This is seriously hands down the best Thai dish I make. I first tried it a few years ago when I bought my copy of Quick & Easy Thai. The cover of the book is a picture of this dish. When I was learning to cook, this dish was intimidating. The first few times I fried the noodles, I made a giant mess in my kitchen. I think fire was involved at one point as well.
I was drawn to the fried noodle cakes, they looked so...professional. But the star of this dish is the curry broth. The noodle cakes are simply a sauce-to-mouth vehicle, because this sauce is so good that you'll want to shovel it down in huge quantities. I make extra sauce and noodle cakes. The sauce is a great combination of coconut, lime juice, and spicy curry. The lime juice is absolutely essential if you want this sauce to be amazing. All of the garnishes work very well with the sauce, especially the shallots, definitely don't omit those.
In the past, I think I've tried at least half a dozen types of Asian noodles in this dish. Of them all, Asian Gourmet Chinese Noodles have worked the best by far because they fry quickly. Rice noodles took a long time to fry and sometimes the cakes were hard rather than crunchy. Gnawing on a noodle cake like a frustrated rodent is no fun at all. Fresh noodles didn't work very well because they were too thick. The curly Asian noodles were okay, but the regular Chinese noodles work the best.
One downside to this dish is that sopping up the tasty sauce with the noodle cakes is MESSY. The sauce drips and you will need about 600 napkins to eat this without destroying your shirt (turmeric stains). But, it's worth it!
The fried noodle cakes are technically optional. If you decide to make them,you can do it before you make the curry, or have someone help you in the kitchen. The curry needs to simmer for 10 minutes, and depending on how many cakes you make, it will take longer than that. Another option is to keep the curry warm after it's done simmering and make the cakes then.
Chicken Noodle Curry with Fried Noodle Cakes (Chiang Mai Curry Noodles)
From Quick and Easy Thai
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp red curry paste (or more, if you want it to be more spicy)
1/2 lb chicken cut into 2 inch pieces (or smaller if you want. I used boneless skinless chicken breast)
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth (I used organic low sodium chicken broth)
1 tsp turmeric or curry powder (I used turmeric)
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce (I used regular soy sauce and it worked fine)
1/2 tsp sugar
1-2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice (I used 2 Tbsp)
1 package dried Asian noodles
1 large shallot, chopped (garnish)
A good handful of cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped (garnish)
2 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced (garnish)
1. Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat, and then add the garlic. Stir and then add the red curry paste. Mash it around with a spatula to mix it with the oil and garlic. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook 1 to 2 minutes, tossing it to coat it evenly with the curry paste.
2. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, turmeric, soy sauce, sugar and salt and stir well. Bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
3. While the curry is simmering, cook the noodles according to the package. Drain and rinse well with cold water. Then drain them again. Set half of them aside to make fried noodle cakes and divide the other half between two bowls.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lime juice. If you need to make the noodle cakes, put a lid on the pan and place your burner on very low heat to keep the curry warm.
5. To make the noodle cakes: heat about 1 inch of vegetable oil in a pot with high sides to prevent splatter. Having a splatter guard is also helpful. Once the oil is hot, place a small cluster of noodles in the pot and fry until crispy. Set the fried noodle cake on a few paper towels to drain. Repeat until you're out of noodles.
6. To serve, ladle the curry over the noodles in the bowls and top with shallots, cilantro, and green onions. To make it look nice, add a fried noodle cake, and serve the rest of the noodle cakes on a plate.