One of the first Asian recipes I learned to make when I moved to St. Maarten was Thai curry. Since there were only about 3 other Lao/Thai foods I knew how to make, Thai curry was in that rotation a lot!!! I believe I may have burned B and myself out on curry those first 3 months. We ate it in every form—red, green, Massamam, Penang, and even Indian curries.
Usually, curries are eaten with Jasmine or Basmati rice, but I was really hankering for some “kapoon.” Kapoon is Lao for “bundle of noodles,” or so I assume? I also assume the Lao acquired the idea to add rice noodles to curry from the Vietnamese. Who knows? But IT IS GOOD.
It hits all the right flavor notes. Sweet, sour, spicy, umami. My mouth is watering. I had finished a bowl before B even sat down for dinner. Today, I had leftovers and they were even better than the first time around. The aroma transported me to my mom or my aunt’s kitchen when there is a large function and they need to feed a lot of people.
You know, I’ve noticed that Lao party food is some of the most complicated dishes to make and usually require teams of women in the more than one kitchen! It stresses me out, but everyone seems to eager to help out! Except one of my aunts. She’s not much of a cook, so she makes grocery store runs when the team(s) run out or need an ingredient.
Anyhow, I love the fact that these women put in so much time and effort so their guests can enjoy themselves. My favorite part is that there is not only more than enough food to consume at the function, but there is also more than enough to take home too!!! Go ahead and load me up!!!
Chicken Curry with Rice Noodles/ Kapoon Karee
1 package rice vermicelli noodles
¼ cup olive oil
1 can coconut milk, well shaken
1 small can Thai red curry paste
1 small shallot, finely diced
4 tbsp garlic, minced
2 5in long stalks of lemongrass
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 5lb chicken, cut into pieces
1 cup carrots, roughly chopped
1 small can of bamboo shoots
2-3 cups sweet potato, cut into 1.5 in pieces
6 kaffir lime leaves
6 [coconut] cans of water (each can is 1 ¾ cups)
1 bundle of Thai basil, tied up
¼ cup sugar
Cook rice noodles according to package directions—unlike regular pasta noodles, these noodles require longer cooking, about 10-15 minutes, depending on the amount. After the required cooking, “wash” the noodles in cold water. Form into fancy bundles—I don’t know how to do this, so I am not going to try to explain this!
In a somewhat tall cooking pot (to avoid curry splatter), combine olive oil, half the coconut milk, and red curry paste on medium high heat. Cook until the mixture “breaks”; that is, when there is a layer of red oil on top of the mixture. Add the rest of the coconut milk, along with the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and onions. Cook 5 minutes. Be careful to not let the bottom burn and adjust the heat accordingly.
Add chicken. Cook another 5-10 minutes.
Add the carrots, bamboo, and the 6 cans of water. Bring to a hard boil—20-30 minutes. Remove any scum from the chicken. Reduce the heat to medium for 1 hour.
Add sweet potatoes and basil. I used sweet basil due to the unavailability of Thai basil on this island.
After the sweet potatoes are cooked, remove the lemongrass stalks, kaffir lime leaves, and the bundle of basil. Add the sugar and seasonings to your liking. You may add the basil, unbundled, and keep it in the soup. I usually leave it in when I’m eating curry with rice.
You’ll notice that when the curry settles, there is a thick red layer of oil on top. This means that you made it “right!” Congratulations!
P.S. I’ve also had kapoon karee with the addition of regular white potatoes and even pumpkin. I’m meh about the regular potatoes, but LOVE fresh pumpkin in this soup.
Finely shredded cabbage
Cilantro & green onions
Finely diced long green beans