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The BEST Khao Poon Recipe! – Homemade & Authentic

I’m sharing with you a simple recipe for khao poon, which is a coconut red curry noodle soup traditionally from Laos that is served with shredded chicken and greens. I’ll give you some history and things you need to know about this savory dish!

If you ever had khao poon, which is a Laos red curry noodle, you’ll definitely agree that it is absolutely divine. It is a traditional noodle soup dish from laos that has a delicious, buttery, creamy broth unlike any other dish you may have had.

With all the delicious flavors that explode in your mouth, you may think that making khao poon would be hard. However, I’m here to tell you that it’s not all that difficult. And if you ever tasted this dish in a Thai restaurant, I’m here to tell you that it is actually a dish that originated from Laos! Khao poon has layers of flavors for a celebration in your mouth.

I’m going to share with you a TRULY authentic recipe for this amazing dish that is sure to give your taste buds a real treat! This is a mouthwatering deep dive into khao poon, which is the noodle of the Lao people.

What is khao poon?

Khao poon (also known by other names like ka poon, kaopoon, khaub poob) is a traditionally Laos vermacelli noodle dish with a creamy, coconut flavor infused with coconut milk, lemon grass, kaffir leaves and topped with fresh herbs.

Khao poon is made traditionally with fish in Laos. In the United States, the most common protein that is used with khao poon is shredded chicken or pork. For those that are gluten free or looking for a vegetarian option, tofu can be added to make it gluten free and 100% vegan.

The multitude of textures with khao poon can be characterized with the softness of its vermacelli noodles, the hearty flavor of pork and chicken, the richness of coconut and curry, along with the freshness of herbs and vegetables on top.

Where did khao poon originate?

Khao Poon is a traditional dish that originated from Laos. Often, you’ll find this dish in Thai restaurants in the United States because their menus often incorporate a lot of Laos dishes under the guise of Thai cuisine.

Due to the popularity of khao poon’s explosion of delicious flavors, you can find variations of this recipe in regions like northern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Vietnam.

What are other names for khao poon?

If you go to any Thai or Lao restaurant, you may see various names for this delicious dish with curry and coconut. Here are some of the variants for the names of this dish:

  • Khao or kao means “rice”. This essentially means that the vermacelli noodle is made from rice.
  • Poon means “everything”. When you top this dish off with fresh herbs, you are essentially adding everything inside of it.
  • Sen means “string”. This is referring to the noodle.
  • Nam phik means “coconut milk”. This is what the broth is typically infused with.

To break down the meaning of each of those words, this is what each of those words mean:

  • Khao or kao means “rice”. This essentially means that the vermacelli noodle is made from rice.
  • Poon means “everything”. When you top this dish off with fresh herbs, you are essentially adding everything inside of it.
  • Sen means “string”. This is referring to the noodle.
  • Nam phik means “coconut milk”. This is what the broth is typically infused with.

Since Vietnam and Laos are so close to each other, the Vietnamese refer to this as “bun Lao”. This literally means “the noodle of the Lao people”.

What are other versions of khao poon?

There are four versions of khao poon, in order of popularity:

  • khao poon nam kathee (with coconut milk)
  • khao poon nam jaew (without coconut milk)
  • khao poon name par (with fish sauce)

The word “nam” means water. The other words here mean:

  • Kathee means coconut milk
  • Jaew means a different type of dipping (without coconut milk)

How is khao poon different than other Asian dishes like pho and ramen?

Khao poon is different than pho and ramen because of the base of the broth uses coconut milk and curry for it’s base, while pho and ramen typically use a protein based broth as it’s base. Unlike pho, khao poon uses a round vermacelli noodle instead of a flat vermacelli noodle. Unlike ramen, khao poon uses a vermancelli noodles instead of ramen.

Khao poon uses a round, vermicelli noodle that is reminicent of sphaghetti noodles. These noodles are a dough made of rice that is pushed through a round mold through boiling water!

Khao poon is similar to pho and ramen in that you can personalize each noodle with lots of fresh herbs like lettuce, cabbage, sprouts, and sliced banana blossom.

What makes khao poon so delicious and popular?

Khao poon is a Laotian coconut noodle soup that is light and delicious. Not only is the base infused with a lot of different flavors, the fresh herb toppings make it a personalized dish for everyone. It is a nutritious, noodle soup that is often prepared for family celebrations. It’s fragrant, spicy, and satisfying for everyone.

