Northern Thai-style Chicken Noodle Soup

London’s well-known Thai restaurant, Chiang Mai, in Soho offers a splendid version of this popular dish. Why it is called ‘northern style’ is perhaps clear only to the most refined Thai palate. Although Thailand is geographically varied, the monsoon climate dominates and the Thai people throughout the country consume basically the same foods. But the northern area borders Burma and Laos, and was historically one of the main pathways of migration from China. Sophisticated palates may discern subtle regional variations in the cuisine, and thus we have ‘northern style’.

No matter, this is a distinctly Thai soup, and quite delicious.


  • 225 g (8 oz) fresh or dried egg noodles
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 225 g (8 oz) boneless chicken breasts, skinned
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon groundnut (peanut) oil
  • 1 small finely chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) homemade chicken or vegetable stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) tinned coconut milk
  • 2 small fresh Thai red or green chillies, seeded and finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Madras curry paste or powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice


  • handful each fresh coriander and basil leaves


Cook the noodles by boiling them for 3–5 minutes. Drain and plunge them into cold water. Drain and toss them in the sesame oil. (They can be kept in this state, if covered with clingfilm, for up to 2 hours in the refrigerator.)

Shred the chicken into fine julienne strips.

Peel the lemongrass to the tender whitish centre and crush with the flat of a knife. Cut into 7.5 cm (3 in) pieces.

Heat a large heavy pot over high heat until it is hot. Add the groundnut oil, and when it is slightly smoking, add the onion, garlic and lemongrass and stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Stir in the stock and coconut milk, turn the heat down, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the chillies, chicken, fish sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, curry paste, salt and pepper and stir. Now add the drained noodles, and cover and cook for another 5 minutes.

Remove the lemongrass, stir in the lime juice, then pour the noodles and soup into a large tureen, garnish with the coriander and basil leaves and serve at once.