Khao Suey Bowl of happiness

February 26, 2008

Two weeks ago, I was a smug holiday return. You know the type. White clothes to show off even brown tan. New accessories acquired from tribal villages in far flung places. Delirious, inexplicable happiness etched on ageing face.I am happy to report that seven days of hayfever, two client deadlines and one narrow escape from missing cleaner incident later it has been well and truly been knocked out of me.

This is where I start ranting about the injustice of the London Underground. Or – God forbid – start sharing my 4000 holiday photos. I’ll just stick to sharing a recipe from my travels with you instead. The dish is Khao Swe (pronounced Sway) – a Burmese soup noodle dish topped. I grew up on this in Kolkata, where owing to trade links to Burma, every family had its own recipe that was the subject of much competition and pride among the aunties.

Up in Chiang Mai, I tried the Thai version. Traditionally cooked with chicken, Khao Suey is a coconut curry topped with a selection of fresh herbs and spices. All added in the quantities you want from little bowls on the table.This dish makes great party food. Mainly, because you would have to be nuts to chop all the garnish ingredients for the two of you.I cooked it for Aunt Madge and her boyfriend. They ate loads. Spilt it down their sweaters. And looked deliriously, inexplicably happy.Something to beat the holiday blues too perhaps?



Feeds 6:

  • 6 large chicken thighs on the bone, skinned
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • Half inch ginger
  • Half tsp turmeric powder
  • Half tsp chilli powder
  • 100gm red lentils (masoor dal)
  • 3 green finger chillies (optional)
  • 1 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 x 400ml tin of thick coconut milk
  • 2 large onions, finely sliced
  • 6 rounds of medium egg noodles
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil

To garnish:

  • 6 eggs
  • 125 fresh coriander leaves
  • 4 fat garlic cloves
  • 3 spring onions, green and white bits
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 key limes/lemons
  • 4 green chillies
  • 3 tsp sev/crispy fried noodles
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil


First make the soup. Chop the ginger, garlic and green chillies and bring the tablespoon of oil to heat in a large pan over a high flame. Wash the lentils thoroughly and leave them to sit in a sieve.

When the oil is hot, fry the onions for five minutes until they soften and turn translucent. Then add the garlic, ginger and green chillies and fry for another five minutes.

Now add the spice powders, green chillies and the chicken. Seal the chicken on each side, stirring like a maniac to mix them up well with the masalas.

Submerge the chicken pieces in hot water, adding in the lentils, and leave to boil away on a medium flame. While the chicken and lentils are cooking, prepare all the garnish ingredients in the following order:

  • Hard boil the eggs
  • Chop the garlic and fry until crisp and golden
  • Slice the onion finely and fry in the leftover garlic oil
  • Chop up the coriander, green chillies and spring onions
  • Peel and slice / mash the eggs roughly with a fork
  • Quarter the limes/lemons
  • Fry the noodles or get the sev out

Kit little bowls with the garnish and place in the centre of the table. Now take each piece of chicken out of the pan and, using two forks, shred it quickly. If the chicken is cooked, the chicken will simply fall off the bone. Get rid of the bone and return the chicken into the soup. At this point, stir through the tamarind paste. Don’t substitute the thighs with boring chicken breasts, to make sure you get full stock impact! I’ve made this with Turkey gravy and leftover shredded roast turkey too and it works out really well.

Then pour in the coconut milk and leave to simmer, while you cook the noodles according to pack instructions.When the noodles are done, put the soup pan and the noodles on the table so guests can help themselves. Sprinkle liberally with the garnish ingredients. Serve your Khao Suey with plenty of napkins, coz it will get messy.



16 Responses to “Khao Suey Bowl of happiness”

  1. Mallika Says:

    January 16th, 2016 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Jenna, I seem to have lost that bit in the recipe update! I’ve now added it in. I use it to thicken the curry and make it more substantial. Hope you try it! Thanks x

  2. Jenna Says:

    January 16th, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    This looks delicious. What do we do with the lentils?

  3. Burmese Fall Feast: Khao Soi | Mrs. GCG Says:

    October 21st, 2015 at 2:37 am

    […] recipe is slightly adapted from Mallika Basu (my new favorite Indian food blogger!) so feel free to explore both and adapt based on your […]

  4. Sunny Arzilli Says:

    December 15th, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    Finally, got what I was looking for!! Thanks.

  5. Mallika Says:

    January 16th, 2016 at 10:52 pm

    Hi there, you can totally slice it too 🙂 x

  6. eloisa jane flores Says:

    February 11th, 2011 at 12:45 am

    i was curious of the eggs being mashed why does it have 2 b like that?
    hmmpp. anyway we’ll be trying this in school later. i just wonder how it taste

  7. Tanya Says:

    October 6th, 2010 at 10:54 am


    I just tried this in Mumbai this time in Lemon Grass restaurant and loved it so much that I kept going back every night for dinner there.

    Thank you for sharing the recipe, will try it out!


  8. Jo Chopra Says:

    May 2nd, 2010 at 11:15 am

    This is such a wonderful recipe! I make it with mushrooms instead of chicken and it’s fabulous. I’m thinking of trying it with kathal (the chicken that grows on trees) as soon as it comes in season.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. mandira Says:

    March 5th, 2008 at 7:14 am

    this looks like a bowl of happiness. 🙂 did you use chicken stock or water to make the soup? Looks delicious, will have to try it soon.

  10. Happy Cook Says:

    March 4th, 2008 at 10:29 am

    A real funny post.
    Love the dish.

  11. Wendy Says:

    March 2nd, 2008 at 11:17 am

    This has to be made and it has to be made this week. Rather excited about the prospect of eating this. 🙂

  12. Michelle Says:

    February 28th, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Yum….looks good. Sorry to hear your recovery from vacation has occured!

  13. Smita Says:

    February 27th, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Hilarious – I’m chortling at my desk 🙂 The Sway looks very zen!

  14. mycookinghut Says:

    February 27th, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    I love the picture!

    You’ve been tagged for a meme. Please check it out here:

  15. sra Says:

    February 27th, 2008 at 7:02 am

    Mallika, I went to Chiang Mai too – but didn’t see this or look for it. We had a lot of the local specialities and a Khan Toke dinner. Did you try that? My friend’s mom, who was raised in Burma, made this for us when we were in college.

  16. Asha Says:

    February 27th, 2008 at 6:51 am

    Hay fever started for you already! I am dreading March now, hopefully I won’t get any worse this year than last year.
    Burmese, eh? Never tried one of those yet, looks great though!:)
    Take care.

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