Khao Soi Nuea

When I was in Thailand, Khao Soi was one of my favourite dishes. While it’s a Northern Thai specialty, I found a couple of places in Bangkok serving a fantastic Khao Soi. Some were even better than ones I had in the capital of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai. When I returned home, I knew it was the first dish I had to learn how to recreate.

So, what is Khao Soi? It’s basically a coconut-based red curry with soft egg noodles, meat (usually chicken but could be beef or pork), and crispy egg noodles for garnish. Then there’s optional toppings like sliced shallots, chilli simmered in oil, pickled mustard greens, coriander, and a slice of lime.

This recipe is a more refined version of the dish, but the flavours are as bold, punchy and rich as any Khao Soi I ate in Thailand. Feel free to substitute the beef for chicken or pork, but I dare say you won’t get such depth of flavour as you do with shank. This recipe is based on a recipe by Austin Bush out of his fantastic cookbook called The Food of Northern Thailand. I highly suggest any Thai food lover gets themselves a copy.


Khao Soi Nuea (serves 4-6) – Adapted from a recipe by Austin Bush

Slow-cooked oxtail curry with soft and crispy egg noodles

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Ingredients

Beef stock

1.5kg beef shank with bone-in

2 onions, cut into wedges

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

5 black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

Crispy noodles

Vegetable oil for deep frying

80g fresh flat egg noodles

Curry Paste (from Austin Bush’s Northern Thailand cookbook)

10 large dried red chillies

2tsp salt

20g ginger, sliced

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

80g shallots, peeled and sliced

8 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Curry (based on Austin Bush’s Northern Thailand cookbook)

2 black cardamon

6 whole star anise

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1tbs turmeric

35g ginger, sliced

1tbs black soy sauce

1tsp raw sugar

1/2tsp MSG

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup coconut cream

500g fresh flat egg noodles

Serving

Handful of coriander

3 shallots, sliced

2 limes, cut into wedges

Chilli fried in oil 

Method

Stock

Preheat fan-forced oven to 200c.

Cut the bone from the meat, and slice meat into 1-inch pieces. Trim any fat or offcuts from the meat and put with the bones. Put aside the meat for later.

Place bones, offcuts, onions, carrot and celery in a tray with a splash of olive oil and roast until golden all over, turning occasionally. Approx. 40 minutes. 

Transfer to a pot. Deglaze roasted tray with boiling water and add to pot. Cover with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, before leaving to simmer covered for over 6 hours, preferably overnight. Once done transfer to container and leave for later.

Crispy noodles

Pour vegetable oil into a wok over medium-high heat. Once hot, check by putting a small bit of noodle in the oil. It should begin to sizzle. Add a small handful of the noodles and fry until slightly brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel to drain. Transfer to an air-tight container and reserve for serving. Repeat with remaining noodles. 

Curry paste

Bring the chillies and enough water to cover to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Take off the heat and leave for 15 minutes. Afterwards, discard seeds from the chillies. Reserve the water for later.

In a mortar and pestle, pound the chillies with the salt to a paste. Add ginger and pound again until a course paste is achieved. Transfer to a blender or food processor and add the remaining curry paste ingredients. Blend on high until a fine paste is formed. Transfer to a container and set aside for later.

Curry

Crack the black cardamom pods, and reserve the seeds. Discard the empty pods. Repeat with the star anise.

Add the black cardamom seeds to a small pan over medium heat and toast until slightly dark and fragrant. Pound the seeds in a mortar and pestle until it becomes a powder. Put aside. Repeat with star anise. 

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add curry paste, cardamom, star anise, turmeric, and ginger. Fry until the mixture is fragrant and oil starts to emerge from the paste, about 10-15 minutes. 

Increase heat to medium and add the beef. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the beef is firm around the edges. Add 2 cups of previously made beef stock, the reserved chilli water, the black soy sauce, sugar and MSG. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Immediately turn heat down to a low simmer. Make a cartouche (watch how to make one here) and cover pot, followed by the lid. Simmer for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until beef is very tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. The mixture should be quite soupy, but slightly thick. Add more stock if necessary. 

Serving

Before serving, add the coconut cream and milk to the curry. Mix and warm it over medium heat until it reaches a low simmer.

In a medium saucepan, bring enough water for the noodles to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until it’s slightly firm. Drain and place in big serving bowls. Top with the curry, followed by the crispy noodles and coriander. Serve with the sliced shallots, a lime wedge, and the chillies fried in oil. 

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