Rice Noodles with Thai Curry Paste

This messy-looking bowl is just a real-life, weekday example of the quickest Thai dish I cook all the time: dry noodles, some curry paste, vegetables and a source of protein are all I need to prepare a full 15-minute meal for two!

I have no idea if serving noodles with curry is done frequently in Thailand, but I had ignored this possibility for quite a long time, associating noodles only with Pad Thai. I started swapping rice for noodles only recently, inspired by a lunch in a new Thai restaurant. Since then, whenever I’m in a hurry (which means all the weekdays), too lazy (it happens also on weekends) or simply bored with rice, I start soaking the noodles and whip up a Thai-style meal in no time at all. Sometimes there’s a lot of sauce, sometimes it’s just tossed with concentrated and barely “diluted” curry paste, but it always tastes great.

This particular curry paste is based on the Aromatic Curry (Geng Gari) recipe from the sensational Thai Food by David Thompson, the best Thai cookery book I can imagine (and among the best cookery books ever).

You can serve these noodles with any bought paste of your choice, but if you want to make your own paste and find this one too complicated, try this quicker red curry paste I made first with scallops:

Thai Red Curry of Scallops

TIPS: If you don’t have coconut milk (or don’t want to use it), you can use chicken stock or even water instead. I usually dilute coconut milk with water to make the dish lighter. Here I’ve added only 50 ml of each coconut milk and water, but you can easily double the liquids if you prefer more sauce.

You can use here any curry paste, but if you have access to fresh Thai ingredients, I strongly encourage you to make your own paste. I did it first about two years ago and never even been tempted to buy one. A homemade curry paste takes ten-fifteen minutes (unless you do it with a pestle and mortar), it makes you discover that “Thai curry paste” means so much more than “red” or “green” (or whatever standardised boring options you can buy) and that you can adapt paste’s ingredients to your tastebuds (I always add, for example, a bit more lemongrass, if it’s included). You also realise that probably all the Thai restaurants you know cook with the same ready-to-use pastes and that your homemade ones taste so much better…

-A freshly made curry paste keeps about a week in the fridge and, in spite of what purists advise, I find it still very good defrosted (especially compared to the store-bought), though I do it only if I don’t have time to use up the paste during the week.

-Dried ingredients used in this particular paste can be bought in Indian shops.

-Most fresh curry pastes ingredients are available in Thai shops (in my city many “general” Asian shops sell them too) and can be frozen if you have leftovers, but some lose their texture and especially their aroma (lemongrass and galangal suffer most), so I advise using more of frozen products.

Preparation: about 15 minutes (excluding the curry paste preparation, which takes about 15 more minutes)

Ingredients (serves two, but you won’t use all the curry paste):

Curry paste:

7 medium hot red dried chillies, soaked in warm water until they soften (usually 20-30 minutes)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon fresh turmeric, chopped

4 small Asian shallots or 2 medium European shallots, chopped

2 tablespoons garlic (chopped)

1 tablespoon finely chopped galangal

1 tablespoon lemongrass stalks (the lower half part only, outer tough “leaves” removed), very finely chopped

2 teaspoons coriander root, chopped

15 white peppercorns

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

3 sheaths mace or 1 teaspoon ground mace

Remaining ingredients: 

120-150 g dry thick rice noodles (tape-shaped)

2 small chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces or 1 big breast

150 courgette cut into bite-sized sticks (you can use other vegetables of course, but adjust the cooking time accordingly)

50 ml coconut milk+ 50 ml water or 100 ml coconut milk or 100 ml stock/water (you can add more liquids if you prefer a more soup-like consistency)

fish sauce

(palm sugar)

(fresh coriander)

If you need to prepare the curry paste : on a clean frying pan roast the whole seeds and then grind them in a spice grinder, mortar or a coffee grinder. Mix the chopped fresh ingredients in a food processor (a small baby food processor is best here), adding some water if needed. (You can also grind them in a mortar, then no water is needed). Combine the fresh and the dried paste ingredients and mix them well again.

Prepare a big bowl or pot with boiling-hot water. Put the noodles and soak them, covered, for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime prepare the curry.

Pour 1/2 of the coconut milk into a pan add about 1/3 of the curry paste (keep the remaining paste in a well closed jar in the fridge for about a week or freeze it in individual portions).

Heat the paste, stirring, until it starts smelling really strong.

Add the remaining coconut milk, the chicken and the courgette. Let it all simmer at low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken bits are cooked. (Add some water or more coconut milk if you find the curry too thick).

Season with fish sauce and, if it’s a bit bitter, with sugar.

Drain the noodles and divide into two bowls. Put the curry on top of noodles and serve.

(It’s not obligatory, but I like it sprinkled with fresh coriander).

6 Replies to “Rice Noodles with Thai Curry Paste”

  1. Tasty noodle dish. I rarely make my own curry pastes because buying the fresh ingredients and then making the sauce is more bother than I want to go to for meals that use a tbsp of paste, at most. Instead, I buy the Maesri brand pastes, divide them up into 1 tbsp portions, and freeze them for quick meals whenever I get a craving. Pad thai is the only Thai dish I make from scratch, even soaking dried tamarind whenever I can. In fact, I now have a craving for something from that cuisine. 🙂

    1. Thank you. Even if I used 1 tablespoon per person (which is not possible because I like it hotter and more fragrant!) I’d make my own paste. I like it so much… and I have many shops around which sell all the ingredients, it’s not really complicated… like making my own pesto really but with more ingredients.

  2. You couldn’t be more right, Sissi, the store bought pastes do not come near the fresh and vital flavours of homemade pastes, and I too prefer freezing my pastes even though they do suffer a bit from the process. I use a savoury ice cube tray to freeze my pastes and when frozen solid, I simply pop them into a ziplock baggy for future use. I use the ice cube tray exclusively for savoury because it really does flavour the water quite a bit if using for ice cubes! This really is a lovely, quick and flavourful dish, perfect for a weeknight meal. I also love that the rice noodles soak instead of cooking, but you really have to watch it because it can turn mushy rather quickly (once I forgot that I was soaking them and had to start over, of course, I’d never blog about that!)

    1. Hi Eva, thank you so much! I always soak noodles if I can (many noodles are supposed to be cooked several minutes but I’m lazy… so I always soak them in boiling water instead). I also often use ice cube tray for freezing stuff (like garlic and parsley butter). You are right, it’s very handy!

  3. We love Thai food! In fact, Bobby just went and picked up Thai take-out tonight. Thai curry is my favorite. When I make it home, I use a Thai curry paste that I buy from a local market. It’s really good, but as you say, homemade is probably the best. Not sure if I can find all of the ingredients, so I’ll just give this a try with the paste until I can find them. I do have powder forms of lemongrass, tumeric, and galangal, but I’m sure powders would not really work as substitutes. Great Recipe Sissi!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. Using a homemade paste is un upgrade, but if you cannot find all the ingredients, the store-bought one is very good too, of course! I’m sure most people don’t make their own pastes in Thailand either… I’m just lucky to have many Asian grocery shops around, so I can practically buy all the ingredients for a paste for example on my way to work.

Comments are closed.