28 April 2012

Thai curry noodle soup

Contrary to popular belief, the most common dish here in Thailand is not phad thai, green curry or other favorites that are much beloved in Thai restaurants in North America and Europe. It seems to me after three months of living here now that the closest thing to a staple dish (albeit it's not exactly a staple either) are the different forms of noodle soup that you see people scarfing down at street food stalls at almost all hours of the day. Common varieties include sen lek neua (beef noodle soup), bamee (egg noodle soup) and kuay teow reua (boat noodles). The latter includes plenty of rice noodles, beef or pork balls, slices of beef and an intense brown broth thickened with pork blood. It's called boat noodles because it used to be sold out of the small boats that dotted the canals and rivers all over Central Thailand.

Most of the noodle soups sold on the street have some kind of meat broth, though I occasionally put on my "flexible vegetarian" cap and indulge (no pork blood for me though!). However, this recipe is totally vegetarian and completely delicious. You can use whatever type of curry paste that you fancy (this particular day, I opted for a simple red curry paste) and any veggies that you might have on hand. The lovely thing for us here are that the markets and supermarkets are full of  mysterious new fruits and vegetables, rendered even more mysterious by virtue of the fact that their names are usually written only in Thai. Luckily, there are websites like this one which help to decode Thai produce for farangs (foreigners) like us. I used some "Chinese leaf mustard" in my soup (which I presumed meant Chinese mustard greens, but a bit of Internet research revealed that it's a close relative of bok choy called pak gat doi tung in Thai).

This is the perfect quick and easy one-dish dinner. Try it tonight!

Serves 4

1 tablespoon rice bran or canola oil
1/2 large onion, chopped into medium-large chunks
1 red spur chili, sliced diagonally
2 sticks lemongrass, bruised and thinly sliced
1" piece of galangal or ginger, finely chopped
1 heaping tablespoon curry paste of your choice
2 cups mixed hard vegetabes of your choice (I used carrots, baby corn and red bell peppers)
2 cups vegetable or mushroom broth
500 milliliters (16-17 fl ounces) coconut milk
10-12 kaffir lime leaves
Juice of 1/2 lime
Handful of additional mixed (softer) vegetables (I used bok choy, enoki mushrooms and bean sprouts)
200 grams (7 ounces) fresh yakisoba noodles or other noodles of your choice
Fresh coriander, for garnish
Lime wedges, for serving

1. In a large pot, warm the oil. Add the onion, chili, lemongrass and galangal/ginger. Saute until the onion is mildly translucent.

2. Mix in the curry paste and your first set of vegetables. These should be harder ones which will take longer to cook. Stir well.

3. Pour in your broth, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and the lime juice. Mix well and allow the soup to come to a boil.

4. Reduce heat to low-medium and add the additional vegetables (softer ones which won't take long to take), as well as your fresh noodles.

5. Cook about 5 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the noodles are just al dente.

6. Serve with fresh coriander and lime wedges.


  1. Hester @ Alchemy in the KitchenApril 29, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    Love this type of soup, punchy and fragrant, creamy and spicy. Don't know about Thailand but I'm happy to make it a staple in my life!

  2. This soup looks delicious, I love Thai food, i'm going to try this one.

  3. I want a bowl of this now! Thanks for defining the various types of noodles. I saw a show where they used pigs blood to thicken the broth. Never had it that way. My mom used to cook the best stirfry of cubed pigs blood with Chinese chives. One of my favorite dishes!

  4. I am loving this soup and so glad that you made it vegetarian. What are red spur chili, are they spicy. I love spicy. Saving this recipe, thanks.

    1. Hi Suzi, thanks! I should have explained about the spur chili - they are not very hot actually. If you want more spice, try a Thai bird's eye chili instead (and leave the seeds in).

  5. This soup looks so amazing. I miss the curries and markets and street vendors of Thailand. You're so lucky to be living there. Lovely dish :)

  6. Mmm, looks amazing. No idea where to get kaffir lime leaves in Wisconsin though. Maybe I'll ask the owners of the local Thai restaurant!

    1. I'm sure that they could tell you! Usually you can find them in any Asian market or grocery. Frozen ones, which are sometimes easier to find, are just fine too. Kaffir lime leaves freeze wonderfully well!

  7. Looks so good! I love Thai curry noodle soups , it's my empty the fridge dish! Wish I could shop in your veg market though, sounds really exciting....Congrats on Top 9 too!

  8. This sounds so flavorful & delicious! Congrats on the Top 9!

  9. I. LOVE. THAI. FOOD. Thank you for sharing such an amazing recipe. Yay. I love you.

  10. Your soup is stunning! All of the green is so pretty! Congrats on Top 9 today :) This looks delicious!!

  11. I love Thai curries and this one is exceptional! Love this recipe! Congrats on the Top 9!