A taste of Burma : CHICKEN KHOW SUEY

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to tell you about this stunner of a dish. If you’ve already skimmed through the list of ingredients, I know what you’re thinking. I won’t lie, this recipe does call for quite a few elements and steps, but I guarantee that you will not regret it.

Khow suey is essentially a Burmese noodle dish served with a subtly spiced coconut curry/soup that’s topped with an array of contrasting condiments. A bit like the Singaporean laksa. I know it sounds a little intimidating at first, but it didn’t take too long for this dish to sneak its way into my list of regulars.

Among the areas where my willpower is at its weakest, I think throwing in extra garlic reigns supreme. The recipe says 5, I go with 7. 6? 9. And then there’s also this thing for odd numbers. OCD, much? Yes, I think so. I know that I’m going to have my own version of “Chicken with 43 cloves of garlic” someday.

I’ve made this recipe from time to time using store-bought coconut milk, but if you have access to making a fresh batch at home, there’s nothing like it. The chillies might seem like a lot, but once the seeds have been taken out, you get more flavour than heat from them. Also, the coconut milk really tones down the fieriness too. If you’d like it milder anyway, reduce the number.

Every time I make this, nostalgia sets in and takes me right back to family dinners at home. This recipe (like many others), is from my mom’s collection that I brought back with me when I got married and moved to Chennai. Honestly, mine tastes almost as good as hers. And that’s saying a lot.


Adapted from Tarla Dalal’s Vegetarian Khow suey

Egg noodles – 300 grams, boiled and drained

Chicken thigh fillets – 300 grams, cubed

Vegetables of your choice – 1 ½ cups, chopped (I used baby corn, cauliflower florets, beans and carrots)

Coconut milk – 250 ml

Onions – 2, finely chopped

Tomatoes – 2, finely chopped

Fresh lemon grass – 1 stalk

Dried red chillies – 8, de-seeded

Coriander seeds – 4 tsp

Cumin seeds – 2 tsp

Ginger – 1” piece

Garlic – 9 cloves

Roasted chana dal – 2 tbsp, powdered

Oil – 4 tbsp



Deep-fried onions

Raw onions, finely chopped

Hard-boiled eggs, finely sliced

Coriander leaves, finely chopped

Tomatoes, finely chopped

Wedges of lime


If you’re making your own coconut milk : add 1 cup of freshly grated coconut to 3 cups of water and let it sit for 10 minutes. Blend together and then strain. This is your first extract. Remove the strained coconut, add 1 more cup of water, and repeat once more. Mix the two extracts together, measure out 250 ml, and set aside.

In a small pan, dry roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and dried red chillies for about a minute to intensify its flavours. Add these to a blender with garlic, ginger and a dash of water and blend to a smooth paste.*

Add the chicken to a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until tender. Blanch the vegetables in the same pot for a few minutes when the chicken is nearly done, and drain them all out onto a colander. Set aside.

In another wok/pot, heat the oil and sauté the onions until they soften and get a little colour. Add the aromatic paste mixture* and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Put in the tomatoes and stir together for a further 5 minutes until the tomatoes become pulpy and darken slightly. Stick the lemon grass stem into the pot at this stage.

Add the chicken, boiled vegetables, salt, gram flour, and coconut milk along with 2 cups of water to the pot; bring to a boil, and let it simmer for 8-10 minutes to let the flavours emulsify (Note: add more water if it thickens up too much – you’re looking for a consistency that’s a little thicker than soup)

To serve, add noodles to a bowl and top with a generous ladleful of soup. Garnish with the toppings and a good squeeze of lime and serve hot.


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