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      RECIPE TITLE "Chiang Mai Noodle Curry (Khao Soi)" from True Thai: The Modern Art of Thai Cooking by "Victor Sodsook

    yields serves 8 time--- difficulty moderate

    Khao soi may have originated in the Shan states of nearby Burma. It is a very showy and even grand dish that's a favorite lunch in Chiang Mai and other northern towns. Whether you buy it on the street or in an upscale restaurant, it's always served with a wonderful range of condiments.

    Khao soi has its own curry paste, full of the citrus tang of Kaffir lime leaves, plus fragrant star anise, turmeric, and curry powder. It's a dish that requires some time to prepare. Though it's well worth the effort, you'll certainly appreciate what a resource we enjoy in having vendors throughout Thailand who make this complex, wonderful dish.

      RECIPE INGREDIENTS

    Khao Soi Curry Paste
    1 package (3 ounces) dried red California chili
    1 teaspoon shrimp paste (kapi), neatly wrapped in a double layer of aluminum foil
    4 whole star anise
    1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh Kaffir lime peel or domestic lime peel
    2 stalks lemon grass, tough outer leaves discarded, lower stalks trimmed to 3 inches and finely sliced
    2 tablespoons chopped garlic
    1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk

    Curried Noodles 6 cups water
    1 pound boneless stew beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
    1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
    7 tablespoons sugar
    4 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
    1 1/2 pounds fresh Chinese-style egg noodles (ba mee)
    Vegetable or peanut oil for frying

    CondimentsThai chili powder (phrik pon) or other ground red chili totaste, such as New Mexico chili powder or cayenne
    Fried Garlic Chips
    1 large red onion, chopped
    1/4 cup chopped pickled Chinese mustard (hua pak kad dong)
    Lime wedges

      RECIPE METHOD

    To make the curry paste: With kitchen shears or a chef's knife, stem the chilies and shake out most of the seeds. Cut the chilies in half lengthwise and remove any tough, dried ribs. Cut them crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces and put them in a bowl. Add water to cover and soak for 30 minutes.

    Meanwhile, set a small skillet over medium heat. Place the foil-wrapped shrimp paste in the skillet and roast it for about 5 minutes, until aromatic, turning the packet once or twice. Remove the packet from the skillet and set it aside to cool.

    Put the star anise in a large heavy mortar and grind to a powder. Transfer the ground star anise to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the turmeric and curry powder.

    Combine the minced lime peel and lemon grass in the mortar and pound for a minute or so to break down the fibers. Transfer the crushed mixture to the food processor.

    Pound the garlic in the mortar just until crushed and transfer it to the food processor.

    Unwrap the shrimp paste and add it to the food processor.

    Drain the chilies and add them to the food processor. Add the coconut milk.

    Process the ingredients until a smooth, sauce-like paste forms, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl.

    Transfer the paste to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator (up to 24 hours) or freezer until ready to use.

    To make the noodle curry: Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the beef and boil gently for 10 to 15 minutes. With a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, remove the beef to a small bowl and set it aside. Reserve the beef broth.

    Skim the thick cream from the top of the canned coconut milk into a soup pot, reserving the milk. Set the pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the reserved khao soi curry paste until blended, and bring to a low boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the stewed beef and stir-fry to coat it evenly with the curry. Add the reserved coconut milk, reserved beef broth, sugar, and fish sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer while you prepare the noodles.

    Separate the egg noodles into 1/2-pound and 1-pound portions.

    Pour the oil into a large wok or deep, heavy saucepan to a depth of 3 inches. Set over medium heat until the oil is sizzling hot, about 360 F. (To test the oil temperature, drop in a couple of strands of noodles; if they sizzle and immediately begin to puff and crisp, the oil is ready.) Add a handful of the egg noodles to the hot oil. When puffed and crisped on one side, turn them to fry on the other side, about 8 to 10 seconds total. Transfer the fried noodles to a bowl lined with paper towels and drain them well. Continue frying the noodles in batches until the 1/2- pound of egg noodles is all cooked. Set aside.

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the remaining 1-pound batch of egg noodles until tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Drain, then run under cold water to stop the cooking, and drain again.

    Place a handful of cooked noodles into eight to ten large individual serving bowls. Ladle some beef curry into each bowl and top with handfuls of the crunchy fried noodles.

    Serve at once with the full array of condiments.


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