Thai Curry Chicken Noodle Soup (Khao Soi)
In this monthly series, I commit to cooking whatever is on the cover of Bon Appetit, Saveur or maybe some other food magazine. There’s a reason these particular dishes are on the cover – they’re usually the best recipes in the magazine.
The cover of the March issue of Bon Appetit proclaimed “HOT SOUP!,” and I knew I had to jump right on it before the weather got warm again here in Michigan. And wouldn’t you know it, the day I had planned to make the cover-featured soup, it was nearly 60 degrees in March, and I went on a bike ride outside. Yes, that “outside” is bolded and italicized, because an outdoor bike ride, in Michigan, in March, is pretty rare. It was soul-warming. Then I came home and made hot soup anyway.
I’m so glad I did. This soup had such an amazing depth of flavor. It was so nuanced, yet balanced, and it made it so you just could not stop eating it. I thought it would be really spicy from the chiles, but it wasn’t. It had a subtle background heat to it, but the chiles just added more of a deep, rich flavor than spice. The coconut milk made it creamy and nutty, and the lime and cilantro brightened all of the other flavors. My husband and I just sat there eating it and kept saying “Wow. Yum. This is awesome. That bike ride today was fun. This soup is so good. Is there more left on the stove? I’m gonna go get some more.” That was really the extent of our dinnertime conversation.
The thing that impressed me most about this soup was how much flavor came out of it versus how little work it actually was to put together. While making a curry spice paste may seem like a pain in the butt, it really wasn’t. Throw some ingredients in a food processor and turn it on. Done. Then, you start your soup by just cooking that curry paste, then throwing the rest of your soup ingredients in and waiting 20 minutes. If you wanted to make this a weeknight meal, you could even prep your curry paste over the weekend, and just store it in the fridge.
I made just a few tweaks to BA‘s recipe, but not many were needed, because this is a stellar recipe. The biggest changes were that I added much more chicken broth than BA called for – I wanted my soup to have a thinner, more soupy consistency than what I got using the original instructions. Next time, I think that I will use light coconut milk instead of regular. This will cut down on fat/calories, and will also lend to a thinner consistency. I also omitted the fish sauce because I’m not a big fan of it. I “spiked” my soup with some rice vinegar and a little extra salt instead. I also couldn’t find “Chinese egg noodles” at my store (have no idea what those are, or what I was supposed to be looking for), so I used half a package of soba stir-fry noodles instead.
If it’s still cold where you live (back to 28 degrees here in the Detroit area), make this soup before it warms up again.
For the Curry Paste:
- 2 large dried guajillo chiles, stemmed, halved and seeded
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 medium shallot, halved
- 1 (1-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro stems
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1-1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
For the Soup:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut in half lengthwise
- 8 ounces soba stir-fry noodles (or Chinese egg noodles, udon, or any other type of Asian noodle)
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
- Kosher salt, to taste
For the Condiments:
- Bean sprouts
- Lime wedges
- Sliced red onion
- Make Curry Paste: Place chiles in a medium heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water over to cover them. Let stand 30 minutes.
- Take chiles out of soaking liquid; reserve liquid. Put chiles in bowl of food processor; add remaining ingredients, plus 1/4 cup chile soaking liquid. Puree until smooth.
- Make Soup: In large saucepot, heat oil over medium heat. Add curry paste and cook 5 minutes or until slightly darkened, stirring constantly. Add coconut milk and broth; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender. With tongs, transfer chicken to cutting board. Let cool 5 minutes; chop chicken into large chunks.
- Meanwhile, prepare noodles according to package directions. Add vinegar, brown sugar, chicken and noodles to soup. Season with salt to taste. Serve soup garnished with desired condiments.