Quick and easy khao soi gai recipe with chicken cooked in a rich, creamy, and spicy Thai coconut curry soup made with coconut cream, red curry paste, and aromatics and served with soft egg noodles and topped with crispy noodles!
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If you have never heard of khao soi, it is a Northern Thailand, Laos, Burmese, and Myanmar dish made of a creamy coconut curry soup served with egg noodles and garnished with deep-fried crispy egg noodles on top. In Laos and Thailand it is known as khao soi but in Burma, the Burmese call it Khow suey. It is also known as Chiang Mai noodles as well.
This dish is rich, creamy, warm, comforting, packed with flavor, and is a lot easier to make than you think. The creamy coconut soup is made by simmering coconut cream, chicken broth, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, ginger, madras curry powder, and red curry paste.
Don't get me wrong. making khao soi from scratch is definitely a labor of love. You will need to put in the effort (and elbow grease) to pound the spices and aromatics in a mortar and pestle into wonderfully flavourful khao soi curry paste, so if you have the time, definitely try it.
For this khao soi gai recipe, I don't go down the route of making the curry paste from scratch and instead make the curry paste an easy way with fewer steps (without compromising flavor) so that we can quickly get this on our table to chow down. 🙂 You can also add additional garnishes such as pickled mustard greens, shallots, and additional chili oil for more flavor.
Khao Soi Ingredients
- Red Curry Paste - When you are buying red curry paste, make sure to read the ingredient list to make sure it does not have artificial colors and preservatives. It should contain the core ingredients of chili peppers, galangal, lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, and shrimp paste. If you want a less spicy and milder soup, use yellow curry paste instead.
- Madras Curry Powder - For the curry powder in this recipe, try to find Madras curry powder. There are many variations of it but at its core, it should contain the basics: turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, cardamom. Everything extra is a bonus! 🙂
- Coconut Cream & Coconut Milk - For this recipe, I use coconut cream because it gives the soup a creamier texture and it also has a much stronger coconut flavor which enhances the curry soup. Make sure there are no preservatives or thickeners in the ingredient list when you are buying it. I always find that the ones with preservatives taste less coconutty. The ingredients should only be 2 ingredients: water and coconut milk/coconut extract. I have also used the pure creamed coconut that comes in a small box in a solid brick form, and it gave the soup a FANTASTIC coconut flavor. If you can find those, I would definitely recommend them.
- Lemongrass - Lemongrass gives the soup an additional dimension of flavor. While preparing this, make sure to smash it to release the oils but keep it intact so you can easily fish it out of the soup.
- Kaffir Lime Leaves - Kaffir lime leaves are very strong and give a wonderful, fresh flavor to the soup.
- Chicken Drumsticks - Traditionally, khao soi is served with chicken drumsticks, and since it is always something I always have in the freezer I use this in my recipe as well. You can use chicken breast or chicken thighs but the drumstick is the easiest and quickest to cook (and it stays moist).
Best Noodles for Khao Soi
The noodles you want to look for are fresh Chinese egg noodles, they can sometimes be called steamed noodles, chow mein, or egg noodles, and can usually be found in the refrigerated section with the rest of the fresh noodles. Look for the signature yellow color noodles with eggs in the ingredient list.
Fresh egg noodles also come in different thicknesses. I find the thicker noodles to be tastier with this recipe because there's a lot more chew to them but if you can't find the thick ones, the thin ones work just as wonderfully!
Khao Soi Toppings
One of the most exciting and fun things about chicken khao soi is adding toppings to tweak them to your flavors and liking. You don't need to put all of them in, but traditionally this is usually what is served with it. Have fun tweaking the flavors with them!
Here are a few traditional khao soi topping ideas to start you off:
- Lime - Cut a few wedges of lime and squeeze the juice on top of your noodle bowl after it has been assembled, right before you eat it. This adds a wonderfully refreshing and tart flavor to the curry and cuts the heaviness.
