This outstanding dish has Islamic, Burmese and Thai roots. There's no standard recipe and variations range from a curry-like soup with strong cumin and coriander flavours to a version rich with coconut milk and less spice. This version comes from the cooking school at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chiang Mai. First, comes a recipe for homemade curry paste, but don't feel bad if you buy it: Thais also often get theirs from favourite vendor at a market.
Red curry paste
2 shallots, peeled
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 dried red Thai bird’s eye chili peppers
1 tbsp galangal or ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp coriander stems and root, chopped
1 tbsp kaffir lime zest or 2 lime leaves, slivered
1 tbsp shrimp paste
1 tbsp lemongrass, chopped
Pinch of salt
1 lb fresh egg noodles, about 6 cups
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cups coconut milk
3 tbsp red curry paste
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp fresh turmeric, chopped, or 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cup chicken stock
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp coconut sugar or regular sugar
12 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, quartered
2 tbsp coriander leaves
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot
Pickled mustard greens
Red curry paste: Combine shallots, garlic, chili, galangal (or ginger), coriander, kaffir lime, shrimp paste and lemongrass in a mini-chop or food processor and pulse until finely chopped and pasty.
Soup: Bring water to boil in a pot and add 4 cups noodles, bring back to boil. Drain and place in soup bowls with the coriander leaves.
Heat wok with vegetable oil over high heat. Add remaining 2 cups noodles and fry until crisp and golden, about three minutes. Remove noodles to paper towel-lined plate and discard oil from wok.
Add 1/4 cup of the thick coconut milk into the wok and bring to boil. Add red curry paste and stir together, add curry powder, turmeric, coriander and cumin and cook until spices are toasted and fragrant, about two minutes. Add remaining coconut milk, stock, fish sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for three minutes. Add chicken and stir together. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about eight to 10 minutes.
Taste for seasoning adding more curry powder, fish sauce or lime as needed. Ladle over cooked noodles and top with fried noodles. Place garnishes in bowls. Dot soup with chili oil.