Khao Soi Curry

This version of curry hails from Northern Thailand and is all at once warming, comforting and deeply flavorful.

As with any dish, it is important to check for taste as you go – you want to carefully balance Salt, Acid, Heat and Sweet.


For the Curry

  1. 2 Tablespoons coconut oil (preferred) or other neutral, high smoke-point oil (avocado, vegetable, canola – avoid lower smoke-point oils such as olive oil)
  2. 3/4 – 1 cup minced shallots (about 4 medium to large sized shallots)
  3. 4 Anchovy Fillets
  4. 3 tablespoons yellow or red curry paste (see note)
  5. 4 cloves finely minced garlic
  6. 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg
  7. 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  8. Zest of 1 lime
  9. 1 Teaspoon coconut flakes (optional)
  10. 1 Tablespoon Yellow Curry Powder (store-bought, or homemade – see note)
  11. 1 Teaspoon turmeric
  12. 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  13. A few drops hot sauce, to taste (I really like Dave’s Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce – it’s slightly fruity, savory and WICKED hot – 2 drops of this is all you need)
  14. 2 Cans full fat (NOT lite) coconut milk (which will be separated in the can; that’s okay)
  15. 1 14.5oz can low sodium chicken broth
  16. Large handful fresh basil
  17. 1 bay leaf
  18. Juice of 2 limes
  19. 3 Tablespoons Heavy Whipping Cream
  20. White wine vinegar (or any vinegar) – to balance

    Note: Yellow curry paste is preferred but can be hard to find; for the yellow version, the best I’ve found is by Maesri, otherwise Thai Kitchens Red Curry paste is fine

    Note: Store-bought curry powder really is fine, but if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own. To make your own, combine the following pre-ground spices: 2 tablespoons coriander, 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 teaspoons dried mustard powder, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon turmeric. Combine all ingredients and toast in a dry skillet for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly; transfer immediately to a plate and allow to cool. To REALLY take it to the next level, use all whole spices (instead of ground); toast for 1 -2 minutes until very fragrant; allow to cool and then grind in a spice mill.

For the Toppings

  1. Fried Shallots (recipe follows)
  2. 1 cup neutral vegetable oil (for frying shallots)
  3. Wonton Strips (found with croutons at your local grocery store)
  4. Thai Rice Noodles, or Chinese Egg Noodles, or any egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
  5. Few drops chili oil (optional, not the sesame version)
  6. Lime wedges
  7. Picked cilantro

For the Protein

Any protein will do, or none at all.

Do what you want here, but I like to marinate boneless chicken thighs in roughly 2-3 tablespoons mayo + 2 tablespoons curry paste along with a generous pinch of kosher salt and some lime juice/zest if I’m feeling frisky – then I’ll either grill the thighs, or brown them in whatever pot I’m making the curry in as a first step. I then slice them into thin strips before adding them back to the pot at the very end of the cooking process.

Instructions – Mise En Place (Prep)

For the Curry

  1. Mince shallots and reserve in a medium bowl
  2. Add anchovy fillets to bowl with shallots
  3. Scoop out curry paste, reserve in a small bowl
  4. Aromatics: Combine minced garlic, nutmeg, ginger and lime zest in a small bowl; reserve
  5. Measure out Curry Powder and Turmeric, combine in a small bowl; reserve
  6. Measure out Brown Sugar and Hot Sauce, combine in a small bowl; reserve
  7. Open cans of coconut milk
  8. Open can of Chicken Broth
  9. Halve 2 limes, set aside – locate lime juicer if using
  10. Locate heavy cream (make sure you know where it is in the fridge)
  11. Prepare basil and bay leaf

For the Fried Shallots

  1. Slice 4 or so additional shallots into thin rings (these are separate from the minced ones)
  2. Locate oil and reserve 1 cup(ish) vegetable oil

Instructions – Method (Cook)

  1. In a large sauté pan – Heat oil over medium heat
  2. (If you’re going to brown your protein, do it here; remove and reserve. Otherwise proceed to Step 3)
  3. Add minced shallots (not the ones sliced into rings; you’re using for frying later) and anchovy fillets and sauté until shallots are softened and anchovies are melted; 5 – 7 minutes
  4. The next step is really four steps, and will go quickly (3-4 minutes, tops). Make sure your pan isn’t too hot and that you’ve got everything lined up in the order you’re going to add to the pot. If at any point stuff starts to burn instead of toast add a little water or stock to arrest the cooking process
    • Add curry paste, stir to incorporate and cook until fragrant; 1-2 minutes
    • Add aromatics (garlic, nutmeg, ginger, lime zest and coconut flakes) and cook until very fragrant; 1 minute-ish
    • Add curry powder and turmeric and stir until very fragrant (you’re getting the idea here; it’s going to smell awesome); 30 seconds
    • Add brown sugar and hot sauce; stir to incorporate, 30 seconds
  5. Add can of chicken broth and stir
  6. Add cans of coconut milk and stir until fat is dissolved into liquid, scraping up anything that might be lurking on the bottom of the pan
  7. Add bay leaf and basil
  8. Reduce heat to low; place a lid on your skillet slightly askew and simmer for 30 – 60 minutes, stirring occasionally (the longer the better)
  9. While the curry is simmering, make the fried shallots (recipe follows)
  10. Remove bay leaf and discard
  11. Transfer soup to a blender and blend until smooth (IMPORTANT NOTE: if you haven’t done this before, please watch this 1 minute video from America’s Test Kitchen on how to do this – unless you want a soup disaster of Chernobyl-like proportions in your kitchen)
  12. Return blended soup to sauté pan; bring to a simmer
  13. Add Heavy Cream, to taste
  14. Taste for seasoning: add juice of 2 limes, additional brown sugar, salt and vinegar as needed, tasting between each addition
  15. Add protein (if using) and simmer gently with the lid on your sauté pan until cooked through
  16. Cook noodles according to package directions

For the Fried Shallots

  1. Place shallot rings into a cold cast iron or other high-walled skillet
  2. Pour in vegetable oil until shallots are barely covered
  3. Turn heat on to medium
  4. Fry shallots until just barely golden; remove with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on paper towels

    Note: The key here to start cold – don’t add the shallots hot oil. Remove from oil slightly before they are done; they will continue to crisp and cook as they drain

Final Assembly

  1. Place cooked noodles into the bottom of wide soup bowls
  2. Ladle in curry
  3. Top with fried shallots, Wonton strips, lime wedges and a few dots of chili oil

One thought on “Khao Soi Curry

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