Recipe: Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup (ohn-no-khao-swe)

Oh, yes. Even on the hottest day in steamy, tropical Myanmar, you’ll find gaping bowls heaped with noodles, chicken, and silky coconut curry. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick. It doesn’t matter if your skin is tacky with salty sweat.  “Ohn no khao swe” is what’s for dinner.
You can call it Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup, if you’d like. To a local, this curry topped with egg and a garden of garnishes is breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It’s as easy to find in rambling shacks as it is in roadside stalls. I can’t get over how easy it is to make. Chop a few things, toss them in a pot and simmer. After a happy mingle serve with noodles and enough garnishes to bring out even the Grinch’s smile, not to mention little Miss Ava (have I told you lately how much kids like to help build their own meals?).
The secret to making a great ohn-no-khao-swe is in the toppings. More specifically, in assembling your own bowl, just as you like it. If you do it right, in every bite you’ll find chicken, noodles, chili peppers, green onion, cilantro, eggs, lime juice, and fish sauce.
And smiles as far as your eyes can see.
NOTE: You can find chickpea/garbanzo bean flour at your natural grocery store, near the specialty flours. Although you might not find pure chickpea flour, you can also use a blend of chickpea/garbanzo and fava bean flour. 
Serves 4
1-2 lb boneless, skinless thighs
vegetable oil
1 Tbsp hot paprika, or to taste
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp grated garlic
1 large shallot, sliced
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 quart chicken stock
fish sauce, to taste (I used 3 Tbsp)
1 can coconut milk (I used light)
1 lb spaghetti (wheat noodles)
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
cilantro, torn
green onion, sliced
lime & lemon wedges
Fish sauce
chili sauce
Let’s get started.

First fry the chicken in hot oil. This can take ten minutes per side to get a good sear.

Meanwhile, grate the ginger, garlic and slice the onion. Whistle a little, if you can.

Once the chicken is brown on both sides, sprinkle on the paprika, ginger, and garlic. Cook for a minute, until fragrant. 

Then add the beautiful shallot and cook a few minutes to soften. The shallot will add sweet goodness to the curry and balances the heat from the hot paprika.

Sprinkle on the chickpea flour and, to prevent lumps, stir. This will ensure that everything is coated and all the flour is moistened. The chickpea flour will thicken the curry and add a slightly earthy background flavor.

Now for the liquids.

Pour on stock, coconut milk, and fish sauce – instead of salt (I used quite a bit since my chicken stock is low sodium).

Simmer 30 minutes, breaking the chicken into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. If the sauce gets too thick, thin it out with stock or water. If it seems a bit thin, make a slurry with some more chickpea flour and stir it in.

No biggie. That’s real life.

Meanwhile, cook the noodles and hard boiled eggs. Slice up a rainbow of garnishes.

Serve the noodles in one bowl, the curry in a second bowl, and the toppings on a platter.

Let everyone assemble their ohn-no-khao-swe.

First noodles,

then curry and egg …

… cilantro, lime, green onion,

And fish sauce.

Eat with gusto.

This is how you spell “beautiful” in Myanmar.

Taste it!

I’ll save a bite for you.

Enjoy with all your heart, my friends.

Have a beautiful summer.

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  1. Eleanor (undeadgoat) says:

    Umm, Sasha? “Garbanzo” is Spanish for “Chickpea.” It’s also English.

  2. elisa waller says:

    this is a beautiful post…love everything about it!

  3. I’ve had a bottle of fish sauce on my shelf, wondering what it was used for (also wondering how it came to be on my shelf). You’ve given me two things just this week to use it in! Yay!

  4. aw stunning food photos and equally gorgeous baby girl! beautiful presentation and i’m salivating thinking about having a bowl of hot noodle soup! interesting how you thicken it with chickpea flour, we use rice flour at home, but grandma and mum always advocates a think soup cooked over charcoal for hours for best effects!

  5. I adore noodle soups. Many thanks for the beautiful recipe!

  6. LadyGarlic says:

    Ava is so adorable! Fun experience for her and good for mother-daughter bonding making the kitchen such a wonderful place for education and adventure instead of ‘woman’s work.’

    How is Mr. Picky handling the adventure? Lol

    Soup looks delish! Love these Asian noodle soup bowls whether it is pho, laksa, forgetting the Thai one, or the chicken soups from Latin America.
    Locally you can have them on the streets for about a dollar US.
    Then another 50 cents for a fresh juice to stay cool in the tropical climates!

    *Waiting for P!

  7. Karen Rushen O'Brien says:

    You are a lifesaver! I research recipes for Dining for Women’s monthly philanthropic projects and December 2012 is a project in Myanmar. As you know, there’s not a lot out there on Burmese cooking (smile) but your two recipes are winners! I will be using them, and recommending them and your blog, to our Dining for Women members, who are truly living your mission of “cooking for peace”. Feel free to check the website out at . contact me if you have any concerns!

  8. Neat blog! Is your theme custom made or did you download it from somewhere?

    A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog shine.
    Please let me know where you got your design. Bless

  9. Fantastic dish..really enjoyed by the family.


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