Kao Soi (Northern Laos Noodle dish)


Pork sauce (enough for 5 servings):
10 large dried red chillies
2 cups water
3 medium (or 5 small) cloves garlic, peeled
10 small brown shallots (onion type) thumb-joint sized, peeled
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons fermented bean paste (with chilli), or substitute miso or yellow bean sauce squashed to a paste)
200 gr. (8 oz.) pork, chopped very finely to a coarse mince texture (about 1 cup)
Chicken stock
For serving 5 bowls of noodles:
Fresh or 375 g (12 oz) dried flat rice noodles (at least 6 mm (¼ in.) wide when dry)
2 litres (9 cups) water (for cooking noodles)
6 cups water (for stock)
3 cups seasonal green vegetables, e.g: 3 yard-long beans (or 5 small French green beans), cut in 5 cm /2 in. lengths and a small bunch of watercress or water spinach, washed & trimmed of longer stalks and old leaves
5 small spring onions, including 8 cm /3 in. green tops, finely sliced
5 small sprigs of coriander leaves (cilantro) including stems, finely chopped


Deseed the dried chillies by making a long cut down the side of the length of the chillie. This process takes a lot of the heat out of the ingredient. Soak the dried chillies in a half cup of boiling water for 15 minutes.
Cool, remove and drain chillies. Pound the chillies with a pestle and mortar until a homogeneous paste is made. Set paste aside.
Place garlic and shallots in a mortar, add salt and pound until a paste is formed.
Heat wok, add oil. When hot, add shallot and garlic mix, stir fry on high heat for 2 minutes then lower heat, stir frying continually until onion goes opaque, starts to brown and the oil starts returning. Add chilli paste, continue to stir fry, then add fermented bean paste, squashing the mixture down and scraping the sides and bottom of the wok where it sticks occasionally. This takes about 2 minutes.
Add pork to mixture, and stir fry 2- 3 minutes, then add 2 cups of chicken stock. Continue to cook on low heat until the mixture reduces and thickens..
Bring some water to the boil in a saucepan. Add noodles, and boil until al dente. Time will vary depending on whether fresh or dried flat rice noodles are used or follow instructions on packet. Drain the noodles and set aside.
In a separate pan, bring 6 cups of stock to the boil. Add all the vegetables except spring onions and chopped coriander. Simmer for 2 minutes.
Divide noodles into 5 noodle bowls (each half full). Add 2-3 heaped Chinese soup spoons full of meat sauce mixture (about ½ cup) to each bowl. Top this with a generous sprinkling of sliced spring onion and chopped coriander (cilantro). Place one third of the vegetables on top of the noodles to one side of each bowl. Discard the chicken pieces, and carefully pour the chicken stock over the noodles in each bowl.