Kao Soi Gai, you stole my heart in Chiang Mai.
This will most likely be my last (indefinitely) recipe inspired by my recent trip to Thailand. It’s the proverbial cherry on top, because it was my favorite dish I had while in Northern Thailand.
Before we left for the trip, one of our friends wrote on my personal Facebook page saying, “Make sure you eat all the Kao Soi Gai and mango with sticky rice as you can while in Thailand.”
Funny enough, we didn’t eat a single serving of mango with sticky rice (we focused more on the savory), but we did try Kao Soi Gai a few times and let me tell you: it’s incredible.
Every Sunday in Chiang Mai, they have this huge “walking street” open market with vendors lining the streets. Vendors bring anything from elephant pants (I snagged a few pairs, seen here) to food. And the food is by far the best food I’ve ever had in Thailand.
The street vendors make such authentic, heartfelt food that you can taste the authenticity in every bite. We ordered Pad Thai, papaya salads, and of course, Kao Soi Gai. Actually, the best food we had in all of Thailand was at this night market, on our second day of the 15-day trip!
This dish is really only found in Chiang Mai, it’s actually know as the “Chiang Mai Curry Noodle Dish.” When we flew to Southern Thailand, we couldn’t find it. Luckily, while in Thailand, we did a cooking class and learned about the fundamentals of Thai cooking, which include the “fantastic four”: galangal, lemongrass, chili, and fish sauce (or, as they called it: magic sauce.) Seriously, fish sauce is in practically everything!
While we didn’t make Kao Soi Gai in the class we took, the instructors passed along the recipe to me (I asked!) so that I could make it at home. And let me tell you: it’s all about the paste. The paste is key! Once you nail down the paste, freeze it, save it, and make Kao Soi Gai whenever you want.
I’ve written this recipe to try to accomodate a kitchen that might not have a mortar and pestle, but if you have a mortar pestle, this recipe is much easier, more authentic, and the flavors are more spot-on. Also, I changed this up a bit to make it a tad healthier:
- Used lite coconut milk instead of full-fat
- Omitted the crispy noodles that are usually on top (which are kinda the best part, but w/e)
- Omitted the chicken bouillon to reduce sodium and processed ingredients
- Omitted the palm sugar, because I didn’t think it needed it
Other than that, it’s totally authentic. And I have to say, I really really recommend going the extra mile to find an Asian grocery store to grab the proper ingredients to make this dish. It makes such a difference.
I actually went into Manhattan and took two Subway lines to find a Thai specialty grocery store. I walked in and immediately, the man behind the desk said, “Kob Kun Krab!” which means “hello” basically, and I was so excited to hear that phrase I practically shouted, “Kob Kun Kaa!” which is the female’s version of his hello. His eyes lit up that I knew the proper pronunciation and phrase!
It was a happy little moment.
Nutritional Information & Recipe
Weight Watchers SmartPoints*: 8 points
*These points were calculated using the official Weight Watchers SmartPoints calculator. We are in no way affiliated with Weight Watchers, we are providing this information based on popular demand.
- For the paste:
- 5 dried red Thai chillis
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 small shallots, peeled
- skin from ½ Kaffir lime (or regular lime)
- 3” piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1.5” piece of turmeric, sliced
- 1 lemongrass stalk, tough end trimmed off and then sliced
- 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (or 1 tablespoon fish sauce)
- 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
- For the curry:
- 4 pieces bone-in chicken drumsticks + 2 bone-in thighs
- (1.5) 13.5 oz cans lite coconut milk, can shaken first
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 3 medium zucchinis, Blade C, noodles trimmed
- 1 large handful cilantro, lightly chopped
- ¾ cup diced scallions, green parts only
- 1 lime quartered, to garnish
- crispy noodles, optional to garnish (I omitted)
- Soak the chilis in water for 5 minutes.
- First, prepare the paste. There are a few ways to do this. The authentic way is with a mortar and pestle, so if you have one: smash together the lemongrass, turmeric and lime skin until they’re broken down. Add the chilis (after they’ve been soaked) and ginger and mash until all combined. Add the garlic, shallot, and yellow curry powder and keep mashing. Finally, add the shrimp paste (or fish sauce) and mix together so there are no chunks and it’s all one paste.
- If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, to make the paste: mash all of the ingredients except for the shrimp paste (or fish sauce, if that’s what you’re using) on a cutting board using anything you have that’s heavy (meat tenderizer works). Add this to a food processor and pulse until combined and paste-like. Remove, transfer to a bowl and stir in the fish sauce and stir well until paste-like, smashing again if needed.
- After the paste is made, prepare the curry. Add a large pot over medium-high heat and once the pot is hot, add the coconut milk and the prepared paste. Stir to melt the paste into the coconut milk. Add the chicken, chicken broth, fish sauce, and stir the liquid. Cook the chicken until well-cooked, about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and slice through the thickest piece to make sure it’s no longer pink on the inside. If it’s still pink, cook for another 5 minutes. If it’s ready, add the zucchini noodles to the pot and meanwhile, shred the chicken off of the chicken thighs and some of the drumsticks (try to leave the drumsticks mostly intact.) Add the pulled meat and drumsticks back into the pan and let everything cook for 3-5 minutes or until zucchini noodles are wilted.
- Using tongs, divide the drumsticks into four bowls and then divide the curry and noodles on top. Top with the cilantro, scallions, and if desired, the crunchy noodles.