Chiang Mai Noodles is our favourite rich and creamy Thai beef recipe to serve at dinner.
Chiang Mai Noodles, also known as Khao Soi, is a traditional dish from Northern Thailand. The hearty dish is served in large soup bowls and features braised beef, red curry paste, fish sauce, coconut cream, shrimp paste, lime juice and flat egg noodles.
We’ve traveled extensively through Thailand and eaten at all of the best Thai restaurants in Toronto. We’ve taken Thai cooking classes in Chang Mai and learned expert cooking techniques courtesy of the executive chef at JW Marriott Phuket Resort.
Cooking Thai food at home is easier than you may think. Our flavourful recipe takes just 2 hours to prepare and keeps in the fridge for several days. You’ll love loitering over these Chang Mai Noodle leftovers!
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Travel to Thailand by Making Chiang Mai Noodles at Home
On my first visit I spent over a month backpacking through Thailand. I’ve revisited Thailand two times since as a food and travel journalist and always love to discover new regional dishes. Over the years I’ve explored Thai destinations such as Ko Phi Phi, Krabi, Chiang Khong, Chang Mai, Sukothai and Bangkok.
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Where To Eat Chiang Mai Noodles
Haven’t traveled to Thailand before? It may be helpful to first sample Chiang Mai Noodles at a local Thai restaurant to better understand how the dish is served. You can also assess the variety of ingredients used and sample the correct texture before trying to make Khao Soi at home from scratch.
I spent months researching the best Thai restaurants in Toronto, visiting popular restaurants that serve authentic Thai dishes such as Sabai Sabai, Sukothai, Khao San Road, Pai, Kiin, Bangkok Garden, Mengrai Thai and Favorites Thai BBQ. If you’re looking to sample authentic Khao Soi in Toronto try visiting one of these award-winning restaurants.
What Is Khao Soi?
Khao Soi, also known as Chiang Mai Noodles, is an authentic street food dish served in Northern Thailand and Myanmar.
Often referred to as “curry noodles,” it’s served by the Muslim community, which is why it is never prepared with pork. The dish was originally influenced by the Chin Haws, a Chinese Muslim community who migrated to Thailand via neighbouring Myanmar.
Chiang Mai, having been a popular stop on ancient spice routes and under Burmese control for over 200 years, is home to several examples of finger-licking-good fusion. Along with typical Thai ingredients like lemongrass and galangal, the curry paste contains Chinese aromatics and spices like ginger and black cardamom, as well as those associated with Burmese cooking, such as curry powder, coriander seeds and turmeric.
The dish is served in large soup bowls and typically features chunks of braised beef, fresh egg noodles and a rich and creamy coconut curry sauce. Khao Soi is traditionally garnished with lime wedges, beansprouts, sliced shallots, cilantro and crispy deep fried noodles.
Khao Soi translates to “cut rice,” in Thai but some believe it is a corruption of the Burmese word for noodles, “khao swe.”
Indian vs Thai Curry
The two countries that are most associated with curry are India and Thailand. Each nation prepares curry in a unique way. In general, the term refers to a savoury meat, seafood or vegetable dish cooked in a sauce that is accompanied by rice, flatbread or fresh salads.
In India, curry (or masala) encompasses a variety of dishes that use a complex combination of spices or herbs, usually including ground turmeric, cumin, coriander, ginger, and fresh or dried chilies. You’ll find unique regional takes on the Indian curry concept in neighbouring countries such as Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and The Maldives.
Indian curries generally do not feature beef, as the cow is considered a sacred animal. The only region in India you are likely to find beef on a menu is in Kerala, which was colonized by the Portuguese and later by the Dutch. You can enjoy beef dishes in the colonial city of Cochin as well as luxury resorts like Coconut Lagoon.
Types of Thai Curry
In Thailand, curry refers both to dishes in Thai cuisine that are made with various types of curry paste and to the pastes themselves. A wet Thai curry is made from curry paste, coconut milk, meat, seafood, vegetables and herbs.
Popular Thai curries include Green, Red, Yellow, Penang and Masaman. Most Thai curries are categorized by the colour of the curry paste. The colour of the chilies and other ingredients gives each curry its distinct hue. Traditionally, all Thai curries were made with the same ingredients except for one thing: the chilies. Usually green curry is the mildest, red is the hottest and yellow falls somewhere in between.
Masaman Curry uniquely influenced Thai cooking thanks to visiting Persian traders. Masaman is a broken translation for Muslim. It originated in the south of Thailand near the border of Malaysia and is a thick sauce with a mild, slightly sweet flavour. Massaman curry dishes distinguish themselves by the inclusion of several whole spices and peanuts.
Penang Curry is sweeter than its sister, spicy Thai Red Curry. It is named for the island of Penang off the west coast of Malaysia and is served sometimes topped with coconut cream.
Most Thai curry paste recipes are made with spicy chilies, garlic, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, shallot, fish sauce, shrimp paste, cane sugar, lime, spices and coconut milk.
Chiang Mai Noodles are prepared with Thai red curry paste, a fragrant flavouring infused into a rich and creamy coconut milk sauce.
Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste
Feel free to use your favourite store bought Thai curry paste at the grocery store or prepare from scratch in your kitchen. Use a mortar and pestle to grind all the ingredients together until you’ve created a smooth and fragrant mixture. This homemade Thai red curry paste recipe yields 4-5 tablespoons.
