Chicken Khao Soi

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Cover Recipe: Bon Appetit, Chicken Khao Soi: May 2013

Year after year, I renew my subscription to Bon Appetit and I’m glad I do. I look forward to it coming in the mail each month. I feel like it’s just keeps getting better and better. Last year when I received the May 2013 issue, I was really drawn to the Chicken Khao Soup on the front cover. It’s very similar to my family’s favorite Thai chicken soup. This recipe comes from Northern Thailand. It’s not a dish I had ever heard of or tasted before, so I put it on my lengthy list of recipes to try.

Thai cuisine is one of my very favorites. I love the combination of flavors and the use of coconut milk. This recipe has coconut milk, but also uses a lot of coriander, turmeric, garlic, and ginger. There isn’t any lemongrass or some of the other flavors I think of when I think of Thai food.

The most intriguing part of the ingredient lists was the dried New Mexican chiles, which I use a lot in Mexican cooking. I was really interested to see how they translated to this Thai soup recipe. Read my notes below to see what I thought of the recipe.

chicken khao soi

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Chicken Khao Soi

Yield: 6-8 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

"A simple curry paste gives this northern Thai-inspired soup surprising depth of flavor."

Ingredients:

Khao soi paste:
4 large dried New Mexico or guajillo chiles, stemmed, halved, seeded
2 medium shallots, halved
8 garlic cloves
1 2" piece ginger, peeled, sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
Soup:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, halved lengthwise
1 pound Chinese egg noodles
3 tablespoons (or more) fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 tablespoon (packed) palm sugar or light brown sugar
Kosher salt
Sliced red onion, bean sprouts, cilantro sprigs, crispy fried onions or shallots, chili oil, and lime wedges (for serving)

Directions:

For khao soi paste:
Place chiles in a small heatproof bowl, add boiling water to cover, and let soak until softened, 25-30 minutes.
Drain chiles, reserving soaking liquid. Purée chiles, shallots, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems, coriander, turmeric, curry powder, and 2 tablespoons soaking liquid in a food processor, adding more soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls, if needed, until smooth.
For soup:
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add khao soi paste; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly darkened, 4-6 minutes. Add coconut milk and broth. Bring to a boil; add chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is fork-tender, 20-25 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat.
Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
Add chicken, 3 tablespoons fish sauce, and sugar to soup. Season with salt or more fish sauce, if needed. Divide soup and noodles among bowls and serve with toppings.

Tips:

The chiles I used didn't end up being very spicy. The paste was good, but I wanted some spice! I added some red chile flakes. Next time I will just use the pods, seeds and all.
I used light coconut milk which still provided a lot of richness without it being to overpowering. The broth ended up being a little thinner than in the picture and I'm pretty sure that's why. Just an aesthetic thing.
I used gluten-free noodles instead of the Chinese egg noodles. I suspect any kind of noodle would be good here, but for the most authentic soup, use the Chinese noodles.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION
8 servings, 1 serving contains:
Calories (kcal) 700
Fat (g) 36
Saturated Fat (g)24
Cholesterol (mg) 150
Carbohydrates (g) 65
Dietary Fiber (g) 6
Total Sugars (g) 5
Protein (g) 35
Sodium (mg) 950

The results:

I wanted to love this soup so much, but I couldn’t get over the feeling that something was just…missing. The chiles I used weren’t spicy enough. I found I had to add red pepper flakes to amp it up, and even then I grabbed the sriracha from the fridge and gave it a good drizzle after my third bite. It’s not that it’s a bad recipe or a bad soup. It is actually very good, I just wanted it to wow me, and it didn’t do that. My husband and I had a lengthy conversation about what we could add to it to to suit our tastes – more sugar maybe? Definitely more spice. A squeeze of lime in each bowl is a must. It just needed something else, you know?

