During our honeymoon in Southeast Asia, my husband and I spent a few days in northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai. On our first day we set out on foot without any guidebooks or recommendations, in search of a local spot for lunch. We found one just a few blocks from our hotel: an indoor/outdoor no-frills restaurant with no tourists in sight and tables filled with hot sauces and condiments – just our type of spot. The specialty there was Khao Soi, a dish we had never heard of and blindly ordered, hoping for the best. When the waiter brought it to our table, to our delight it turned out to be a delicious coconut milk-based curry noodle soup with all sorts of crunchy veggies to add on top. We were addicted at first bite, and from there on ate it daily while in Chiang Mai.
Khao Soi is not as common as you would think in the U.S., at least not in Queens, where we have a plethora of authentic Thai cuisine. It is also not often vegetarian or vegan. With this in mind, I decided to figure out how to make a similar version at home. While I have simplified the traditional recipe and have made a few substitutions to make this both vegan and easy-to-prepare, it is still just as addictive and delicious and can easily be whipped up for a quick week-night dinner.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or coconut oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons red curry paste*
- 1 15-ounce can coconut milk
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon curry powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1-3 tablespoons lime juice
- Couple handfuls of greens, such as spinach, bok choy or torn kale (stems removed)
- 1/2 cup shredded carrots
- 1 lb Chinese wheat noodles (fresh or dried)**
- 1/2 cup pickled cabbage (optional)***
- Chopped shallots, green onions and cilantro for garnish
- Prepare noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water.
- Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic and let cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 seconds until aromatic.
- Add curry paste, coconut milk, vegetable broth, turmeric, curry powder, soy sauce, brown sugar and salt and stir well. Bring to a gentle boil and adjust heat to medium-low and simmer for about 8 minutes.
- Stir in greens and carrots and let cook 1-2 minutes longer. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.
- Put some of the noodles into individual serving bowls. Ladle on hot curry, and sprinkle each serving with the pickled cabbage, shallots, cilantro and green onions. Serve hot!
- *Various vegan and preservative-free options are available at both Asian grocery stores and major health-food stores such as Whole Foods, in the Asian food section.
- ** Traditionally Khao soi includes fried crispy noodles in addition to the soft noodles, which I have left out because I try to avoid using fried foods, it complicates the preparation, and while they do add a nice texture to the soup, it is still delicious without them.
- ***You can skip the pickled cabbage if you don’t feel like doing the extra work. If you do want to include it, put 1 lb chopped cabbage in a wide-mouth jar and pack it in as tightly as possible, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space at the top. Mix 1 cup water, 1 cup white vinegar, and 1 tbsp salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Pour liquid over cabbage, seal tightly, and refrigerate for at least 48 hours.