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I'll be honest, I have a slight obsession with noodles. As a teen I ate cheap sodium filled ramen that should definitely not be a major part of anyone's diet. But I grew up, started cooking and realized a delicious bowl of noodle soup is incredibly easy to make and much more satisfyingly good for your body. There are so many types of noodle bowls and soups in Asian cuisine. The choices are basically endless. Particularly the ones in Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine require you to simmer broths over several hours and with good reason. But this version that is Thai curry based comes together in about 40 minutes.
Any good broth starts with a strong base, and that’s why I chose to make my own curry paste instead of store bought. Sure, there are definitely some good brands out there, but nothing beats the homemade stuff. This version has red chillies, kaffir lime leaves, shrimp paste, ginger, garlic, shallots, galangal, fresh turmeric and salt. I wish you could smell this stuff it is almost intoxicating, in a good way though!! A key thing to remember here is to take your time and sauté the curry paste for a full fifteen minutes scraping constantly so that all the alliums are cooked through, or else you will end up with a bitter broth and slurping bitter soup is not fun.
Shrimp paste is a staple in Thai cuisine, but you could skip it if you want to make it vegan or vegetarian friendly (I do think it adds a lot of umami flavors which would otherwise be missed!). Using full fat coconut milk makes the broth luscious and creamy, coating the flat rice noodles perfectly. Feel free to use a noodle style of your choice. You can customize the toppings as you want, I went with tofu, Thai basil leaves, bean sprouts, and mushrooms. Customarily it is served with a bunch of seasonings like lime, chiles, sugar and salt so that you can adjust it your liking. Is there anything better than a big old bowl of soup with noodles? I think not! So what are you waiting for? Remember to wear a bib and slurrrrp away!
Recipe and Headnote Rachel Gurjar
- 12 whole dry red chillies, soaked in hot water for 10 mins
- 1 bunch cilantro, stems cleaned
- 1 inch piece ginger
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 stalk lemongrass, tender inner white bulb only
- 8 ounces (about 6 small) shallots, peeled and halved
- 2 inch piece galangal
- 2 inch piece fresh turmeric, peeled or 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 4 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 1/ 2 teaspoons shrimp paste
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 2/ 3 cups curry paste, (recipe above)
- 2 1/ 2 cups water
- 2 (13.5 ounce)cans full fat coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened smooth peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons tamari sauce
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- Kosher salt, To Taste
- 16 ounces flat rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 pack (16 ounces) medium firm tofu, cubed
- 7 thai basil leaves, chiffonade or regular basil
- 2 limes, juiced
- Thai basil, for garnish
- Lime wedges, for garnish
- Bean sprouts, for garnish
- Chili garlic paste, (optional), for serving
To make the curry paste combine the soaked red chiles, cilantro stems, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, shallots, galangal, turmeric, kaffir lime leaves and shrimp paste in a high-speed blender or food processor. Process until smooth, using up to a ¼ cup of cold water to help get the mixture going.
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Add curry paste and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every couple minutes to make sure it is not sticking at the bottom. The paste should look slightly darker in color but not brown. Add water, coconut milk, peanut butter, tamari, brown sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer.
Add sliced mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes. Gently add cubed tofu and sliced thai basil and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add lime juice and mix.
To assemble: add cooked noodles to a bowl and ladle curry broth over with tofu and mushrooms, garnish with bean sprouts, lime wedges, and thai basil. Serve immediately.