Kaopuhn Sai Nam (Chicken and Coconut Milk Soup with Noodles and Cabbage)

Make the Kaopuhn noodles first:

Note: Real kaopuhn (a rice noodle) not being available, somen, a wheat noodle, is used instead.

1 box (5 bundles) Japanese somen
6 qts water
1/2 tsp. salt

Have a plate ready to recieve finished noodles. Separate the somen and lay them on a tray. Add salt to the water. Boil the water and drop the somen in “jackstraws” fashion, while stirring constantly. Let the water return to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring, for two minutes, Drain the noodles and put them at once in a pot with cold water. Make “skeins” by taking a 3/4″ diameter bunch of noodles between your index finger and thumb. Swish the noodles around to orient them all in the same direction, lift them out of the water and use your other hand to drape the hanging ends over the top. Squeeze the hanging noodles between your hands to squeeze out water, then slip them off your finger onto the plate. Continue like this until all the noodles are made into skeins. You can safely pile them up. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.


For this soup you should make your own chicken stock (you can use canned, but homemade tastes richer). make the stock by cutting up 4 pounds of chicken backs and thighs and simmering them, partially covered, for 2 hours in 3 qts of water. Don’t add anything else – this is pure chicken stock.

1 3-4 lb. chicken
2 quarts homemade chicken stock
4 pieces kha (galangal root) diameter of a 50 cent piece
8 large kaffir lime leaves
10 to 12 3″ long dried red chilies (de Arbol or Japones), seeded.
1 tsp, salt
14 oz can coconut milk, divided into thick and thin parts.
2 large cloves garlic
1 T. sugar
2 to 3 T. padek (Lao homemade fermented fish – substitute Fillipino bagoong)
8 scallions, chopped fine, including green tops
1/2 head regular cabbage, shredded

To serve on the side (put in small bowls):

1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped scallions (yes, more scallions)
2 limes, cut in wedges
Additional sugar
sambal uelek
a bottle of fish sauce

Cut the chicken up and place it in a large stock pot with the chicken stock, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, removing scum periodically.

Meanwhile, Simmer the seeded red chilies and salt in enough water to cover for several minutes, until they’re soft. While they’re simmering, place the thick cocnut milk in a small pan and simmer until thickened and reduced by 1/3rd. Drain the chilies and mash them in a mortar with the garlic until they’re reduced to a paste (be careful doing this – don’t let it splash in your eye. I do it with my eyes closed!). Add the chili paste to the reduced coconut milk and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and the oil has risen to the top. Set aside until needed.

When the chicken is tender, turn off the heat, remove the chicken from the stock and let it cool. Remove the galangal and kaffir lime leaves from the stock. Shred the chicken meat from the bones (you can also cut up the skin if you wish, and add that to the chicken meat). Return the chicken meat to the pot of stock. Add the coconut milk-chili mixture, the thin coconut milk, the sugar and the padek or bagoong. If you don’t have either padek or bagoong, just use fish sauce. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes, add the 8 chopped scallions and remove from the heat.

Serve in large, deep Chinese-style soup bowls. In the bottom of each bowl, place a handfull of shredded cabbage and two or three skeins of noodles. Ladle the soup on top, being sure to get plenty of chicken meat in each bowl. Serve with the 1/2 cup of chopped scallions, the coriander leaves, the lime wedges, the sugar, the sambal uelek and fish sauce on the side. Each person adds these things to taste.

Note: I purposely always make the whole package of somen, so that I have a lot of left-over noodles. Here’s what to do with them: Cold Noodles with Spicy Peanut Sauce

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