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds, roasted until brown
- 2 cardamom pods, roasted until brown
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 10, large red dried chillies (seeds removed soaked in water for 10 minutes then finely chopped)
- 1 tsp galangal, skin removed and chopped
- 2 tsp lemongrass, chopped
- 1 tsp kaffir lime peel, chopped
- 1 tbsp coriander root, chopped
- 3 tbsp shallots, chopped
- 3 tbsp garlic, crushed
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
- 10, Thai red chillies
What Meat To Use in Chiang Mai Noodles
Traditionally, Thai coconut curries are slowly stewed and simmered, allowing chefs to tenderize tougher cuts of meat in liquid.
Tough cuts of meat contain large amounts of collagen, which require long cooking times to break down into rich gelatin. That’s why tougher cuts of meat like the chuck or shoulder are generally used for Thai curries.
Chiang Mai Noodles are traditionally prepared with beef short ribs. You can prepare short ribs in an Instant Pot, slow cooker, or braise them in a covered pot on the stove over low heat like we have in this recipe.
Tips for Making Chiang Mai Noodles
If it’s your first time making Khao Soi we suggest you start by reading the ingredients list and recipe directions below.
When slicing the spicy red chilies, be sure to wear gloves and avoid touching the seeds as they contain oil that will irritate your eyes and skin. I once forgot to wear gloves when slicing a mountain of birds eye chilies and spent hours suffering the sting of burning hands. If you do find yourself with swollen and irritated skin from chili oil exposure, soak your irritated skin in cold milk or yogurt.
You can also increase the heat of the dish by adding the chili seeds into the stir fry rather than disposing of them. If you have a low tolerance for spicy food we still suggest adding peppers as they offer an important flavour profile to the dish. Simply remove all of seeds to ensure the spice level is to your pallet’s preference.
The dish is traditionally prepared with palm sugar in Thailand but we’ve suggested brown sugar as it’s more readily available in North American grocery stores.
You can typically purchase fresh Chinese egg noodles at your local Asian grocer or supermarket where wonton and egg roll wrappers are stored. If you’re an avid cook looking to make everything from scratch you can also make homemade Chinese egg noodles in your kitchen.
If you’re hosting a Chiang Mai Noodle dinner we suggest setting up your soup bowls and chopsticks on the kitchen counter beside the stove. Scoop cooked egg noodles into the bottom of each bowl and top with braised beef and coconut sauce. Allow each guest to add their own toppings at a DIY garnish station before sitting down to feast!
What To Serve with Chiang Mai Noodles
If you have Chiang Mai Noodle leftovers we suggest storing them in the fridge in separate bowls. Store crunchy deep fried noodles in a ziplock bag at room temperature so they don’t go limp or soggy. Store the coconut curry sauce and chunks of braised beef in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
When reheating your leftover Khao Soi, boil the fresh egg noodles in water, reheat the beef coconut curry in the microwave or on your stove and top with remaining garnishes.
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Best Chiang Mai Noodles Khao Soi Recipe
Chiang Mai Noodle Beef Khao Soi
- Dutch Oven, Instant Pot or Crockpot
- measuring spoons
- measuring cups
- Spatula or Wooden Spoon
- French knife
- 5 tbsp Vegetable Oil
- 1 lb Beef Short Rib
- 4 tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste
- 1 tbsp Indian Curry Powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Thai red chili deseeded, finely chopped
- 400 ml Coconut Milk
- 400 ml Coconut Cream
- 2 tsp Brown sugar
- 2 Garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp Fresh ginger minced
- 2 tsp Thai shrimp paste
- 2 tsp Garlic Chili Paste
- 1 tbsp Tamarind paste
- 200 ml Beef Stock
- 2 tbsp Fish Sauce
- 2 Limes juiced
- 500 g Chinese flat egg noodles
- Bean Sprouts
- Remove excess fat from beef short rib. With a pairing knife, slice beef into large chunks.
- In a dutch oven, heat vegetable oil over medium high. Add beef short rib chunks with tongs and brown in oil on both sides, 2-3 minutes. It's easiest to do this in batches, removing browned meat and placing in a separate bowl until all of the beef has been seared.
- Add red curry paste to the saucepan and turn the heat down to medium. Cook for 5 mins, then add the Indian curry powder, turmeric and sliced red chili.
- Cook for 1 minute then add coconut milk, coconut cream, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, shrimp paste, tamarind paste, beef stock, fish sauce and lime juice. Bring to a simmer.
- Return the seared beef back to the pot filled with Chiang Mai Noodle Kao Soi curry sauce.
- Keep the broth at a simmer over low heat and cover with a heavy lid, and cook for 2 hours, until the beef chunks are extremely tender and some oil has started to separate from the broth, floating to the surface.
- During the braising process, if the liquid level has reduced too much, add more water or beef stock to bring it back to the original level.
- While beef short rib is tenderizing in the coconut curry sauce, add 2 inches of canola oil to a large wok. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it bubbles.
- Separate the fresh egg noodles into segments, then fry 3 oz until golden brown and crispy. Drain well and set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the remaining flat egg noodles until soft and cooked through, drain well and set aside.
- Assembly: Add a small handful of cooked egg noodles into the bottom of a large soup bowl. Ladle the Kao Soi curry sauce along with chunks of beef over the noodles. Garnish Chiang Mai Noodle bowl with crispy fried egg noodles, sliced shallots, chopped cilantro, bean sprouts and lime wedges. Serve with soup spoon and chopsticks.
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