Similar to what chicken noodle soup is to Western palettes or pho is to the Vietnamese, this Lao red curry noodle is that to the Lao people. The broth is a silky smooth, coconut red curry that provides a hearty delicious meal.

My family is obssessed with this Lao noodle soup. There is nothing better than a bowl of khao poon to start the day (yes, it is also a breakfast at my house). With any dish, every family has their own adaptation of this recipe that makes it a little different family to family.

khao poon ingredients no toppings

Does Khao poon use padaek?

Authentic khao poon uses padaek as part of the multitude of ingredients that makes up it’s base. 

Related: What is padaek?

Does it take a long time to make khao poon?

The actual cooking process doesn’t take very long, it’s the ingredient preparation that will take a bulk of the time to make. It takes 30 minutes to prep all the ingredients, and another 20 minutes to make the dish. It then takes another 30 minutes to simmer for a total of approximately 90 minutes to make. You can shorten the entirety of the cooking process by skipping the simmering step.

While it seems like that is a long time, it is a dish that you will absolutely be satisfied with once it is done!

How do you serve khao poon?

It is served with an assortment of fresh greens, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts for a not only beautiful presentation, but deliciously fresh taste. For this dish, the most common condiment added is chilli sauce to add spice as well as a squeeze of lime on top!

What are the main ingredients of khao poon?

The ingredients of khao poon must be grouped into two: the ingredients for the broth and the ingredients for the toppings.

With both groupings, there is a lot of ingredient prepping involved. If you get the ingredients prepped and ready to go before cooking, the cooking process will be a breeze.

Ingredients for the Broth

  • 3 pounds of chicken breast, with skin
  • 10 cups of water
  • 40 ounce box of chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 2 – 1 inch pieces of galangal
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass, minced
  • 1/2 cup of shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of padaek (lao fermented fish sauce)
  • lime leaves or kaffir leaves
  • 3 tablespoons of galangal, minced
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 oz can of red curry paste
  • 2 – 14 oz can of coconut milk
  • 1 package of round vermicelli rice stick noodles, cooked al dente

Ingredients for the Toppings and Condiments

  • 2 cups of bean sprouts
  • 1 whole green cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1 bunch of lettuce, shredded
  • 1 bunch of green onion, chopped
  • 1 bundle of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, wedged
  • a bag of fresh Thai chilis
  • 1 cup of fresh mint
  • 1 cup of banana blossom, sliced thinly
  • dried chiles
  • lime, wedges

ingredients for khao poon

Note in Preparing Ingredients for Khao Poon

Preparing all of the items for mincing is going to take a lot of time.

I didn’t add this to the steps, but this is really important. 

khao poon ingredients

Here’s a shortcut on how to mince: add the lemon grass, galangal, shallots and garlic into a chopper!

ingredients for mortar and pestle

Main Ingredients of Khao Poon That You Will Want to Pick Up at the Asian Supermarket

To make it easier for you, here are the specific ingredients that you’ll probably want to make a special stop at an Asian supermarket to get:

  • 1 package of fresh lemon grass
  • 1 package of fresh galangal
  • 1 bag of Thai chilis(optional)
  • 1 package of round vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 – 4 oz can of red curry paste
  • 2 – 14 oz can of coconut milk
  • 1 banana blossom
  • 1 bag of kaffir leaves (lime leaves)

How to Make Khao Poon (A Traditional Lao Red Curry and Coconut Noodle Soup) with Photos

Tips Before Cooking Khao Poon

  • The lemon grass should be minced really well.
  • Curry typically comes in varying heat levels. This recipe calls for the red can of curry, which is between mild and medium.
  • If you are not a fan of coconut, you can lighten the coconut milk and cream and replace it with water to get it to the consistency that you desire.
  • There are some recipes that call for bamboo shoots, mushrooms, baby corn, and potatoes. I’ve never been a fan of adding these, but you definitely can if you want to include it!

Recipe for Khao Poon

Step 1 | Prepare the Chicken Broth

In a large pot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil and box of chicken broth. Add the chicken, piece of galangal, a few kaffir leaves, and smashed lemon grass and drop it into the pot.

Simmer the chicken uncovered for 30 minutes, skimming off the broth every 5-10 minutes.

khao poon ingredients

Remove the chicken from the broth, but reserve the broth by setting the pot to the side.

chicken broth with lemongrass in pot

Step 2 | Shred and Pound the Chicken

After the chicken completely cools, remove the skin (you can reserve this for a future dish like larb gai).

