Move over Vietnamese Pho; you’ve had your time in the limelight and now it’s Kuay Jap Yuan‘s turn!
This comforting noodle soup, influenced by Vietnamese Báhn Cahn, is hard to find in Thai restaurants in the West but it is a popular street food dish in the Thai province of Isaan bordering Laos. In fact, this soup is also related to Lao Khao Piak Sen ເຂົ້າປຽກເສັ້ນ. Fusion food at its best!
Originally, the noodles used in this soup are Khao Piak Sen noodles which give this soup its characteristic starchiness but unless you make them from scratch (recipe to follow one day) it’s hard to source. Vietnamese noodles are probably easier to find in the West so you can use Báhn Cahn noodles or even any Vietnamese rice noodle you can get your hands on. I use Bun Que Lam or even Bun Bo Hue noodles. If not, don’t get your knickers in a twist and just use any noodles you like.
This recipe uses a quintessential Thai ingredient combination known as Saam Sahai สามสหาย (The Three Best Friends). It’s a paste made with garlic, black peppercorns and coriander root which was one of the main flavour profiles of Thai cuisine before chillies were introduced into Asia. Coriander root can be difficult to source in the West but at a pinch you could use coriander stems instead. I treat my coriander roots like gold and use them sparingly so I sometimes use a combination of coriander root and coriander stems. Whenever I see them in an Asian supermarket, I buy as many as I can find and freeze them.
Let’s get cooking!
500g pork mince
500g pork ribs
1 chicken carcass
2 large spring onions, finely sliced
3 spring onions, knotted
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
4 Tbsp. light soy sauce
6 shiitake mushrooms, soaked overnight
Khao Piak Sen (or Vietnamese Rice Noodles)
1 coriander root
3 coriander stems
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
12 cups of stock or water
Saam Sahai สามสหาย:
4 garlic cloves
1 coriander root (or a few coriander stems)
1 tsp black peppercorns
Pinch coarse sea salt
Optional toppings and seasonings:
Thai fish sauce
Spring onion, finely sliced
Crispy garlic (can be store bought or freshly made)
Chilli oil or chilli sauce
1 Make Saam Sahai by pounding garlic with salt, coriander root and black peppercorns in a mortar and pestle. It does not need to be a fine paste.
2 Combine pork mince, spring onions, oyster sauce, light soy sauce and Saam Sahai from step 1 and marinade for at least 30 minutes.
3 In a pot of cold water add the pork ribs and chicken carcass and cook on high for 10-15 minutes. Strain and wash the meat thoroughly. This step is optional but it is advisable to remove the scum from the bones resulting in a clearer soup. It’s a technique common in Asian cuisine.
4 Place washed pork ribs and chicken carcass in stock pot along with coriander root, coriander stems, spring onions, shiitake mushrooms (including the water they were rehydrating in), black peppercorns and roughly 12 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes or until the pork ribs are tender.
5 Meanwhile cook the noodles to your desired chewiness. Once cooked you can strain them if you wish but it’s better not to so that you can mimic the gooeyness from the proper noodles that are used in this soup. But each to their own.
6 When the pork ribs are tender, remove the shiitake mushrooms from the stock and finely dice. Add them to the minced meat mixture and form into meatballs. Tip: wet your palms with water so that the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands when rolling into meatballs. Cook them for around 10 minutes in the pork and chicken stock.
Now it’s time to assemble the dish
1 Place cooked noodles at the bottom of your bowl, add pork ribs, meatballs and ladle the soup over.
2 At this point you can personalise your noodle soup with the toppings and seasonings of your choice. I like them all. Vietnamese Ham (chả lụa) would be a great addition if you can source it.