- Shallots - Adding raw shallots add a bit of spicy heat to this dish. Slice them up thin so you don't get full mouthfuls of it. (If you find raw shallots too strong to be eaten by the mouthful as is (which I do), you can squeeze a bit of lime juice on it and let it soak for a few minutes before serving it. It will become a mellowed-out pickled version with a bit of tang!) Alternatively, you can also use red onions as well.
- Chili oil - This adds a bit of heat and flavor to the soup. You can make your own by heating up hot pepper flakes, shallots, garlic, and oil in a frying pan on low heat or you can use store-bought chili sauces. I like to use store-bought ones to keep it simple, and I HIGHLY recommend the Spicy Chili Crisp oil by Lao Gan Ma. I always keep a bottle of this in my pantry, and I kid you not this goes on everything (and it's not super spicy).
- Pickle Mustard Greens - These pickled mustard greens add a bit of saltiness with a hint of sour. I find it to be more on the saltier side than sour and taste a lot like sauerkraut, so if you can't find this pickled mustard green - sub it for sauerkraut! 🙂
- Coconut Cream - If you want more coconut flavor in your soup, add a dollop of coconut cream into your soup right before you eat it.
- Crispy Egg Noodles - Set aside some egg noodles (I like to use the broken small bits from the bag). Cut them into smaller pieces and deep fry them for 1-2 minutes
- Bean sprouts - Gives the noodles a refreshing crunch.
- Cilantro/Green Onions - A classic garnish that enhances any dish
My Quick Version of Khao Soi Paste
If you want a less spicy coconut curry soup, you can substitute red curry paste with a yellow curry paste, but I enjoy the spiciness so I usually use red curry paste.
At its core, Khao soi curry paste consists of these main components: chili peppers, shallots, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and black cardamom.
I take a shortcut by combining a red curry paste and a curry powder to get the same ingredients that you would find in a khao soi curry paste.
- Red Curry Paste - this will give me chili peppers, lemongrass, galangal, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste
- Madras Curry Powder - this will give me cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom
- Turmeric - This is an optional ingredient that you can use to make your curry a more yellow color.
Put it together with a bit of oil to bind them together and TADA! 🙂 Quick and easy khao soi curry paste.
Keep your Lemongrass and Aromatics Whole
Smashing the lemongrass really brings out the oils and flavors so that they can come out in the soup. In addition to smashing the lemongrass, I like to keep my aromatics whole (garlic, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass) and not cut them into small pieces so that I can easily fish them out when the soup is done.
How to Prepare Khao Soi Noodles
There are actually 2 different textures of noodles in a typical khao soi curry noodle, both use Chinese egg noodles.
The combination of both the soft egg noodles, combined with the crispy deep-fried noodles is what makes this Thai curry noodle soup so unique and delicious.
- Soft Egg Noodles - The first way you want to make the soft egg noodles is to quickly boil them in hot water for 1 minute. This will give you that soft egg noodle texture, which is then added to the creamy curry soup. You never want to directly boil the noodles in the curry soup, because the extra starch from the noodles will ruin the soup's flavor and texture.
- Crispy Egg Noodles (Used as a topping) - The second bunch of egg noodles is then deep-fried in hot oil for about 40 seconds, which gives you a crispy noodle topping that you put on top of the dish.
More Noodle Recipes You May Like
- Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)
- Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
- Turkey Udon Noodle Soup
- Wonton Noodle Soup
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Thai Coconut Curry Noodle Soup (Khao Soi)
- Pickled mustard greens actually have a very similar flavor to sauerkraut so if you can't find the pickled mustard greens, you can substitute it with sauerkraut! 🙂
- When you are toasting the red curry paste, try not to inhale the fumes - the chilies create a spicy fume that is not pleasant to breathe in.
- For a less spicy curry soup, substitute red curry paste with yellow curry paste
- I highly recommend using coconut cream for its strong coconut flavor but if you cannot find coconut cream, you can use full-fat coconut milk instead.
