots, thinly sliced
100 g pickled mustard greens, drained, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 cup roughly chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges

Cook the fresh noodles in boiling salted water for 2–3 minutes, or until just cooked. Drain, refresh under cold running water. Drain again well and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry paste, turmeric and cardamom and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant and steaming. Add 1 cup of the coconut milk and simmer for 2 minutes to let the flavours infuse. Add the remaining coconut milk, the fish sauce, sugar and 2 cups of water. Toss in the chicken and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until cooked through.

Arrange small handfuls of the cooked fresh noodles in serving bowls and ladle over the soup. Place a chunk of the deep-fried noodles on top. Scatter over a couple of slices of shallots, a pinch of sliced mustard greens and a small handful of coriander leaves. Finish with a squeeze of lime.

Chiang Mai noodle soup

A great shot of skippersy’s version of this soup, with some carvings he acquired in Southeast Asia.

How it played out
We eat a lot of Asian food, so I know where to find ingredients such as pickled mustard greens and fresh and deep-fried egg noodles. I just cruise around an Asian market looking for likely items. If I don’t see what I want, I ask. Sometimes I even show recipe pictures.

This book includes a recipe for homemade Thai red curry paste, but I finished off a jar of bottled stuff I already had on hand.

A great soup that was so quick to throw together for lunch, especially because I didn’t have to make the red curry paste from scratch.

This dish is common in both northern Thailand and northern Laos. Apparently it has been influenced by my favourite Burmese dish, ohn-no-kauk-swe (there are lots of different spellings for that). A few years ago, I posted a recipe for ohn-no-kauk-swe here.

By the way, it’s been a long time since I cooked with pickled mustard greens, which are basically pickled cabbage. They add a nice tart flavour, but you could use pickled cabbage instead (but not sauerkraut).

Let me know if you want to make this and have trouble finding other ingredients. I might be able to suggest substitutions based on where you are in the world.

P.S. Skippersy made this recipe (see his comments below) and sent a picture of his results. His version of the recipe is posted here. Thanks Sy.


About leggypeggy

Intrepid overland traveller, keen photographer, avid cook—known to jump out of airplanes and do other silly things. Do not act my age.
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11 Responses to Khao soi (Chiang Mai noodle soup)

  1. jan sessions says:

    I also have this cookbook Peggy and did intend to make it and submit it to your blog but my good intentions never got much further than that. There’s a bit of editing needs doing re cabbage in the verdict.
    I’ll definitely give this a try now.

    • leggypeggy says:

      Thanks for the heads up on the edit. The things you type when you’re sitting on a hostel bed in the dark. 🙂
      Now you’ll have to pick another guest entry.

  2. skippersy says:

    Peggy, of course I will try to make this recipe this week. Do I have your permission to vary the recipe a little ? I hate Fish Sauce and hope to substitute anchovies, I don’t care for sweet coconut milk so will use a little and add chicken stock, I have small packages of Mustard Greens (a good substitute is Kimchi) and I think my brother has Thai curry paste… Frying egg noodles will be new to me.

    • leggypeggy says:

      Hi Sy — I hope you enjoy the soup. Your comment reminds me that I should specify unsweetened coconut milk. In actual fact, I don’t think we can even buy the sweetened stuff in Australia. We certainly never cook with it.
      Kimchi would be a great substitute for the mustard greens, but will add heat so non-heat lovers need to keep that in mind. And I think anchovies would be fine as a sub for fish sauce. I love anchovies.
      You shouldn’t have to fry egg noodles. Just buy crunchy dried (fried) egg noodles from the Asian market. I buy them and break them up for this dish. When I’m home, I’ll get a pic of the packaging.
      Good luck and enjoy.

  3. skippersy says:

    I posted on Food dot com and questions on various Thai Curries and got some good answers… but noted that it is your recipe and decision to post any details (or the recipe) was yours. I went to a Vietnamese grocery today and bought Red Thailand Curry Paste (only to learn later that my brother already had an opened small jar of Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste). The coconut tins are big and I only use a small amounts (they are unsweetened as far as I know). Sometimes I use dried coconut powder (can vary the amount and not to much if desired). When you take out from the local Chinese restaurants say Wonton Soup, they give you a small amount of fried noodles…
    I saw a big package of fried noodles in the grocery story, but decided to buy an already fully cooked Yellow Noodle package, so can use the noodles for any furture soups and see what I can learn by frying some.
    Finally it is 93+ degrees and humid here… so a hot chicken noodle soup is not exactly the best time to make this dish… but I will.

    • leggypeggy says:

      Wow, you are a good sport to make this soup when it’s so hot, but then spicy food can be quite cooling in hot weather.
      Look forward to hearing how the noodles turn out. And, yes, I use coconut powder sometime too. Always good to have on hand.

  4. skippersy says:

    I finally had the opportunity to make this Chiang Mai Noodle Soup this evening. And without a dough it is one of the best dishes I have made in the past 6 months…. the soup was fantastic!
    And deserves a “5 Star” rating or based on 1 to 10, it absolutely gets a big 10 rating. What was nice is that I varied the ingredients somewhat to my liking; Use a small tin of unsweetened coconut milk (5.5 Fl oz) and with 4 cups of chicken stock (chicken powder). For the Thai curry red paste, I added a 1 tablespoon and later on a second tablespoon so it was not to spicy (pepper) hot. Instead of Fish Sauce, I added four chopped up anchovies and with the added lime juice the taste was interestingly salty, sour and with a touch of coconut flavor too. I also experimented with making my own fried noodles, by placing some already cooked yellow noodles in a rounded strainer (to simulate a birds nest) and then into hot oil, ladling over with the hot oil. However, I did not exactly get a birds nest shape, but the noodles came out as one piece… placed on a paper towel to drain.. and later on top of the soup in the bowl. Oh, the mustard greens were a nice addition to the flavors, including the shallots. Finally, I had visited Chaing Mai many years ago but don’t recall trying this soup, but glad I can now make it based on LeggyPeggy’s blog entry and her comments…

    Thanks Peggy for introducing me to a tasty, interesting, wonderfully flavored soup!


    • leggypeggy says:

      I’m so pleased the soup worked so well for you, and especially because the changes were so successful. Great when a recipe is flexible and delicious. Thanks for making it, sharing your experience and for the two pics that I will add when I have a better internet connection. 🙂

  5. skippersy says:

    Thanks LP for posting my recipe photo on your blog… and a URL to my version of this recipe!

  6. Pingback: Sweet chilli and lime parcels | What's cooking on page 32

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