Sunday, March 6, 2011

The search for the perfect bowl of khao soi.

    Complex, fragrant and often fiery, Thai soups are extraordinary. While tom yum has conquered the world, less famous, and by far my favourite is a soup from northern Thailand called khao soi. Describing it as curry chicken noodle soup make it sound ho-hum which it definitely isn't. Imagine a bowl of thick, creamy soup, dense with soft noodles and, on top, a crown of deep-fried noodles which makes for some interesting textural contrast. On the side, to add at will, are shallots, coriander leaves, pickled mustard greens, chilis and limes.
   Absolutely the first thing I order when I get to Chiang Mai is a bowl of it. And, during the time we were there, I managed to down more than a few versions. Here in France, it's hard to find the right kind of noodles and fresh coriander (cilantro) is something you grab when you see a bunch. But I've nailed the secret ingredient: the little packets of curry powder that I bring back from the market in Chiang Mai. Recipes? Plenty are on the Internet. The one that comes closest to the real thing is from the author of Real Thai: The Best of Thailand's Regional Cooking, Nancie McDermott.

This version came without the usual additions but with hefty amounts of chopped cilantro and green onion,

Someone getting inventive in the kitchen here. Check the straightness and stylish positioning of the fried noodles.

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