Thai Chicken Noodles

Khao Soi Gai / Chiang Mai Chicken Noodles

Though longstanding regional rivalries make it painful for me to admit, of all Malaysia’s neighbours, Thailand is undoubtedly our closest culinary contender when it comes to claiming the crown of being South East Asia’s greatest food destination.

Arguably the other great S.E. Asian powerhouse of complex flavours, Thai food may be geographically akin to Malaysia, yet the two cuisines remain fiercely distinct. Of course, it will shock no one to know that, for me, Malaysian food comes out tops over our Northern neighbour every time, even though it’s a closer run race than you’d imagine! What ultimately clinches it for Malaysia is it’s diversity. Of course there are many regional Thai dishes that reflect the local communities, but for the most part Thai food is represented as a unified national cuisine, unlike the wonderfully muddled menagerie that is Malaysian food.

Of course, one thing the two have in common, are noodles.

A self-professed noodle-eating fiend, I wholeheartedly believe that noodles make good cuisines great, and Thailand is responsible for some of the best noodles out there: Pad See Ew and Pad Kee Mao are personal favourites, and I’m even partial to wolfing down a decent Pad Thai. But aside from the famous wok-fried varieties, heartier and soupier Thai noodles seem more elusive than you’d expect. Thankfully, Khao Soi (or Chiang Mai Noodles), pick up the slack rather nicely.

Arguably Thailand’s most famous soup noodles, Khao Soi is also one of the easiest Thai dishes to make at home. Hailing from the country’s Northern region, versions of this wonderful dish can also be found in neighbouring Lao and Myanmar. Whilst most of the ingredients are accessible to anyone with a local Asian Supermarket, Khao Soi‘s laksa-like broth is nevertheless a heady brew of aromatics and depth. Makrut (Thai) lime takes centre stage here, adding a vibrancy to an otherwise rich coconut broth. As such, fresh Makrut Lime Leaves are essential, though the Makrut lime zest is easily replaced with regular lime.

Another ingredient not to be omitted are the fried wonton skins – of course these add some crunch, but ultimately when soaked in the spicy broth, they are transformed into deep-fried nuggets of joy – pure yumminess.

As I said previously, with dishes like Khao Soi, sometimes Thai food really does give us Malaysians a run for our money!

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Phad Thai (Gai or Goong)

Phad Thai Gai

The origins of Phad Thai are both fascinating and insidious in equal measure and are a testament to the power of food. Firstly, it may surprise most to learn that this ubiquitous Thai dish is relatively new to Thai cuisine. Conceived as a solution to a national rice shortage during World War II, the then fascist Thai government created and promoted Phad Thai as a symbol of Thai national pride and actively encouraged street vendors to sell it en masses – a government campaign with the dual objective of both reigniting a flagging sense of Thai Nationalism and addressing a crippling food shortage. In essence, Phad Thai is culinary propaganda at its tastiest.

Sadly, Phad Thai has to be one of the most corrupted Asian dishes in the World. Outside of it’s native Thailand, this wonderful noodle dish has been bastardised beyond recognition by dubious Thai takeaway joints in an ill-advised attempt to make it appealing to a non-Thai palette. I can only imagine the shock that must befall so many tourists who order Phad Thai in the back streets of Bangkok only to end up wondering what on earth they’ve been eating all these years! My version is by no means truly authentic but I’ve tried to replicate the original as best I can – the main difference between my version and the usual takeaway fare is that the only vegetables that are cooked are the bean sprouts and spring onions – the rest are served raw on the side. You can decide if you want to add chicken or prawns, the latter being the more authentic version, but the recipe works well without either.

For more delicious Thai recipes please click here, or if you need tips on stocking your Thai Pantry please click here.

For more great noodle recipes from The Muddled Pantry, please click here

Click here for the recipe