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Khao Poon Recipe (Lao Chicken Coconut Noodle Soup)

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Khao poon recipe, a MUST-TRY Lao chicken coconut noodle soup. Its spicy, creamy coconut broth loaded with chicken and slippery rice vermicelli noodles will have everyone asking for seconds. It’s the ultimate comfort food, bringing bold Lao flavors right into your kitchen.

Khao poon, Lao chicken coconut noodle soup, served with fresh bean sprouts, carrots, cucumber, and cabbage, alongside a bowl of spicy red curry soup broth and rice vermicelli noodles.

Craving more? Try my authentic kanom jeen nam ya recipe! It’s Thailand’s counterpart of this spicy Lao noodle soup.

What is khao poon

Khao poon is a popular Lao soup known for its rich, spicy flavor. It’s a staple in Lao cuisine that combines a coconut milk broth with red curry paste, chicken or fish, and rice vermicelli noodles. Often garnished with toppings and condiments, it combines savory, spicy, and fragrant notes.

Where does khao poon come from

Khao poon (ເຂົ້າປຸ້ນ), a staple noodle soup of Lao cuisine, originated in Laos with influences from Chinese cuisine. Different versions of the dish are also in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Singapore.

Close-up of spicy Lao chicken coconut noodle soup with shredded chicken and green onions in a rich, red curry coconut broth.

Varations of Lao khao poon soup

  • Khao poon nam phik or khao poon nam krati: A Lao coconut noodle soup with a red curry base, often made with chicken or fish, and is known for its rich and spicy flavor.
  • Khao poon nam jaew: Highlighting a clear, tangy broth, this variation is made without coconut milk and with pork intestines.
  • Khao poon nam paa: A spicy Lao fish curry with red curry paste. Nam ya refers to sauce and paa to fish.
  • Khao poon nam sao: A variation made with rice vermicelli noodles and a broth without coconut milk seasoned with fermented fish sauce, chili flakes, MSG and more, topped with fresh vegetables.
  • Khao poon nam gai: A spicy Lao chicken curry with red curry paste. Nam ya refers to sauce and gai to chicken.
Bowl of Lao noodle soup with chicken, khao poon, ready to serve with rice vermicelli noodles and vegetables, garnished with green onions.

Chicken coconut noodle soup

This chicken coconut noodle soup is pure magic! It’s a cozy, spicy soup that can easily be made as fiery or as mild as you like.

Think of it as a curry, but even better. It’s got that rich, creamy coconut milk base, simmering away in an easy homemade red curry paste.

Red curry paste for khao poon in a stone mortar. In the distance is a bowl of chicken broth and boiled chicken.

Fresh galangal, finger root, shallots, garlic, dried chilies, and a good old granite mortar and pestle are all you need for a DIY paste. If you don’t have a mortar, a food processor works too!

Whip up this authentic khao poon recipe and enjoy. It’s so saucy, spicy, and everything nice.

Authentic khao poon, Lao coconut noodle soup, with a red curry broth, garnished with green onions and shredded chicken, served in a coconut shell.

Why try this recipe

  • It’s authentic and easy-to-follow: This khao poon chicken recipe brings you the real deal – traditional Lao flavors that are pretty simple to whip up at home.
  • This recipe is easy to customize: Feel free to adjust the seasonings to taste. If you can’t eat spicy, you can substitute the dried chilies in the curry paste with a mild type of dried chilies.
  • Incredibly aromatic: The rich aromas of the fresh herbs and the vibrant color of the red curry make cooking this traditional Lao soup as fun as eating it!
  • It’s heartwarming: This is the perfect winter soup. It’s packed with tender chicken, creamy coconut milk curry, and fresh herbs. It’s also healthy and delicious!

Ingredients

For the exact measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card at the end of this post.

Top-view of ingredients for khao poon recipe including boiled chicken, coconut milk, garlic, shallots, dried chilies, finger roots, green onions, kaffir lime, chicken broth, salt, fish sauce, and sugar.
  • Galangal, finger root, dried chilies, garlic, shallots – These are the ingredients for our homemade red curry paste. Alternatively, use my recipe for Thai red curry paste or a store-bought alternative like Mae Ploy or Maesri and add finger roots to it.
  • Green onions
  • Coconut milk – Adds a creamy richness to the soup, perfectly balancing the spicy flavors.
  • White sugar – Balances out the spicy and salty flavors.
  • Kaffir lime leaves – Also known as makrut lime leaves, available fresh or frozen at most Asian grocery stores.
  • Salt
  • Fermented fish sauce – Fermented fish sauce is a staple in Isan cuisine and a traditional Lao ingredients that adds a unique depth and umami to Lao dishes.
  • Fish sauce – A key ingredient in Southeast Asian cuisine, adding umami and a salty flavor.
  • Khao poon noodles – The traditional noodles are called sen khao poon, which are rice vermicelli noodles. Rice vermicelli noodles are thin, delicate strands made from rice flour that perfectly absorb the flavors of spicy soups and sauces they’re paired with.
  • Chicken – I used chicken fillets, but feel free to use other cuts, like chicken thighs.
  • Chicken broth – The chicken broth is the foundation of khao poon chicken. It’s a rich, savory base that enhances the overall flavors.

Cooking instructions

Boiling the chicken

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add your chicken and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is cooked through. The flavorful water you’re left with becomes a chicken broth, the base of the khao poon soup.

Make the red curry paste

Step-by-step preparation of red curry paste in a granite mortar and pestle.

1. Crush dried chilies using a granite mortar and pestle.

2. Add galangal and garlic, and pound them into a fine, fragrant mixture.

3. Gradually incorporate shallots and finger roots, continuing to pound into a fine paste.

4. Finally, add the boiled chicken to your spice paste and mix roughly to infuse the meat with the fresh herbs and spices.

