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 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 Sauce
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
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 green onions
2 limes, cut into wedges
Crushed chili flakes
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.