Meals served by new friends in distant countries result in recipe swaps. This was a group favorite from our recent trip to the PDR of Laos.
Kao Soi (Northern Lao Noodles)
Recipe recorded by: Dorothy Culloty
Photo: Kao Soi
- Fresh or 12 oz. dried flat rice noodles (at least 6 mm wide when dry)
- 9 cups water for cooking noodles
- 6 cups water for stock
- Large handful of chicken pieces such as the chopped chicken back
- 1 teaspoon salt (or less) to taste
- 3 cups seasonal green vegetables, e.g. 3 yard-long beans (or 5 small French green beans), cut in 2-inch lengths and a small bunch of watercress or water spinach, washed and trimmed of longer stalks and old leaves
- 5 small spring onions, including 3 inches green tops, finely sliced
- 5 small sprigs of coriander leaves (cilantro) including stems, finely chopped
- 10 large dried red chillies
- 2 cups water
- 3 medium (or 5 small) cloves garlic, peeled
- 10 small brown shallots (onion type), thumb-joint sized, peeled
- Generous pinch of salt
- 4 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 Tablespoons fermented bean paste (with chili), or substitute miso or yellow bean sauce squashed to a paste
- 8 oz. pork, chopped very finely to a course mince texture (about 1 cup)
- 1 tsp. chicken bouillon paste or 1 chicken bouillon cube with one cup water -OR- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
Serves about 5 bowls.
1) Create the pork sauce first: Deseed and de-stem the dried chillies, place in saucepan with 2 cups water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until chillies are soft and swollen.
2) Cool, remove and drain chillies. Align on a chopping board and chop finely starting from their tips, gradually working in more chilli up to their tops until fine paste is made, about 5 minutes. You can also use a blender or food processor for this step. Set aside on a plate.
3) Place garlic and shallots in a mortar, add salt and pound until a mixture of slightly opaque paste and pieces is formed (about 2 minutes).
4) Heat Wok, add oil. When hot, add shallot and garlic mixture and stir fry on high heat for 2 minutes. Lower heat, stirring continually until onion becomes opaque, starts to brown and the oil starts returning. Add chili paste, continue to stir fry, then add fermented bean paste, squashing the mixture down and scraping the sides and bottom of the wok where it sticks occasionally. This takes about 2 minutes.
5) Add pork to the mixture, and stir fry for a few more minutes then add approximately 1 cup of water. Continue to cook on low heat until the mixture reduces and thickens. Add teaspoon of bouillon and salt.
6) Bring 9 cups of water to a boil, add noodles and cook until al dente (soft but still firm to bite). Time will vary: see note on noodles below. Drain noodles and set aside.
7) In a separate pan, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add chicken pieces and salt and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add all the vegetables except spring onions and chopped coriander. Simmer for 2 minutes more.
8) Divide noodles into 5 noodle bowls (each half full). Add 2 or 3 heaping Chinese soupspoons full of meat/sauce mixture to each bowl. Top this with generous sprinkling of sliced spring onion and chopped coriander (cilantro). Place one third of the vegetables on top of the noodles to one side of each bowl. Discard chicken pieces, and carefully pour the chicken stock over the noodles in each bowl.
9) Serve with table accompaniments of soy sauce, chilli flakes, sugar and wedges of lime, to personal taste.
10) Enjoy - you deserve it!
Noodle Note: In Luang Namtha, freshly made noodle sheets are used. To prepare, cut sheets into thin strips, lace the strips in a sieve, pour boiling water over them and steam for a few minutes. For dried noodles, follow the instructions on the packet. You may have to soak the noodles until pliable before boiling them.
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