History of Khao Soi
Khao Soi (also referred to as Kao Soi in English) is a popular dish in northern Thailand, particularly in Chiang Mai, but its exact origin is unclear. Some sources suggest that it has Burmese or Chinese origins, while others claim that it was created by the Muslim community in northern Thailand. Regardless of its origin, Khao Soi has become an iconic dish in the region, and it is now widely enjoyed throughout Thailand and other parts of the world.
Traditionally, Khao Soi is made with chicken or beef in a curry sauce made with coconut milk, red curry paste, and other spices, served over egg noodles and topped with crispy fried noodles, pickled mustard greens, and lime. In recent years, many variations of Khao Soi have emerged, including vegetarian and seafood versions. In this recipe, we will focus on a more traditional variation using chicken legs.
Despite its long history, Khao Soi has gained wider recognition only in recent years due to its appearance in popular food and travel shows, as well as its growing popularity among food bloggers and Instagrammers. Today, Khao Soi is widely regarded as one of the most delicious and iconic dishes of northern Thai cuisine.
How do you eat Khao Soi?
Khao Soi is traditionally eaten with chopsticks (as noodle dishes are in Thailand) and a large soup spoon. You can find it most anywhere throughout Thailand, but the best can be surely found up north in Chiang Mai at a variety of different restaurants and food stalls.
Is Khao Soi similar to Laksa?
Is Khao Soi the same as Curry Laksa? Khao Soi is not the same as Curry Laksa because the difference is that Khao Soi is made with egg noodles and topped with a crispy noodle garnish. Laksa refers to the Malaysian version of a combination of flavors deriving from both Khao Poon and Khao Soi.
Variations and Regional Adaptations of Khao Soi
For a unique twist on this classic Northern Thai dish, try exploring the various adaptations and regional variations of Khao Soi. While the traditional version of Khao Soi consists of egg noodles in a rich curry broth topped with crispy noodles, there are numerous ways to customize and modify this dish to suit your taste preferences.
In Chiang Mai, where Khao Soi originated, you’ll find the most authentic version of this dish. The broth’s made from a combination of coconut milk and yellow curry paste, giving it a creamy and slightly sweet flavor. It’s typically served with chicken or beef, but some vendors offer pork or vegetarian options as well. The noodles used can vary from thin egg noodles to flat wheat noodles.
In other parts of Thailand, such as Bangkok or Phuket, you may come across different variations of Khao Soi. These versions often have a spicier kick due to the use of red curry paste instead of yellow. Additionally, seafood like shrimp or squid may be added for an extra burst of flavor.
Outside of Thailand, Khao Soi has gained popularity in neighboring countries like Laos and Myanmar. In Laos, their version called Khao Piak Sen features wider rice noodles in a clear broth flavored with garlic and fish sauce. In Myanmar, Ohn No Khauk Swe is similar to Khao Soi but with more emphasis on the toppings like boiled eggs and pickled mustard greens.
With so many regional adaptations and variations available, experimenting with different versions of Khao Soi allows you to discover new flavors while still enjoying the comforting essence that makes this dish truly special. Whether you prefer it spicy, mild, or vegetarian-friendly, there’s a variation out there that’ll satisfy your cravings for this beloved Northern Thai delicacy.
How to make Khao Soi Gai at home!
- 1 Large pot or Dutch oven You'll need a large pot or Dutch oven to cook the curry.
- 1 Wooden spoon You'll need a wooden spoon or spatula to stir the curry and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- 1 Chef's knife You'll need a sharp chef's knife to cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized pieces.
- 1 Cutting board You'll need a cutting board to cut the chicken and other ingredients.
- 1 Measuring cups and spoons You'll need measuring cups and spoons to accurately measure the ingredients.
- 1 Frying pan You'll need a frying pan to fry the crispy noodles.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 tbsp red curry paste
- 1 can coconut milk 14 ounces
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- salt (to taste)
- 1 pound fresh egg noodles (or dried egg noodles, cooked according to package instructions)
- Crispy fried noodles, chopped cilantro, sliced shallots, pickled mustard greens, lime wedges, and chili oil (optional) For Topping
- Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the red curry paste and stir for a few seconds until fragrant.
- Add the chicken to the pot and cook until browned on all sides.
- Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, fish sauce, palm sugar, turmeric powder, ground coriander, and cumin powder. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce the heat to low and let the curry simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Season with salt to taste.
- While the curry is simmering, prepare your toppings. Cook the egg noodles according to package instructions and set aside. Fry the crispy noodles and set aside. Chop the cilantro, slice the shallots, and prepare the pickled mustard greens.
- To serve, divide the cooked egg noodles into bowls and ladle the hot curry over the top. Top each bowl with crispy noodles, cilantro, sliced shallots, pickled mustard greens, and a lime wedge. Drizzle with chili oil, if desired.
- Red curry paste: a spicy and flavorful paste made from red chili peppers, garlic, shallots, lemongrass, galangal, shrimp paste, and other ingredients. It is commonly used in Thai cuisine to add heat and flavor to curries and other dishes.
- Coconut milk: a creamy and rich liquid made from grated coconut flesh and water. It is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine to add flavor and creaminess to curries and soups.
- Chicken thighs: a cut of chicken meat that is taken from the upper part of the leg, near the back. It is a flavorful and tender cut that is well-suited for slow-cooking methods like simmering and braising.
- Fish sauce: a condiment made from fermented fish that is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine to add saltiness and umami flavor to dishes.
- Palm sugar: a sweetener made from the sap of palm trees. It has a caramel-like flavor and is commonly used in Thai cuisine to add sweetness and depth of flavor to dishes.
- Egg noodles: a type of pasta made from wheat flour and eggs. They are commonly used in Chinese and Southeast Asian cuisine to add texture and flavor to soups and stir-fries.
- Shallots: a type of onion that is smaller and sweeter than regular onions. They are commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine to add flavor and aroma to dishes.
- Cilantro: also known as coriander, this is an herb with bright green leaves and a fresh, citrusy flavor. It is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine as a garnish for soups, curries, and salads.
Q: Can I use other meats instead of chicken thighs?
A: Yes, you can use beef, pork, or tofu as a vegetarian option. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly to ensure that the meat or tofu is cooked through.
Q: Can I make this recipe ahead of time?
A: Yes, you can make the soup ahead of time and reheat it when you’re ready to serve. However, we recommend cooking the noodles fresh just before serving, as they tend to get mushy if cooked too far in advance.
Q: Can I freeze the leftovers?
A: Yes, you can freeze the leftover soup (without the noodles) in an airtight container for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw the soup in the refrigerator overnight and then gently reheat it on the stovetop, adding fresh noodles just before serving.
Q: Can I adjust the spice level of the soup?
A: Yes, you can adjust the spice level by adding more or less red curry paste and chili oil to the soup. Be sure to taste as you go and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
Q: What are some common toppings for Khao Soi Gai?
A: Common toppings include crispy fried noodles, sliced shallots, fresh cilantro, lime wedges, and pickled mustard greens. You can also add other toppings like chopped peanuts, bean sprouts, or sliced chilies to customize the soup to your liking.
Q: Can I make this recipe gluten-free?
A: Yes, you can make this recipe gluten-free by using gluten-free soy sauce and rice noodles instead of egg noodles. Be sure to check that all other ingredients are also gluten-free.