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. :)

Lindsey Johnson writes the food blog, Cafe Johnsonia, and she works as a freelance recipe developer and photographer. She is the mother to three beautiful, fun children and resides in Utah. She became gluten-free in 2010 and has enjoyed the learning process that comes along with gluten-free baking and cooking. When she's not in the kitchen or behind the camera, she enjoys gardening, reading, being outside, and spending time with her husband and children.

2 Responses to “Chicken Khao Soi”

  1. 1

    Lori Lange — March 19, 2014 @ 7:39 am

    Wow, it sure is PRETTY! You snapped a gorgeous photograph for sure. Dare I say that it looks better than the magazine cover?? I’d totally try this and mess with the flavors a little bit.

  2. 2

    Andrea Janssen — March 19, 2014 @ 8:29 am

    Wow, this looks delicious. Looks like something I want to make and eat! Also the recipe looks very attractive. I’m going to save it!

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