The paste itself is really easy to make. I could chalk up my disappointment to the chiles not being great quality, and maybe that’s just what it was. Or maybe I will try the guajillo chiles next time, which are spicier. I might also toast the chiles first like I do when I make mole or other Mexican recipes.

The recipe calls for a lot of garlic, but it wasn’t overpowering like I assumed it would be. I liked it. I did want there to be more “spice” in addition to heat. I love coriander and turmeric, but after the long simmer time, I couldn’t detect them as much as I would have liked in the finished soup.

That being said, it’s worth making again. I will just tweak it a bit…or a lot. Perhaps doubling up the spices and chile would do the trick.

Did this recipe deserve the cover spotlight?

Maybe, maybe not. There are other great recipes in that issue that might have been a better choice. BUT it did look really pretty in the bowls. :)

Lori is the founder of RecipeGirl.com. She's a professional recipe developer and food writer, and she's the author of The Recipe Girl Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: April 2013). Beyond food, Lori enjoys traveling, being outdoors, running, and maybe even singing a little karaoke. The mountains near Lake Tahoe are home for Lori and her husband of 18 years. They have an 12 year-old son who blogs at RecipeBoy.com.


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13 Responses to “Pimiento Mac and Cheese”

  1. 1

    Averie @ Averie Cooks — May 13, 2013 @ 7:00 am

    Thanks for your review!

    “spicy sweet flavor of the pimiento” — mmm that sounds so good! But I can see what you mean, that this is not at all classic mac n cheese. But a fun twist!

  2. 2

    Lori @ RecipeGirl — May 13, 2013 @ 8:02 am

    So I have to admit… I was like, “Wait… where are the pimientos in the recipe??” I guess I didn’t know what Pimientos were, but I’m guessing they’re the same as the red peppers listed in the recipe? I’m excited to try this out, especially since it’s touted by the magazine as being the tastiest version of mac they’ve had!” Glad you enjoyed it too!

  3. 3

    Renee @ Awesome on $20 — May 13, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

    I’ll eat mac and cheese in just about any form. Box or otherwise. And I love adding new flavors. I can’t wait to try this one out.

  4. 4

    Kathryn — May 14, 2013 @ 6:53 am

    I’ve been keeping this issue of Bon Appetit since March 2011 meaning to make this recipe and never quite got round to it. It sounds pretty great although I completely take your point around comfort food – I sometimes crave that wonderful blandness of mac and cheese!

  5. 5

    Beth — May 14, 2013 @ 7:12 am

    Love it – and if anyone can change his mind, it’ll be you!

  6. 6

    Tracey — May 14, 2013 @ 8:21 am

    I have never had pimiento cheese, and I keep telling myself I’m going to try it and then promptly forget. This looks like the perfect introduction!!

  7. 7

    sandra — May 14, 2013 @ 8:25 am

    That boyfriend is one tough customer. But I see his point. You like what you’re used to. He likes his out of the box the same way you like it homemade – it is the nostalgia you are both looking for and not the culinary expertise.

  8. 8

    Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic — May 14, 2013 @ 10:35 am

    I grew up eating pimiento cheese by the spoonfull and I would be all over this dish, especially with my love for any kind of mac and cheese. Great job!

  9. 9

    Gwen @SimplyHealthyFamily — May 14, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

    Say What?!?! Poor, poor boy! You must remedy that ;)
    This looks fantastical!

  10. 10

    Faith — May 15, 2013 @ 8:32 am

    I’m always up for trying a new version of mac and cheese! I’d love to test this one out to see if it could make a mac and cheese lover out of my hubby. :)

  11. 11

    Reeni — May 16, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

    I grew up on homemade too and am always looking for new versions to try! This looks utterly delicious!

  12. 12

    Chris — May 21, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

    I’m a big fan of homemade pimento cheese so I know I’d like this version of mac and cheese.

  13. 13

    Tieghan — May 21, 2013 @ 7:36 pm

    I am with you, homemade mac and cheese is the way to go. Always! I can not wait to try this fun pimento version! YUM!

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