How to make khao poon

1. Begin by heating your pot over medium heat and add half the coconut milk. Cook until you see oil starting to separate and bubbles forming.

2. Mix in the red curry paste with the coconut milk. Fry until it becomes fragrant.

3. Pour in the remaining coconut milk, the chicken broth, white sugar, salt, fish sauce, and fermented fish sauce. Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil.

4. Add kaffir lime leaves and green onions. Remove the pot from heat.

Prepare the noodles

Dry vermicelli noodles: Boil them until they are soft but still al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water. See package instructions for the exact time.

Fresh noodles: Available at Asian markets or supermarkets, fresh noodles don’t need cooking and can be used immediately.

Serve

Place a portion of vermicelli noodles at the bottom of a serving dish. Ladle the broth over the noodles and garnish with sliced green onions, fresh herbs, lime wedge, and more.

Kitchen tools

  • Mortar and pestle or food processor for making homemade red curry paste.
  • Large pot for simmering the chicken broth.
  • Ladle for serving.
  • Cutting board and chef’s knife
  • Measuring spoons and cups

How to serve

Place a portion of the vermicelli noodles in a serving bowl. Lade the spicy chicken soup over the noodles and add garnishes of your choice.

Garnishing options

  • Vegetables: Thinly sliced cabbage, bean sprouts, banana flower, …
  • Chilies: Fresh or dried chilies, Thai chili flakes
  • Fresh herbs: Cilantro, mint, basil, …
  • A drizzle of fish sauce
  • Crushed peanuts
  • Fried shallots
  • Lime wedges
  • Fried garlic

How to store and reheat

Storing the soup: Let the Lao chicken noodle soup cool to room temperature. Transfer the soup to airtight containers. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days. Freeze the soup for longer storage, up to 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight.

Storing khao poon noodles: Rinse leftover cooked noodles under cold water to remove the starch. Toss with a small amount of oil to prevent them from sticking together. Place the noodles in an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Reheating instructions: Reheat on the stove top over medium heat until hot.

Fun facts

  • Khao poon is often the main dish at Lao celebrations like wedding days.
  • We call it khao poon, but this dish is also known as Lao laksa, linking it to the beloved laksa of Peranakan cuisine. It’s also spelled khao poun, kapoon, or khao pun.
  • This chicken curry with noodles holds a special place among the Hmong people of Southeast Asia.

Frequently asked questions

How to pronounce khao poon?

Khao poon is pronounced as “kow-poon”.

What kind of curry can you use for khao poon?

Traditionally, khao poon is made with a red curry paste that combines herbs and spices like galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and dried chilies. Store-bought red curry pastes can be found at Asian grocery stores.

How long to cook khao poon noodles for?

Khao poon noodles, which are rice vermicelli noodles, cook quickly. Typically, they should be boiled for about 5 minutes, depending on the brand. Check the package instructions for the best results.

What are khao poon noodles made of?

Khao poon noodles, known as rice vermicelli noodles, are made from rice flour and water. The thin noodles with neutral taste have a slightly chewy texture when cooked, making them perfect for curries and soups.

Is this recipe gluten-free?

Yes, this recipe is gluten-free. Make sure to double-check the labeling of store-bought sauces like fish sauce or store-bought red curry paste.

More Lao recipes you’ll love

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5 from 3 votes

Khao Poon Recipe (Lao Chicken Coconut Noodle Soup)

Prep Time 20 min Cook Time 30 min Total Time 50 mins
Servings: 4

Description

Enjoy the rich, spicy flavors of Laos with this khao poon recipe, a comforting noodle soup with chicken and fresh herbs and spices.

Ingredients

Soup

Red curry paste

Noodles

Instructions

Boiling the chicken

  1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add your chicken and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the chicken is cooked through. The flavorful water you’re left with becomes a chicken broth, the base of the khao poon soup.

Red curry paste

  1. Crush dried chilies using a granite mortar and pestle.

  2. Add galangal and garlic, and pound them into a fine, fragrant mixture.

  3. Gradually incorporate shallots and finger roots, continuing to pound into a fine paste.

  4. Finally, add the boiled chicken to your spice paste and mix roughly to infuse the meat with the fresh herbs and spices.

How to make khao poon

  1. Begin by heating your pot over medium heat and add half the coconut milk. Cook until you see oil starting to separate and bubbles forming.

  2. Mix in the red curry paste with the coconut milk. Fry until it becomes fragrant.

  3. Pour in the remaining coconut milk, the chicken broth, white sugar, salt, fish sauce, and fermented fish sauce. Stir well and bring the mixture to a boil.

  4. Add kaffir lime leaves and green onions. Remove the pot from heat.

Prepare the noodles

  1. Dry vermicelli noodles: Boil them until they are soft but still al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water. See package instructions for the exact time.
    Fresh noodles: Available at Asian markets or supermarkets, fresh noodles don’t need cooking and can be used immediately.

Serve

  1. Place a portion of vermicelli noodles at the bottom of a serving dish. Ladle the broth over the noodles and garnish with sliced green onions, fresh herbs, lime wedge, and more.

Nutrition Facts

Servings 4


Amount Per Serving
Calories 495kcal
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 9.55g15%
Saturated Fat 3.5g18%
Total Carbohydrate 60.5g21%
Dietary Fiber 4g16%
Sugars 12.8g
Protein 42g84%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Note

  • Use the nutrition card in this recipe as a guideline.
Keywords: khao poon, khao poon recipe, Lao chicken coconut noodle soup
About Author

Praew

I owned my own Thai restaurant and have years of experience in various other Thai restaurants. I've been whipping up classic Thai dishes by my mother's and grandma's side since I was just a little girl. Now I'm sharing my deep-rooted passion with my authentic Thai recipes on this food blog.

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