Thai Red Curry Noodles (Khao Soi)–A Dish to Feed a Crowd

khao soi_two

My mum loved to throw parties—big ones, small ones, medium ones–and there was always one constant: good food, and lots of it.

Cooking for company often meant days of prep and a kitchen bustling with activity morning till evening. Ma would grind spice pastes for dishes like beef rendang or pork satay. She’d braise turmeric-spiced chicken for hours on the stovetop ahead of the next step–deep-frying them the day of the party (yes, the chicken was cooked twice!). And I, as soon as I could fold neat corners, was roped in to roll lumpia (fried spring rolls) by the dozens. Ma never skimped when it came to entertaining family and friends.

We also had friends over on an ad-hoc basis; neighbors, schoolmates, church friends, etc. came by our house weekly. On these occasions, Ma would make an all-in-one noodle meal. Prep was quick and easy and everyone could serve themselves. Her noodle repertoire ran along these lines: bakmi (egg noodles topped with pork and mushrooms), soto daging (noodles with beef and lemongrass soup), and Indonesian laksa (rice vermicelli noodles doused in a coconut-chicken-turmeric soup).

I recently discovered a Thai noodle dish similar to Ma’s laksa and immediately fell in love with it. With the help of store-bought red curry paste, khao soi is fairly easy to make for dinner guests and tongue-tingly delicious! Because each noodle bowl is customizable, even kids can enjoy it (just start with a mild curry paste). And no one would guess it only takes 30 minutes to prepare.

This is my kind of entertaining.


Thai Red Curry Noodles (Khao Soi)

khao soi_solo

Khao soi is a popular Northern Thai dish with cousins in Burma (ohn-no-kauk-swe) and Singapore (laksa). A tangle of fried noodles and a squeeze of lime liven up the party, creating a tasty mélange of sweet, sour, salty flavors and lovely contrasting textures. If you’re serving a larger crowd, this recipe is easily doubled or tripled. You can also choose to lay out all the ingredients on the table and let your guests serve themselves.

Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings, depending on appetites

Red Curry Gravy
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots or 1/2 small red onion, chopped
4 tablespoons red curry paste (I recommend Mae Ploy or Thai Kitchen brands)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 cups coconut milk, divided
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

To serve
12 ounces dried or 2 pounds fresh egg noodles (Chinese or Italian are fine)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
2 cups store-bought fried noodles (like La Choy brand)
1/2 small red or white onion, sliced thinly
Chopped cilantro
Chopped green onions
2 limes, cut into wedges
Soy sauce
Crushed chili flakes

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pot until it shimmers. Add the garlic and shallots and stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the red curry paste and turmeric and stir and cook until the paste turns a few shades darker and fills your kitchen with a pungent aroma, 2 to 3 minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Slowly pour in 1 cup coconut milk, stirring to blend, and cook until the sauce bubbles. Let it bubble gently over medium-high heat, stirring often, until a layer of red oil separates from the sauce and rises to the surface, about 3 minutes. Stir in the second cup of coconut milk and repeat the process of waiting for the oil to separate.

Pour in the stock and bring the sauce to a gentle boil over medium-high heat before reducing the heat to a simmer. Add the soy sauce and sugar and taste. The curry should taste a bit too salty (it will balance out when ladled over the noodles) and a tad sweet, with some heat to it. Add more soy sauce if necessary (this will depend on how salty your stock is). Keep the curry warm over low heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Stir the noodles as they cook to loosen them and prevent sticking. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.

To serve, divide the noodles and chicken into 4 to 6 individual bowls. Ladle about 3/4 cup of curry over each bowl. Garnish with fried noodles, onions, cilantro, and green onions as desired. Serve with the lime wedges, and extra soy sauce and chili flakes in little dishes.


Today’s post is part of the monthly Let’s Lunch Twitter blogger potluck and we’re featuring food that’s shared with family and friends in honor of fellow Let’s Luncher Lisa Goldberg’s book Monday Morning Cooking Club (HarperCollins; Reprint edition, September 17, 2013) which just launched its U.S. edition.