Next, you can choose to shred it or pound it with a mortar and pestle.

chicken for khao pun in mortar and pestle

We chose mortar and pestle because that is what most Laotians do to make this dish.

chicken for khao pun in mortar and pestle

Set the chicken aside.

chicken for khao pun in mortar and pestle

Step 3 | Get the Coconut and Curry Base Ready

Heat canola oil up on medium-high for 30 seconds so that it gets to temperature.

galanga, shallots, and garlic aromatic in asian pot

Next, add the minced shallot, minced galangal, minced garlic, minced lemon leaves, kaffir leaves, and paprika until it smells fragrant (around 1 minute).

galanga, shallots, and garlic aromatic in asian pot

It may start popping at you, if so, that’s okay – don’t be scared!

galanga, shallots, and garlic aromatic in asian pot

Add in the paprika and curry paste until well blended.

khao poon ingredients recipe add coconut milk broth base

Add in padaek.

khao poon ingredients recipe add a milk

Next, add the chicken in and stir again until well blended.

khao poon ingredients recipe add coconut milk and chicken

khao poon ingredients recipe add coconut milk

Next, add in the coconut milk.

khao poon ingredients

khao poon ingredients recipe add coconut milk

khao poon ingredients

Step 4 | Mix the Broth and Base Together, and Let It Simmer

Take the reserve broth and pour it into the coconut and curry base. Simmer for 30 minutes and season to taste.

khao poon ingredients

khao poon ingredients

khao poon ingredients

Step 5 | Prepare the Noodles and Prep the Herbs

Prepare the round vermicelli rice noodles according to package.

The typical directions are bringing about 4 inches of water into the pot (enough to cover the noodles) and boil on high. Remove the divider bands from the noodle bundles, lower the heat to medium and stir to keep the noodles separated. When you add the noodles in, the water will stop boiling.

Stir vigorously to keep the noodles separate.

round vermicelli noodles for lao noodles

When the water comes back to a boil, remove the pot from heat. Pour out as much hot water as you can and replace with cold water to keep the noodles separate.

Pull at a handful of noodles, and take one handful and wrap it around your hand to make a rounded noodle bundle. Squeeze out the excess water, and lay the bundle on the plate. Get some really most paper towels, and cover the noodles so they don’t dry up. Repeat for all of the noodles.

round vermicelli noodles for lao noodles

Wash all of the herbs for the toppings and condiments to prepare for serving.

round vermicelli noodles for lao noodles

Step 6 | Assembling the Khao Poon Dish for Serving

In a very large soup bowl, add 2-3 bundles of the wound noodles. Ladle enough broth to cover the noodles.

khao poon lao red curry noodle in a bowl

khao poon ingredients

On top of the noodle and broth, add in shredded cabbage, shredded lettuce, shredded banana blossom (not shown below), cilantro, green onion, and finally squeeze some lime in for zest. Add chili to add your level of desired heat.

khao poon lao red curry noodle in a bowl

Step 7 | Eating

Yes, there’s a step for eating this! Get your spoon and preference of chopsticks or fork ready.

khao poon ingredients

Grab some noodles along with veggies. The crunch of the cabbage along with the tenderness of the chicken and heartiness of the curried coconut is sure to give you an explosion in your mouth that is out of this world.

thai red curry noodle

And make sure you actually don’t eat the galangal and kaffir lemon leaves, those are kind of like bay leaves – seasoning only.

You may find yourself debating whether you like pho or kha poon more.

khao poon lao red curry noodle in a bowl

Make Khao Poon Year Round

My hope that you will consider making this spicy Lao rice vermicelli noodle soup with this post. As long as you stock up on the right ingredients at the Asian grocery store, this dish once made can last you the whole week along with multiple meals.

lao red curry noodle

If you don’t try this recipe, I’d hope you at least order it the next time you venture to a Lao or Thai restaurant and see it on the menu! This long-simmered soup will bring an explosion of flavors to any palette and get you wanting more.

It is definitely my family’s favorite noodle dish. Khao poon, when preparation is done right, is super easy to make and fits in the comfort food category.

If you tried both, do you like pho or khao poon better? Yes, I know that’s a trick question because that’s comparing apples and oranges, but I would love to know anyway!

Check out my Vietnamese banh canh recipe if you loved this dish!

Other Lao and Thai Dishes You Might Love

khao poon ingredients

khao poon ingredients

Authentic Laos Khao Poon - Red Coconut Curry Noodle Soup

Yield: 6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

A light, coconut red curry noodle soup traditionally from Laos that is served with shredded chicken and greens.

