Kick Back with Khao Soi: A Crispy, Curried Chiang Mai Stew that Locals Love

Kick Back with Khao Soi: A Crispy, Curried Chiang Mai Stew that Locals Love

The largest city in Northern Thailand is known for its skyline of temples, its blissfully buzzy way of life, and, for Khao Soi - the intense noodle curry that locals love

The largest city in Northern Thailand is known for its skyline of temples, its blissfully buzzy way of life, and, for Khao Soi. It means “cut rice” in Thai, and the intense noodle curry is what they regard as their top dish.  

The Burmese-inspired crispy noodle curry stew is a highly flavoured and textured dish. Its base is a thick brew of coconut milk and red curry paste that’s tossed with punchy Thai flavours like galangal, turmeric and lemongrass. It offers delicious contrast too, with both boiled and deep-fried egg noodles giving chew and crunch all at once. For protein, you can choose from either chicken (Khao Soi Gai) or beef (Khao Soi Nuea).

Now let’s take a look at the key ingredients that make this one of the country’s most-loved dishes:

Lemongrass-turmeric-galangal blend: Using lemongrass, turmeric, and galangal, this triple spice threat is the thing that gives Khao Soi its deep fragrance and complex sweet-spicy-sour side. Lemongrass, a key ingredient in Thai food from tom yum to teas, infuses the dish with a fresh, lemony and astringent edge that “lifts” the heavy flavours. Turmeric, the brilliant yellow spice, brightens and imparts an earthy oomph to the curry. In fact, the root, part of the ginger family, is used in many Thai curries and seasonings for a slightly bitter, balanced hum. Galangal too, is another close cousin to ginger, and this time, its root adds a sharper, spicier, peppery effect to the curry. You recognise it most famously in another Thai signature - the spicy coconut milk soup, Tom Kha Gai. And all that punchy heat is mellowed by cool coconut milk and a wedge of squeezed lime.

Beef or chicken: Either beef or chicken is used as the main meat in this stew, and it’s thought that the beef version is influenced by neighbouring Myanmar, where the dish is prominently featured in the local Shan community.

Egg noodles, boiled and blanched in the making of Khao Soi

 

Egg noodles: One part fried, the other boiled. Deep-fried to a golden crunch, a tangle of thick egg noodles is the last thing to be added into the thick stew, and offers a crisp, crackling texture crunch to the boiled egg noodles. The latter, bathed in stew, hits all the comforting notes of a typical noodle bowl.

Pickled vegetables: With its sour punch, the side of mustard greens, or cabbage and fresh raw shallots brightens all the heavy flavours, taking off the spicy edge quite instantly. Vinegary, salty-sweet and chopped small, it’s a welcoming palette cleanser, a function much like the pickles in a Japanese rice box.

Learn to cook Beef Khao Soi from Thailand's top chef 

Chef TThitid Tassanakajohnon "Ton", posing in front of his one-star Michelin restaurant, Le Du, in the Bangkok capital. His contemporary Thai restaurant was named after the Thai word for "seasons". 

Now that you've read it all, join Michelin-starred Chef Ton as he shows you how to make his favourite Thai food, including top tips and substitutions, in Missing Thailand, Missing Thai Food. That's live from his Bangkok kitchen, Thursdays 6.30pm 13 - 27 August on Asian Food Network’s Facebook page. Save the recipe here and catch his third cook-a-long, a comforting Khao Soi Beef Bowl on 27 August, 6.30pm BKK, 7.30pm SG/HK.

Regarded as one of Chiang Mai's best parks, the Doi Inthanon National Park is home to sacred pagodas, and Doi Inthanon mountain - Thailand's tallest peak

Meanwhile, if you're thinking of your next vacation to Thailand, get a headstart with our guide on what to do, see and eat. Plus, plan your trip and get the latest Covid-19 travel advice on the dos and don'ts in Thailand at tourismthailand.org

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