For more Let’s Lunch posts, follow #LetsLunch on Twitter or visit my fellow bloggers below: 

Lisa’s No Ordinary Meatloaf at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Anne Marie’s Almond Cheesecake Sammy Bites at Sandwich Surprise

Betty Anne’s Sisig Rice, Spicy Pork Belly and Garlic Rice at Asian in America Mag

Eleanor’s Surf and Turf at Wokstar

Grace’s Zha Jiang Mien at HapaMama

Jill’s Homemade Corned Beef at Eating My Words

Linda’s Vegan Pumpkin Pie at Spicebox Travels

Lucy’s Sweet Potatoes with Cane Syrup at A Cook and Her Books

Pranee’s Shrimp and Pineapple Red Curry


Chilies and shrimp

The first thing Pranee Khruasanit Halverson did (after she enveloped me in a warm and fuzzy Thai hug, of course) when I entered her kitchen was make me a drink. In this instance it was bale fruit tea, simply the dried fruit boiled in water. “Americans like to use this in potpourri,” she says, laughing. Bale fruit tea–a natural laxative, it turns out–is a popular herbal tea in Thailand.


Dried bale fruit is sold in packets at Asian grocery stores

That was just the beginning of Pranee’s Thai hospitality.

Effervescent in personality and in possession of a big heart, Pranee is the owner of I Love Thai Cooking, and teaches Thai cooking classes around the Puget Sound and also leads culinary tours to Thailand. She invited me over to show me how to cook some of her favorite dishes that her grandmother taught her so long ago in their home on the paradise island of Phuket off the southwestern coast of Thailand. 

Before we began, Pranee pointed to a black and white photo encased in a simple wooden frame perched on her dining table. “I took out her photo so that she can be with us while we cook,” she said with a smile. Hence, her grandmother Kimsua Khruasanit sat regally in her chair, frozen in time, as her spirit guided our culinary capers. 

Grandma Kimsua Khruasanit

Kimsua Khruasanit a.k.a. Ama Sua (photo courtesy of Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen)

After we sipped on the aromatic and slightly astringent bale fruit tea, we soon got to work. While I minced garlic, Pranee glided around the kitchen pulling ingredients together–lemongrass, lime leaves, bean sprouts, tofu–and started recounting stories about her grandmother in her musical sing-song voice. 

When Pranee was growing up, her grandmother lived with her and her parents, as is common among Asian families. Pranee called her “Ama Sua” (pronounced ah mah, it means grandmother) and learned many culinary skills from her. In fact, Pranee eventually became her right-hand woman in the kitchen. “She was in an accident and lost one rib,” explained Pranee, and she was unable to stand for long periods of time and had to sit down while cooking.

Pranee’s Ama Sua has since passed away but she lived to the ripe old age of 85. “She cooked very healthy food,” noted Pranee who also benefited. In Phuket, their diet comprised lots of fresh vegetables and herbs and seafood. “We ate more seafood because it was cheaper than meat,” Pranee explained. “In Phuket there was no land for cattle and cows.” Her grandma improvised a lot in the kitchen and used up whatever ingredients were available. “She was also very good with the budget,” Pranee continued. Somehow or another, her Ama Sua always managed to stretch the tight household budget making it go a long way, and never failed to serve tasty, nutritious meals right to the very end of the month. 

Needless to say, Pranee is grateful to her grandma for passing on many culinary gems to her. During my afternoon with Pranee, she was kind enough to share several recipes and tips. I’ll in turn share them with you over several blog posts. Here’s the first one. 

Shrimp and Pineapple Red Curry (Keang Kue Sapparod) 

You can make red curry paste from scratch however it is rather time consuming and the ingredient list rather lengthy. Pranee special orders her curry paste from a supplier in Thailand. (Side note: Pranee said she asked her supplier to make it 70 percent less spicy than normal and yet my mouth still felt like it was ablaze when I sampled this dish!) For the rest of us, Mae Ploy brand curry paste is a superb choice (and not a fire hazard for the taste buds). Try this recipe with chicken or pork too. I’m going to use duck and lychees instead of shrimp and pineapple next time!

Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4-6 servings

1 cup coconut milk, divided (Pranee recommends Mae Ploy or Aroy-D which my mum swears by too)
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2/3 cup canned pineapple chunks, drained of juice 
1/4 cup reserved pineapple juice
15 medium shrimp (about 1 pound)
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layer discarded, then sliced on the diagonal into thin ovals 
Ground peanuts to garnish (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons coconut milk and red curry paste. Stir until well combined. Add 2 more tablespoons coconut milk.


Boil until coconut oil separates from the mixture and rises to the surface. (You can also add vegetable oil to stimulate this process which may be slowed down by pasteurization/preservatives). About 3 minutes.


Add another 3 tablespoons coconut milk and 1/2 cup water. Add pineapple chunks and remaining coconut milk. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.

Reduce to medium heat. Add shrimp, and cook 1 to 2 minutes until pink.


Add kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Give everything in the pan one thorough mix and take off the heat. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.