Ingredients

Ingredients for Khao Poon Broth

  • 10 cups of water
  • 3 pounds of chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon of paprika
  • 2 - 1 inch piece of galanga
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons of galanga, minced
  • 1/2 cup of shallots, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of padaek
  • bunch of lime leaves (or kaffir leaves)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 oz can of red curry paste
  • 2 - 14 ounce cans of coconut milk
  • 40 ounce box of chicken broth
  • 1 package of round vermicelli noodles, cooked al dente 

Soup Toppings and Condiments

  • 2 cups of bean sprouts
  • 1 whole green cabbage, thinly shredded
  • 1 bunch of lettuce, shredded
  • 1 bunch of green onion, chopped
  • 1 bundle of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 lime, wedged
  • a bag of fresh Thai chilis
  • 1 cup of fresh mint
  • 1 cup of banana blossom, sliced thinly (optional)

Instructions

Prepare the Chicken Broth and Chicken

  1. In a large pot, bring 10 cups of water to a boil and box of chicken broth. Add the chicken, piece of galangal, a few
    kaffir leaves, and smashed lemon grass and drop it into the pot.
  2. Simmer the chicken uncovered for 30 minutes, skimming off the broth every 5-10 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the broth, but reserve the broth by setting the pot to the side.
  4. After the chicken completely cools, remove the skin and discard.
  5. Shred or pound the chicken.
  6. Set the chicken aside.

Get Coconut and Curry Base Ready

  1. Heat canola oil up on medium-high for 30 seconds so that it gets to temperature. Next, add the minced shallot, minced galangal, minced garlic, minced lemon leaves, kaffir leaves and paprika until it smells fragrant (around 1 minute).
  2. Add in the curry paste, both cans of coconut milk, stirring continuously until it is well blended. Add in padaek.
  3. Next, add the chicken in and stir again until well blended.
  4. Take the reserve broth and pour it into the coconut and curry base. Simmer for 30 minutes and season to taste.

Prepare the Noodles

  1. Prepare the round vermicelli rice noodles according to package. 
  2. The typical directions are bringing about 4 inches of water into the pot (enough to cover the noodles) and boil on high. Remove the divider bands from the noodle bundles, lower the heat to medium and stir to keep the noodles separated. When you add the noodles in, the water will stop boiling.
  3. Stir vigorously to keep the noodles separate. 
  4. When the water comes back to a boil, remove the pot from heat. Pour out as much hot water as you can and replace with cold water to keep the noodles separate. 
  5. Pull at a handful of noodles, and take one handful and wrap it around your hand to make a rounded noodle bundle. Squeeze out the excess water, and lay the bundle on the plate. Get some really most paper towels, and cover the noodles so they don't dry up. Repeat for all of the noodles. 

Assemble and Serve Khao Poon with Herbs and Condiments

    1. In a very large soup bowl, add 2-3 bundles of the wound noodles.
    2. Ladle enough broth to cover the noodles. On top of the noodle and broth, add in shredded cabbage, shredded lettuce, shredded banana blossom (not shown below), cilantro, green onion, and finally squeeze some lime in for zest.
    3. Add chili to add your level of desired heat.
    4. Serve



Notes

  • The lemon grass should be minced really well.
  • Banana blossom is optional. It does bring a deliciousness that is unrivaled to any dish.
  • Curry typically comes in varying heat levels. This recipe calls for the red can of curry, which is between mild and medium. 
  • If you are not a fan of coconut, you can lighten the coconut milk and cream and replace it with water to get it to the consistency that you desire.
  • There are some recipes that call for bamboo shoots, mushrooms, baby corn, and potatoes. I've never been a fan of adding these, but you definitely can if you want to include it!

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 6 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 443Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 8gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 419mgCarbohydrates: 45gNet Carbohydrates: 45gFiber: 2gSugar: 3gProtein: 23g

 

Lao spicy noodle khao poon

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Tatiana

Sunday 19th of July 2020

Thank you Lane! I cannot wait to cook it!! Looks amazing!

Heather

Thursday 11th of June 2020

Khao Poon is my favorite. I like Pho, but the richness of Khoa Poon is great! Thank you for the recipe, I have been looking for an authentic one. I DO add bamboo to mine. It adds another texture and I really like the flavor.

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

This is beautiful Lan! And looks delicious! It would be perfect for me as a vegetarian🙌

Joseph Robinson

Saturday 29th of February 2020

Great recipe