Mar 24, 2018

Chicken Khao Soi

Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr 20 mins
Khao soi is a signature dish of Northern Thailand, specifically the city of Chiang Mai, which is the first stop on our honeymoon. It’s a flavorful coconut curry soup that is the perfect combination of salty, sweet and spicy.

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Ever since Aaron and I decided that we would be going to Thailand for our honeymoon I have been on a massive Thai food kick. Khao soi is a signature dish of Northern Thailand, specifically the city of Chiang Mai, which is the first stop on our honeymoon. It’s a flavorful coconut curry soup that is the perfect combination of opposing flavors. One of my favorite things about Thai cuisine is the way five different flavor profiles: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and hot, are perfectly balanced in each dish.

Chicken Khao Soi

chicken khao soi curry paste ingredients

More About Khao Soi

This soup is built in a few different stages.

  1. The first step is making the paste. If you’re pressed for time you can substitute store-bought red curry paste for the khao soi paste but homemade makes it much more flavorful, plus you can customize the heat level.
  2. The next step is making the broth. The curry paste is sautéed until fragrant and is then simmered with coconut milk, chicken broth and chicken.
  3. To serve the khao soi. The soup is finished with egg noodles and then topping it with a handful of fried egg noodles, lime wedges, cilantro and red onions.

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

Chicken

This recipe uses skin-on, bone-in chicken legs which are then separated into two pieces: the thigh and the leg before they are added to the khao soi. The chicken is simmered in the broth until it’s extremely tender, almost to the point of falling apart. The bowls of khao soi are traditionally served with the chicken still whole.

Noodles

The noodles traditionally used are wide Chinese-style egg noodles, similar in size to fettuccine or linguine. They are usually sold dried and are sometimes marketed as “wide wonton noodles”. Most of the noodles are served boiled then added to the broth of the soup. The remaining noodles are fried until crispy and served on top of the soup.

Thai Bird’s Eye chili

Bird’s eye chilies or Thai chilies are small, pointy chili peppers that pack a punch. They add an intense heat with fruity flavor to dishes rating between 50,000 and 100,000 Scoville units. They can sometimes be difficult to find so I usually buy a large bag of them at my local Asian market. I store them in the freezer in a resealable plastic bag. It’s actually easier to cut them when they are frozen.

Coconut milk

Coconut comes from the creamy liquid inside mature coconuts. It creates a rich, creamy sauce with a bit of coconut flavor. The coconut milk balances the spice from the curry paste and the funkiness of the fish sauce.

Chicken stock

Chicken stock is typically made from chicken bones as well as aromatics and vegetables while chicken broth is made with the meat. How does that affect their flavor? Chicken stock has a much richer, more robust flavor which comes from the collagen released from the simmering bones. On the other hand, chicken broth is much more mellow in flavor. I typically use chicken stock when cooking. Substitute the chicken stock with water if needed (though it takes away some of the flavor.)

Fish sauce

I love the funky umami flavor fish sauce adds to any dish. It’s a great way to enhance the flavor of curries or even chicken wings. The flavor comes from a process of fermenting fish over a long period of time.

chicken khao soi recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

How to Make Khao Soi

For the khao soi paste:

  1. Toast the aromatics. Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the chili peppers, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger to the pan, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally to prevent it from burning.
  2. Toast the spices. After 2 minutes add the coriander, cumin and pepper to the pan, continuing to dry roast the ingredients until they darken, stirring constantly.
  3. Make the curry paste. Remove from heat and let cool then add to the bowl of a food processor with the vegetable oil. Pulse until the mixture is completely combined and forms a paste.

For the soup:

  1. Cook the khao soi paste. Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add vegetable oil and heat through. Then, add the khao soi paste, turmeric and curry powder and cook, stirring constantly so that the mixture does not burn, until the paste is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add the coconut milk. Add 1 cup of the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring, until red oil separates from the coconut mixture. Add an additional cup of the coconut milk and again boil until the oil separates.
  3. Simmer soup with chicken. Add the chicken, 2 cups of the chicken stock, lime leaves (optional) and the remaining coconut milk. Bring the mixture back to a boil then lower the heat to medium low and cover the pot and simmer, until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes.
  4. Add remaining seasonings. Stir in the soy sauce and fish sauce, continuing to simmer, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.

For serving:

  1. Boil 3/4 of the noodles. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add ¾ of the noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and return the noodles to the pot. Set aside until ready to serve.
  2. Fry the remaining noodles. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or deep fryer add enough oil to fill 2-inches of the pan. Heat oil to 350ºF. Fry the remaining noodles until golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
  3. Assemble and serve. Divide the cooked noodles among soup bowls and add chicken to each bowl. Ladle the broth over the noodles and top with the fried noodles. Serve with red onion, cilantro leaves and lime wedges.
chicken khao soi cooking with cocktail rings

Tips and Tricks for This Recipe

  • This version calls for 5 Thai birds eye chilies, which will make the soup mild (it still has a little kick), but add 3 to 4 more chilies to the paste if you want more of a “heat”.
  • While the paste is traditionally pounded using a mortar and pestle, I opt to use my food processor.
  • Khao soi is often served with pickled mustard greens, red onion, cilantro, limes and additional chili paste to dress it up as desired.
closeup bowl chicken khao soi recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

Other Recipes To Try

If you enjoy this chicken khao soi recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Chicken Khao Soi

Print Pin
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 20 mins
Serves 6

Ingredients:

For the khao soi paste:

  • 5 Thai birdseye chili peppers
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced (tender parts only)
  • 1 medium piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon madras curry powder
  • 2 (13.5-ounce) cans coconut milk
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on whole chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Kosher salt, as needed

For serving:

  • 1 pound uncooked wide Chinese-style egg noodles, divided
  • Vegetable oil, as needed for frying
  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves
  • Lime wedges

Instructions:

For the khao soi paste:

  • Heat a medium sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the chili peppers, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, ginger to the pan, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally to prevent it from burning.
  • After 2 minutes add the coriander, cumin and pepper to the pan, continuing to dry roast the ingredients until they darken, stirring constantly.
  • Remove from heat and let cool then add to the bowl of a food processor. Add the vegetable oil and pulse until the mixture is completely combined and forms a paste.

For the soup:

  • Heat a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add vegetable oil and heat through. Add the khao soi paste, turmeric and curry powder and cook, stirring constantly so that the mixture does not burn, until the paste is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Add 1 cup of the coconut milk and bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring, until red oil separates from the coconut mixture. Add an additional cup of the coconut milk and again boil until the oil separates.
  • Add the chicken, 2 cups of the chicken stock, lime leaves (optional) and the remaining coconut milk. Bring the mixture back to a boil then lower the heat to medium low and cover the pot and simmer, until the chicken is tender, about 45 minutes.
  • Stir in the soy sauce and fish sauce, continuing to simmer, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.

For serving:

  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add ¾ of the noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and return the noodles to the pot. Set aside until ready to serve.
  • In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or deep fryer add enough oil to fill 2-inches of the pan. Heat oil to 350ºF (180ºC). Fry the remaining noodles until golden brown, about 1 minute. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
  • Divide the cooked noodles among soup bowls and add chicken to each bowl. Ladle the broth over the noodles and top with the fried noodles. Serve with red onion, cilantro leaves and lime wedges.

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