Chiang Mai Noodles (Kao Soi Gai)

This is, without a doubt, one of the tastiest dishes I ever had the pleasure of trying on my travels in Southeast Asia; Chiang Mai Noodles.

I was working at Spicythai Hostel in Chiang Mai for my friends Noom and Saow with whom I shared lunch with everyday. The Cleaner for the hostel would pop out around 12 o’clock on her little moped and return with two plastic bags filled with smaller plastic bags containing noodles, stir-fries, curry and rice.

The staff and I would gather around on the small concrete table at the front of the hostel and share around 8 dishes of delicious food. Most of the time, it was incredible, occasionally it was questionable, often it was terribly spicy!

But the most stand-out dish was on my final day working at the hostel and Noom requested Kao Soi Gai for our lunch.

For this meal, we each had a plastic bag of food poured into a bowl in front of us. Before me was a rich ochre curry with medium-thick noodles sunken in the bottom of the bowl.

The taste was immense and ever since I have pined for this wondrous dish.
eating jumping shrimp
(One of the more questionable delicacies in Thailand: Live Jumping Shrimp)


Then, for Christmas my lovely boyfriend bought me Thai Street Food by David Thompson; a wonderful large-format photography and recipe book. It is the largest cookbook I have ever seen and it is packed full of great photos of Thai street life and delicious recipes.

I have glanced through them all, and as someone with about 6 Thai visa stamps in her passport, I can assure you that this is the most comprehensive Thai street food book I have seen.

chiang mai noodles

I was ecstatic to find the recipe for Kao Soi Gai in my new recipe book and immediately set about making this for the family.

I won’t lie to you, this isn’t a ‘Jamie’s 30 Minute Meal’ type dish. I had to make the curry paste from scratch and it took time.

In Thailand, cooks will prepare large quantities of curry pastes in advance and store in a jar with a layer of oil on top of it. Then when the paste is needed a dollop is added to the pan before combining with coconut milk and/or stock.

I have talked here before about Mae Ploy Curry Pastes, they are the nearest I can find to authentic Thai pastes without any added nasties and they keep in the fridge of months.

Anyway, back to the recipe. I have amended it a little to suit me and the result was still fabulous. As soon as the spoon reached my mouth I was transported back to that humid day in Chiang Mai.

How to make Kao Soi Gai (Chicken Chiang Mai Noodles)


600ml Coconut Milk
Pack of Chicken Legs and Thighs, chopped into bitesize pieces
1 tbsp of Sugar
3 tbsp light soy sauce or fish sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
500ml Chicken Stock
Egg Noodles (1 slab per person)
2 tbsp Vegetable Oil

Kao Soi Paste
3 Bamboo Skewers
4 Dried Long Red Chilli’s
1 Cardamom Pod
4 Red Shallots, unpeeled
4 Garlic Cloves, unpeeled
2 tsp of Turmeric
2 tbsp Sliced Ginger
Pinch of Salt
Bunch of Coriander Stalks finely chopped

1 slab of Egg Noodles, deep-fried
3 tbsp Spring Onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp Fresh Coriander, roughly chopped
1 Red Chilli, chopped and deep-fried
2 Limes, cut into wedges


1. First make the paste – Soak the skewers for 30 minutes. Soak the chillies for 15 minutes and set aside.

2. Thread shallots, garlic, ginger onto skewers and lightly grill for 5 minutes or so until the skin of garlic and onion are charred and the insides soft. Allow to cool and then peel the onions and garlic.

3. In a blender add the soaked chillies, the grilled items, a pinch of salt, a dash of water and coriander stalks and turmeric. Whizz into a paste. Add a dash more water if necessary.

4. Simmer coconut cream (the top part in the can of coconut milk) and add the paste. Top up with the rest of the coconut milk, bring to the simmer again before adding the chicken.

5. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce and some chicken stock. Allow to cook through for at least 30 minutes.

6. Check the seasoning, and add more fresh and/or dried chilli if necessary.

7. Bring a pan of salted water to boil and drop in egg noodles. Tease the noodles apart as they soften. After 3 minutes, drain and rinse in more boiled water. Add a splash of soy sauce and oil and mix well in noodles.

8. To serve, divide noodles between bowls and ladle the chicken curried soup on top. Garnish with the deep-fried crispy noodles, coriander, spring onions, deep-fried chilli and lime wedge.

Enjoy your Kao Soi, Chiang Mai Noodles!

Read my other recipes here