Christmas season is already upon us & what better way to commemorate this weekend in December than to share with all of you, an heirloom recipe passed down 4 generations. An eternal family favourite from The Rangoon Cookbook, first published in 1954, synonymous with Burma & my great grand mom-in-law who lived and honed her culinary skills there. Over hundred years of family cooking this recipe.
Over the years, Burmese food has been extremely popularised by various chefs & restaurants serving up differing versions of this dish, some more close to this authentic homemade one by Grandma. One of the main factors to retaining authenticity I have found, is the use of freshly extracted coconut milk & use of Indian spices only (no lemon grass whatsoever) and secondly a generous dose of thick soupy curry to drown the noodles entirely.
Don’t miss the two videos at the bottom of the page for the making of the dish & assembling of your bowl!
Yes I did a lot of research on the spelling & while there are several colloquial spelling versions including Khauswey, Khao suey, Khau soi & so on, this was the most authentic one sent in by a kind Burmese lady, who in fact took pride in sharing it with the rest of us. That’s just a bit of trivia for you.
Ohn No Khaukswe, literally meaning coconut milk noodles, is a beautiful fragrant curried chicken soup with a rich silky coconut milk base, that is ladled over soft noodles. This warm glorious golden meal is then topped with a vast array of flavourful aromatic condiments to make the perfect bowl of goodness! An ideal dinner to comfort the soul on a windy, chilly day.
The vegetarians can cook an equally delicious version by substituting the chicken with an assortment of veggies like carrot, beans, baby corn, broccoli, peas, mushrooms etc. which has also been published separately.
To get that incredible explosion of flavour in your mouth, make sure to be indulgent with the toppings, the most exciting part of this meal that gives it the right mix of crunchy & creamy namely, chopped spring onions, fresh coriander, crispy fried onions, golden fried garlic bits, chilli oil, roasted peanuts and boiled egg slices. Finally a good squeeze of lime to balance it all out perfectly!
P.S. Remember to wear ear plugs & appropriate clothing/bibs to protect yourself from the large slurps & sounds that will emanate during this meal.
Slurrrrpaliciouss..dig right in!!
- Even though Khaukswe sounds like an elaborate meal to cook, it truly is very easy to prepare if you keep in mind the following steps:
- Prepare your chicken stock & coconut milk a little ahead of time & store in the fridge a couple of hours.
- Chop and prepare the condiments for garnish, keep aside.
- Keep all the ingredients ready for your curry.
- Boil your noodles just as your curry is getting ready.
- Be rest assured, the curry is the simplest to prepare once the above is ready, as it uses basic spices available in all kitchens.
- Chickpea flour / Gram flour / Garbanzo bean flour / Besan, has grown in popularity across the world as a gluten free and lower calorie alternative to wheat flour. It is loaded with essential nutrients especially protein, folate, magnesium, iron etc.
Recipe for Burmese Chicken Khaukswe- Heirloom Recipe
Ingredients (Serves 6 persons)
- 1 kilo chicken, cut in medium size pieces
- 1 large onion, julienned
- 3 large/4 medium size tomatoes, pureed/100ml readymade packet puree
- Milk of 1 whole coconut, kept separate as first & second milk
- (instructions available below)
- 3 tablespoons gram flour(chickpea flour)/besan for thickening
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder/jeera powder
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder/dhania powder
- 2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves, chopped
- ¾ teaspoon red chilli powder, or as per your taste
- 3-4 tablespoons oil
- 500 grams regular hakka noodles, boiled as per packet instructions
To make Stock
- 1 inch piece ginger
- 5-6 cloves garlic
- 5-6 whole peppercorns
- 2 onions, sliced
To make a paste
- 4 small onions
- 2inch piece ginger
- 1 green chilli
- 7-8 cloves garlic
Assorted condiments for garnish
- 2 onions, finely sliced & deep fried to a golden brown
- 10 cloves garlic, finely chopped & deep fried
- 2 onions, julienned
- 3-4 boiled eggs, sliced
- Handful of coriander leaves sprigs (do not chop)
- 100 grams spring onions, finely chopped & kept in 2 separate bowls as greens and whites
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- Chilli flakes (optional)
- Fish sauce (optional)
To make the stock
- Pressure cook the chicken joints with ¾ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon pepper powder/5-6 peppercorns, 5-6 cloves of garlic & 1inch piece of ginger, along with 4 cups of water for about 2 whistles.
- Reduce the flame & allow for another 2 whistles. Turn off the flame & allow to cool.
- Once the pressure drops, strain the stock water & strip the meat into medium sized 2inch pieces.
- Return the bones to the cooker for a second time, with another 1 cup of water & ¼ teaspoon salt, allowing it to simmer for 2-3 whistles & once the pressure drops, open & combine this stock with the earlier one.
How to extract fresh coconut milk
- Thick milk or first extract -Grate the white flesh of the coconut / cut pieces of the coconut, grind it in the blender/mixie with 1 cup of lukewarm water for about 30-40 seconds and strain it through a fine sieve, pressing down gently on the flesh so that a nice thick extract is obtained.
- This is the thick or first extract of coconut milk which we will keep aside for the end of any curry or dessert recipe. It is never boiled.
- For the second extract or thin milk, re run the same ground coconut through the blender with another 1.5 cups of water for 1 minute and press down & strain. Keep aside this milk in a separate pot.
To make the soupy chicken curry
- Put the chickpea flour in a small bowl, whisk in 2 tablespoons of water, stirring vigorously to stop lumps forming. Add a little of the warm stock to assist and keep aside for the end.
- Take a wok or heavy bottom pot, add the oil & once hot, add 1 julienned onion and sauté on a medium flame for 2 minutes till translucent.
- Add the onion-ginger-garlic-green chilli paste & on a low to medium flame, stir for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the tomato puree & spices now, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander & cumin powder, salt to taste & stir until well combined. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes with a lid on low flame.
- Add the entire chicken stock and simmer for 3-5 minutes until it comes to a boil, before lowering the heat. You now have a large pot of basic soupy curry ready. Check spice levels.
- While that simmers, cook your noodles in a large pot of water that has come to a good rolling boil, with some salt & 1 teaspoon of oil and follow the packet instructions. I usually calculate about 100-150 grams of uncooked noodles per head.
- Drain off the water, rinse the noodles in cool water & leave them in a colander to drain.
- Add the thin or 2nd coconut milk mixed with the gram flour paste at this stage & simmer on a medium flame along with the shredded chicken for 2-3 minutes till the gravy thickens.
- Add the chopped coriander leaves.
- Finally, it’s time to add the thick coconut milk on a low flame and just as soon as it simmers, switch off the flame. Do not allow the curry to simmer for more than 1 minute, else the coconut milk will split.
- Fill only ¼ of each soup bowl with the noodles.
- Ladle the delightful golden chicken soup over the noodles in each bowl.
- Garnish with various assorted condiments placed at the centre of the table.
- I have detailed the complete list of aromatics traditionally used to garnish the bowl, however you can skip out the fish sauce, fried onion garlic & chilli flakes as per your taste.
- The final squeeze of lime is an absolute must to this dish!
Making of Khaukswe
Plating of Khaukswe