Khao Soi Gai (Northern Thai Coconut Curry Noodles Soup with Chicken)
This Khao Soi Gai is a Thai coconut curry noodles soup that is incredibly fragrant and flavorful! Chicken gets cooked in a spicy and warming Khao Soi paste, and then is simmered with veggies and seasonings in a creamy coconut milk broth and served with egg noodles.
8–10 Red Chilies (Bird’s Eye preferred, but Holland or other hot small red chilies will work too), to taste – cut into ½-inch pieces
2 Lemongrass stalks (or substitute with 2 TBLS Lemongrass Paste) – bottom woody part and upper tough part chopped off, outer layers removed and discarded, then sliced lengthwise through the middle and finely minced
2-inch piece Galangal -peeled and roughly chopped
6 Garlic cloves – minced
¾-inch knob of Ginger – peeled and minced (about 1 TBLS minced)
2 Asian Red Shallots – peeled and chopped
4–6 Kaffir Lime Leaves – destemmed and sliced into thin strips
1 (50 grams) disc Coconut Sugar (substitute with 1–2 TBLS crystalized coconut or brown sugar if you have that on hand instead) – shaved with a knife
2 TBLS freshly squeezed Lime Juice, or more to taste
1.25 TSP Chili Powder, to taste
1.25 TSP Crushed Red Pepper Chili Flakes, to taste
454 grams / 1 pound uncooked dried Egg Noodles (or thin rice noodles such as vermicelli)
Optional toppings: Sliced red onion (or shallots), chopped coriander, chopped mint leaves, crispy fried wonton wrapper strips
To Serve (optional): Lime wedges for squeezing
For the Khao Soi Paste:
Prepare the fresh ingredients: Prepare the red chilies, lemongrass, galangal, garlic, ginger, shallots, kaffir lime leaves, dried red chilies, and coriander roots (or stems if using) as indicated in the ‘Ingredients’ section. Add them to a food processor bowl, along with the turmeric powder, coriander powder, ground cumin, kosher salt, and canola oil.
Pulse: Cover and pulse into a smooth paste, uncovering as needed to push down the ingredients with a spoon and adding a tablespoon of water at a time to help the paste come along. It’s okay if there are a few chunky bits, but try to get the paste as smooth as possible. Transfer to a bowl or small container and set aside. (Note: The paste can be made a day in advance.)
For the Crispy Wonton Wrapper Strips:
Fry the wonton wrappers strips: Cut the wonton wrappers into thin strips – about 4mm wide. Then heat 3-4 cups canola oil in a small pot over high heat (you may need more or less depending on the size of your frying vessel). Once the oil reaches a temperature of 180°C/356°F, turn down the heat to medium-low and add a small handful of the wonton wrapper strips. Fry for about 30 seconds, or until they are lightly golden and crispy. They will rise to the top and crisp up instantly. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain, then repeat until all of the wonton wrapper strips are cooked. Set aside.
For the Khao Soi Gai:
Prep: Clean and pat-dry the chicken thighs, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Slice the red onion (or shallots if using), mince the garlic, and chop the red chilies. Rinse and drain the mung bean sprouts and set aside.
Sauté Khao Soi paste: Heat the canola oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Once hot, add the Khao Soi paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Cook chicken: Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes, or until the chicken starts to develop color and is coated in the paste.
Add onion and aromatics: Add the red onion, garlic, and red chilies and stir to combine. Cook for a minute or until the onion has slightly softened.
Add broth, coconut milk and mung bean sprouts: Pour in the low sodium chicken broth and coconut milk and stir to combine. Then stir in the mung bean sprouts and reduce the heat to medium-low.
Season and simmer: Season with fish sauce, sweet dark soy sauce, coconut sugar, lime juice, chili powder, and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir to combine, then simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes. Taste and add fish sauce and sugar if needed to suit your taste, then switch off the heat.
Cook noodles: Cook the egg noodles according to package instructions in a pot of boiling salted water. Drain and divide the noodles evenly into four bowls.
To Serve: Ladle the chicken and soup on top of the noodles in the bowls. Top with the crispy wonton strips, chopped coriander and mint leaves, and sliced red onion. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing if desired.
Ingredient Notes, Cook’s Tips, and FAQs
For the Thai fresh ingredients: If you are in Asia, you can usually find Asian red shallots, Bird’s Eye red chilies, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass in the Thai stall of your local wet market. If you’re based in the U.S. or elsewhere, try finding these ingredients at your local Thai or Asian groceries store. For galangal, add an additional tablespoon of chopped ginger if unable to locate. In place of the Bird’s Eye red chilies, you could use large dried red chilies instead – they are traditionally used to make Thai curry pastes.
Let the soup gently simmer and avoid letting it come to a boil. You don’t want it to come to a boil as the coconut milk may curdle. It’ll taste fine if it does curdle, but the soup will have white flaky bits in it which is not ideal. Aim for a slow, gentle simmer to avoid curdling.
Use lemon juice to help clean your food processor bowl. The turmeric powder may leave yellow stains in your food processor bowl. To get rid of the stains, add 2-3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to the bowl and let it sit near a window where ample sunlight is coming through for a few hours. Then rinse with soap and water as you normally would and voila! No more yellow stains.
Use store-bought Thai red curry paste. If you prefer not to make the Khao Soi paste or can’t find all the ingredients easily to make it, you can use a store-bought red curry paste instead. You’ll need 100-113 grams (3.5-4 ounces) give or take, depending on how spicy you want the soup to be. Note that it won’t taste exactly the same as my Khao Soi Gai, but it’ll still be pretty darn tasty!
Is Khao Soi Gai spicy? My version leans on the spicier side. But if you prefer to make this milder, reduce the amount of fresh and dried red chilies you use for the Khao Soi paste. Or you could use half of the Khao Soi paste to make the soup and freeze the rest in a freezer-friendly container for another day. Also, reduce (or omit entirely) the amount of fresh red chilies, chili powder, and crushed red pepper chili flakes you use for the soup.
Can I make this gluten-free? To make this gluten-free, replace the sweet dark soy sauce with a gluten-free sweet dark soy sauce such as a gluten-free kecap manis and double check that your fish sauce is GF certified. Also, serve with thin rice or buckwheat noodles instead of egg noodles. In place of the crispy wonton wrapper strips, coat some of the boiled rice/buckwheat noodles in corn starch and then deep-fry them in batches until golden brown instead.
Can I make this vegetarian/vegan? Use a vegan fish sauce and veggie broth, omit the chicken, and use rice noodles such as vermicelli. Top off your bowl of soup noodles with baked or crispy pan-fried tofu cubes instead.
Can I make the Khao Soi paste in advance? You can make the paste up to 1 day in advance. Store in a sealed airtight container in the refrigerator. Then take it out of the fridge the next day when you’re ready to start preparing the other ingredients for the soup. I wouldn’t make it any sooner than a day in advance because the water in may cause it to go bad.
Can I use bone-in chicken drumsticks or thighs? Yes. In fact, it’s traditionally made with drumsticks in Chiang Mai. However, I prefer to use boneless and skinless chicken thighs because it’s less messy to eat than drumsticks in this noodle soup.
Can I make this ahead? You can make the soup 3-4 days in advance. Store in individually portioned sealed airtight containers in the refrigerator. But cook the egg noodles, fry the crispy wonton wrapper strips, and prepare the other optional toppings when ready to serve.
Is this freezer-friendly? The Khao Soi paste is, but I don’t recommend freezing the soup. The paste will stay good for up to two months in a freezer-friendly sealed airtight container. However, the coconut milk might separate if you try to freeze the soup. It is best eaten fresh.