Khao Soi Gai – Northern Thai chicken curry

Khao Soi Gai – Northern Thai chicken curry

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Khao Soi Gai has a literal translation of khao meaning curry, soi meaning street, and gai meaning chicken. This sweet and aromatic curry can be found in early morning markets all around Thailand, but hangs it’s hat in the North, namely Chiang Mai province. There are variations of this dish in Myanmar, by the name of Shwe Gone Noodles. In Malaysia, a similar curry is known as Laksa. There are significant differences in these three examples, but the main structure of a thin yellow curry, crispy noodles, and bright garnishes holds true.

This particular Khao Soi recipe will not win you any awards for being the most authentic, whatever that means, but it is damn delicious! Watch the video and read the recipe thoroughly before embarking on this involved, yet rewarding dish. Because this well-loved and wildly revered curry is so fiercely regional, it is one of those foods scarred by the title of being “authentic” or at worst, “not authentic” by some yuppy who went and partied at in Chiang Mai for a weekend, and now thinks they’re the suburban ambassador on the matter.

No, I am not one of those cooks that completely tosses the word “authentic” out the window, but I believe it is more important to capture the cadence of a dish, rather than photocopy it. It is important to first have a handle on the thing, to learn the composition, before improvising.

Look, it’s complicated, and I’m not the only person who thinks so. Just read Kevin Alexander’s hot take on Why ‘Authentic Food’ Is Bullshit to hear another foodies opinion. While I agree there is an issue of authentic-washing bad preparations, I think there is just as much harm being done by young chefs looking to attempt international cuisine, while their techniques are staying planted firmly in the comfort zone of culinary school. An unwillingness to forget what the French have done long enough to adopt a new skill set is just as damning as continuing an “authentic” recipe that just happens to honk.

The takeaway? Cook good food! First, cook it how someone else has, then if there’s things to improve upon to further satisfy your personal taste buds, or to simplify things without sacrificing flavor, I say go for it! As long as a recipe first comes from a source who deserves to be an authority, I say due diligence has taken place. That being said, just because Thomas Keller is a fantastic chef, doesn’t mean I give a shit how his Thai curries are done, I’d rather shoot rice whiskey with the tuk tuk driver in a Bangkok soup market to learn that! Not everything needs to be “fusion” aka bastardized to avoid being “authentic”, that’s just a cover for lack of proper care and research. No one likes a culture vulture!

Anyways, any way you slice it, or scoop it, this is how I love to cook this dish. As with the many dishes to be featured in the upcoming Thai cooking course, I hope this application gives you the confidence and guidance to make wonderful Thai treats at home. The regional differences in Thailand are one of the powerful elements in the country’s cuisine that had me infatuated in the first place. All I can hope is that my faithful representations bring you joy, and make your guests smile when they take a bite, or a slurp!


Print Recipe
Khao Soi Gai - Northern Thai chicken curry
Prep Time 3 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Curry paste
Curry broth
garnish
Prep Time 3 hours
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Curry paste
Curry broth
garnish
Instructions
Make the paste
  1. In a mortar and pestle, add lemongrass with a pinch of the salt, pound vigrously, using a spatula to scrape the sides, until a coarse paste is formed. Repeat this process, working in order, with the galangal, finger ginger, fresh turmeric, chili flake, garlic, shallot, and finally shrimp paste. If the aromatics are chopped fine enough before starting, the process can take as little as fifteen minutes to achieve a nice smooth paste. The first few times, it may be closer to a half an hour. Finish with the ground coriander and cardamom, pound briefly to combine.
Make the curry
  1. In a large wok, over low heat, add the oil and sauté the curry paste for 8 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar to deglaze the pan. Add the stock and coconut cream and stir to combine. Add the chicken and simmer 45 minutes, or until the chicken is quite tender.
Noodles
  1. Meanwhile, cook the Chinese flat noodles according to package directions. Strain the noodles in a strainer and rinse them in cold water. Reserve the noodles in the strainer for later use. When the curry is finished, you can reheat the rinsed noodles in the boiling water to strain them hot, just before plating.
To plate
  1. Reheat the rinsed noodles in the boiling water, briefly, and divide among two large bowls. Divide the chicken evenly with dark and light meat, and ladle in the broth. Garnish with a squeeze of lime juice, some pickled cabbage, and the crispy noodles. This dish is ready to serve.

2 Comments

  • Claudia Ruiz Farias

    January 26, 2018

    Thank you for sharing such great recipes Jakob! I really like the way you explain all the details step by step through Preparations. In love with this site!
    Claudia.

    • Jakob

      January 26, 2018

      Hey! Well you are very welcome, I’m glad you’ve found the recipes helpful. Happy cooking!

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