- When you are shopping for coconut cream, look at the ingredients list on the can/box and make sure it doesn't contain any thickeners or preservatives. It should only contain water and coconut milk or coconut extract. This makes a big difference in coconut flavor.
- I have also used Pure Creamed Coconut that comes in a solid brick form in a little cardboard box and it gave this soup a FANTASTIC coconut flavor. If you can find that, I highly recommend it, but if you use this, you may need to add an additional ½ cup of broth.
- 1 package fresh egg noodles (Set aside a handful for deep frying)
- 4 chicken drums (optional)
Quick & Easy Khao Soi Curry Paste
Toppings & Garnishes (Optional, Pick and Choose)
- chili oil
- shallots or red onion (thinly sliced)
- pickled mustard greens (chopped)
- lime wedges
- green onions
- extra coconut cream
- bean sprouts
Make the Khao Soi Curry Paste
- In a small bowl, combine the red curry paste, madras curry powder and 1 tablespoon of oil and mix together. Set aside for later.
Prepare the Soup Spices & Toppings
- Peel the first layer of lemongrass and cut the bottom ⅔ of the stalk into 3 cm chunks. (You can discard the top part of the lemongrass that looks dry, it usually won't have any oils or flavor in it.)
- Smash it to release the oils and to keep the stalks intact so we can easily fish it out later in the soup. (I usually use a small rolling pin to smash it, but if you don't have that you can use the blunt back of a knife as well). Set aside for later
- Peel the garlic and smash it, keeping the cloves intact as well and set aside for later
- Slice the ginger and set aside.
- While we have the cutting board out, we might as well prep the toppings! 🙂 Peel and slice the shallots up into thin slices. Cut the limes into wedges and chop the pickled mustard greens into small bite-sized pieces and set these all aside on a side plate along with some chili oil and coconut cream for the end.
Cook the Coconut Curry Soup
- In a large pot, set the stove to medium heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of oil into it and wait for it to get hot
- Add in the lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic, and ginger and the khao soi curry paste and toast it for 1-2 minutes. (The curry paste may stick to the bottom of the pan, that's perfectly okay!)
- Once the spices are aromatic and toasted, add in the coconut cream and coconut milk. Using a spatula, scrape off any curry paste that has stuck to the bottom of the pan, with the coconut milk. Cook it for about 1-2 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock, fish sauce and sugar and stir until everything is combined, and wait for the soup to come to a boil
- Once the soup starts boiling, turn the heat down to low and put a lid on the pot. Let it simmer for 30 minutesIf you are using chicken drums, add them in now.
- After 30 minutes, fish out the spices (lemongrass, ginger, garlic and lime leaves) and do a taste test and adjust it to your liking. (If it is not salty enough - add a little bit more fish sauce, if you like your soups a bit more sweet - add a bit more sugar in)
- (Optional) I personally like my curry soup to have a soupy consistency but if you prefer a thicker consistency in the soup, continue to simmer the soup (with the lid removed) for an additional 10-15 minutes to reduce the liquid.
- Keep it on the stove on low heat with the lid on to keep it hot while you prep the noodles and are ready to serve it.
(Optional) Deep Fry the Crispy Egg Noodle Topping
- Take about 1 cup of egg noodles and cut them into smaller 2-3 inch length pieces.
- In a small pot, add some oil (about 1-2 cm high) and set the heat to medium and wait until the oil is hot. (To test if the oil is hot, you can stick a chopstick in and see if it bubbles, or throw a small piece of noodle in to see if it bubbles)
- Once the oil is hot, add in a handful of noodles and cook them for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until they are crispy.
- Once it is crispy and done, remove it from the oil to let it cool and set aside for later.
Putting It Together
- Boil some water in a small pot and add in the egg noodles and cook it for 1 minute.
- Once the noodles are done, strain the water and add the noodles into a serving bowl.
- Add in a few ladles of the piping hot coconut curry soup and top it with the crispy noodles
- Adding in your toppings of choice and enjoy immediately while it is still warm
*Nutritional information is calculated using online tools and is an estimate*
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