Riding the wave of my visit to the Asian Express restaurant, I decided to try recreating one of the dishes on their menu. The Burmese KhowSuey was one of my favorite dishes that I tasted at Asian Express, thanks to the courteous invite to a tasting last weekend.
I first read about this dish a few years ago on Sala Kannan’s blog, and have been meaning to try it out. But the main feature of this dish is the array of condiments that it is served with, and I always seemed to be out of something. This time I decided to go ahead with what I could get easily. After all, making do with local ingredients to create something global is where the creativity comes in :).
My efforts were further deep sixed by some labor strike which meant that even regular vegetables were not readily available in the market. Even a sprig of lemon grass was hard to come by.(I used a lemon grass powder which turned out to be completely ineffective).
The Khao Soi, alternately called Khow Suey is a North Thai or Burmese dish. It was brought to Thailand by Chinese Muslims. So the ‘curry’ here is more like the Thai Yellow curry or Massaman curry. Massaman is supposed to be a take on the word ‘Muslim’, anyway. Actually, the color of the curry is not as important as what goes in it. When you order Thai food in a restaurant, you order red, yellow, green curry etc. These colors could be enhanced by food coloring at times.
The Yellow curry is closer to Indian flavors, and closer to a curry powder. Yes, the curry powder that is available everywhere outside India but not in India. Turmeric and coriander feature strongly here, along with ginger, garlic, galangal and lemon grass. Some cloves, cinnamon and pepper add the heat. The Khao Suey is really like a salad bar, except it is a noodle bowl. You start with some boiled noodles, ladle in the broth and add toppings to your heart’s content.
I fried up some onions, garlic and peanuts, and chopped some vibrant green cilantro or coriander. I would have loved scallions but they were not available thanks to the strike.
Veggie wise, this Thai- Burmese Khao Soi is loaded with mushrooms and broccoli and made hearty with tofu. Other veggies that will do great here are carrots, zucchini, baby corn or bok choy. Maybe snow peas if you get them where you live. And then why not add a crunch with some water chestnuts?
The recipe here is my version, and authentic or not, it turned out to be super delish. I was in slurpy heaven minus the Slurpee ;). This was a hot kind of slurpy, of course.
Here goes the recipe. Make lots, and keep the noodles separate!
2 packs Golden Dragon Egg noodles
Or 1 pack rice noodles
1 can coconut cream
½ cup peanuts
½ cup chopped garlic
2 slivered onions
½ cup chopped cilantro
3 liters water
Oil for deep frying
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp sugar
4 Tbsp vinegar
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup chopped firm tofu
For the curry paste
1 small onion
10 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger
1 inch galangal
Lemon grass stalk or paste
4-5 green coriander stocks
2 Tbsp mild curry powder
- Grind all the ingredients of the curry paste to make a thick paste. Keep aside.
- Heat oil in a wok and deep fry the onions, garlic and peanuts, only a few at a time until crispy. Drain on paper towels and set aside.
- Boil noodles per packet directions, drain and wash with cold water. Use rice noodles, linguini, angel hair or even Maggi noodles if you don’t have egg noodles. Just take care not to overcook them.
- Transfer about 1-2 Tbsp of remaining oil to a large stock pot. Add the curry paste and fry well. Add some water and stir until oil leaves the sides. This is necessary to get rid of the raw taste of the curry paste.
- Add chopped tofu and mix well.
- Add about 2-3 liters of water and bring to a boil.
- Add salt, sugar, cayenne, vinegar, soy sauce and let the mixture boil.
- Add the coconut cream to the stock and bring it to a boil.
- Add vegetables just before serving so that they remain tender crisp at the time of eating.
- Once vegetables appear blanched, switch off heat. They will continue to cook in the residual heat.
- Place some noodles in a bowl. Ladle broth to cover the noodles – as much or as little as you want.
- Add fried garlic, onions, peanut, cilantro etc. – any toppings you want.
- Mix everything in the bowl and dig in.
The coconut cream makes this heavy and rich even if you are making almost a gallon. A large bowl of this is enough to fill you up. But I won’t say a thing if you go for seconds!
As you may have noticed, this recipe is entirely vegan and vegetarian with No fish sauce or shrimp powder or shrimp paste. Some people use ‘vegan fish sauce’ but I have not developed a liking for it. And that is good because this is one ingredient that is definitely not available in Pune.
Other tips –
1. Keep noodles al dente and shock in cold water to avoid residual heat
2. Use peanut oil or a light oil like canola or vegetable. Olive oil is a no-no here
3. Use fresh lemon grass – if not the bottom part, just put in 2-3 strands of the whole thing tied up in a bouquet ( yes, good old ‘gavti chaha’)
4. Keep blanched veggies separate if you are planning to make several meals out of this
5. I used coconut cream and the soup was rich even with adding lots of water. You can use light coconut milk and adjust the water to get desired thickness
Alright then..I hope you try this Khao Soi recipe and tell me if you liked it. It’s very easy to make and there is no right or wrong way here, just ‘your’ way.