There’s a great Thai place in Berkeley. Okay, there are loads of great Thai places in Berkeley, but the one I go to most often is probably Thai Noodle. They have two locations: one near my work, and one right in downtown Berkeley, where I shop and walk often.
My very favorite dish at Thai Noodle is called Kaw Soi (sometimes transliterated elsewhere as Kao Soy, Khao Soi, or other similar spellings). The menu describes it thusly:
Kaw Soi (curry noodle): red curry with egg noodle, bean sprout, celery, red onion, and choices of chicken and shrimp or tofu.
This description doesn’t exactly capture the soup, as of course words cannot do, but I have gushed about it to so many people that I know the words “redolent”, “coconut”, “savory”, and “messy” belong in there. Why messy? Because it’s not just soup. It’s noodles. And soup. And shrimp with their tails on. And a pile of crisp fried noodles on top that really refuse to go anywhere before you’ve outsmarted them a bit.
Having to outsmart your noodles (and pay six bucks) is totally worth it. I will be forever grateful to my darling Meriah for introducing me to what has become my number-one favorite food in the entire world, at least until I choose a new favorite.
This is not that soup. I don’t know yet how to make that soup.
But this is a cousin of that soup, and ohmigoodness, it was SO freaking good, I ended up eating four bowls. No neat and tidy recipe for you here: I winged it with what I had on hand, and you can, too.
First, I made some really good soup stock. You don’t have to go this far, but homemade stock would be marvelous. I happened to have a few pounds of beef bones (with a bunch of meat still on them) in the freezer, so I pressure-cooked them for a half hour, fished out the bones and meat, let it all cool, refrigerated the stock for a few hours, picked the meat off the bones, refrigerated that, and so on. If you want, pick up a carton of good organic stock at the store. Don’t try this with the powdered stuff; it’s not worth it. I used about a half gallon of stock. Use what you have.
When you’re ready to make soup (for me, it was the day after making stock), defat your stock, if necessary. I had done this already. Then I put a few ounces of rice noodles into a bowl, covered them with boiling water and set them aside. If I’d had fresh, of course, I could’ve skipped this step.
Next, I opened a can of (not light) coconut milk. I use Thai Kitchen’s organic because it doesn’t have weird-sounding additives in it, but use whatever you like. If it’s real coconut milk, the top half will be solid and the bottom half liquid. Put the top half, the solid part, into your stockpot and heat it until it melts.
Next, I sauteed the red curry paste in the coconut milk. I used a good heaping tablespoon of my favorite store-bought curry paste (Mae Ploy), but you can make your own, or use your favorite blend.
When it was nice and fragrant, I added the stock, the rest of the coconut milk, about a half cup of Thai fish sauce (use soy sauce to taste if you don’t have this, or experiment with shrimp paste or something else that’s salty), some thin slices of young ginger, and some thinly sliced carrots.
Brought that to a boil, simmered 20-30 minutes, then added the meat (you could use tofu, or shrimp, or leftover chicken, or whatever you like) and noodles. Just a few minutes to heat everything through. At the very last minute, I tossed the juice of a lemon and several chopped scallions into the pot. Normally, I would also have tossed in a bunch of chopped cilantro, but the kid doesn’t like cilantro, so I served that on the side.
No deep-fried noodles on top this time. Might do it next time.
It was SO good. Spicy, but not powerfully so. Coconut lipidity and limey deliciousness and ohhhhh, so good. And clearly, a recipe isn’t necessary, since I just tossed in whatever caught my fancy. I did buy the young ginger especially for the soup, but the rest of it was just stuff I have in the house. And if you don’t have curry paste and fish sauce in your house, I don’t know whether to pity you or send you a care package. (Kidding, kidding!)
(p.s., I think this recipe is gluten-free. Please correct me if any of the ingredients I’ve listed typically has gluten in it. Thanks!)