Lao Khao Soi Recipe – How to Make the Laotian Soup with a Ragu Bolognese Style Sauce
This Lao khao soi recipe makes a delicious filling Laotian soup with wide rice noodles and a rich, hearty sauce of pork mince, tomatoes and fermented soy beans that could best be described as a Southeast Asian style ragu Bolognese soup. Warning: this is seriously addictive.
This Lao khao soi recipe is one I’ve been perfecting for years, since we first tasted Lao khao soi on our first trip to Laos. After introducing us to ‘cat poo’ biscuits, our guide Bounmee pointed out a simple noodle joint in a dilapidated shed that he claimed made the best Lao khao soi in Luang Prabang, Laos.
As soon as our tour of Luang Prabang’s glittering pagodas ended, we made a beeline for the timber and corrugated iron shack on Manomai Road and the best Lao khao soi we’ve ever eaten. Admittedly at the time, it was the only Lao khao soi we’d ever eaten as we were new to the cuisine of Laos and Laotion cooking.
Up until then we’d only known and loved the Chiang Mai khao soi and hadn’t yet made the connection between that and Myanmar’s ohn no kauk swe, both coconut milk-based curry noodle soups typically made with chicken and served with fried noodles on top.
That soup is likely to have travelled with the Han Chinese in the 19th century on their migration from Yunnan through Laos and Thailand to Burma, evolving at stops along the way. But the Luang Prabang khao soi broth is an entirely different soup altogether as you’ll see when you make my Lao khao soi recipe.
Lao Khao Soi Recipe – Rice Noodle Soup with a Spicy Relish of Minced Pork and Fermented Soy Bean
While distinctive, the food of Laos and Laotian cooking has been influenced by, and has in turn influenced the cuisines of its neighbours, China, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.
The Laotian renditions of larb, the fiery minced salads, and som tam, the spicy papaya salads are similar to those found beyond its borders. Yet the closest cousins to Lao khao soi are the Szechuan dan dan noodles – without the numbing Sichuan peppercorns – and ragu Bolognese if it were served as a soup. The ‘ragu’ resembles Thailand’s nam prik ong.
My Lao khao soi recipe makes that soup we fell in love with years ago – a bowl of wide rice noodles in a lovely pork broth to which the cook added a large dollop of a rich, red, ragu Bolognese like relish of minced pork, fermented soy beans, tomato, and chilli.
That cook in Luang Prabang provided us with a plate piled high with fresh greens – crispy long snake beans, aromatic mint, Thai basil, and Lao basil, which is more lemony than Thai, and lime halves – from which we could select our own garnishes. I recommend you do the same when serving this.
She also gave us a container of shrimp paste – I don’t think it’s needed as this is already packed with flavour – and urged us to use the array of condiments on the table, including dried chilli flakes, sugar, salt, pepper, chilli sauce, fish sauce, and so on.
Other than some additional chilli flakes, we encourage you to provide the full range of condiments for your guests, but we don’t really think that this Lao khao soi recipe needs anything extra. Let us know what you think.
Lao Khao Soi Recipe for a Rice Noodle Soup with Spicy Pork Mince
- 2kg pork bones
- 60g ginger
- 10 coriander roots
- 300g carrots, chopped roughly
- 200g daikon, chopped roughly
- 2 medium onions, halved
- 2 celery stalks, halved
- 4l cold water
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 300g minced pork (around 20% fat)
- 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
- 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 5 tbsp fermented soybean paste
- 8 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp chilli flakes
- 8 spring onions, thinly sliced
- 400g wide rice noodles (around 4-5mm wide)
- 200g bean sprouts
- Handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped
- 8 snake beans, cut into small pieces
- A bunch of Watercress
- Green birds-eye chillis
- Chilli powder
- Chilli flakes
- Fish sauce
- Lime wedges
- Chilli paste
- Black pepper
- Grill the ginger and onion until the skins are charred.
- Place the pork bones in a pot and pour over boiling water. Place in a sink and run cold water over the pork.
- Place the bones and cold water into a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Add the grilled onions, ginger, carrots, celery, daikon and coriander roots and simmer gently for at least 2 hours to build flavour in the stock.
- Skim the stock with a ladle frequently and discard the accumulated protein from the stock.
- Strain the stock, add the fish sauce and soy sauce, season with salt to taste and put the stock back over low heat.
- Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over medium heat, add the garlic and fry until fragrant – do not burn the garlic as it will be bitter. Add the fermented soybean paste, chilli powder and flakes and fry until fragrant, approximately 2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry over medium heat for another 4-5 minutes.
- Mix in the pork mince and fry for another 5 minutes or until the meat is well cooked. The final result should resemble a thick Bolognese sauce. Keep the sauce warm until ready to plate. Add half the spring onions to the mix.
- Cook the noodles per packet instructions. As a guide, these wide noodles take around 7 minutes to cook. Start testing for doneness around 5 minutes.
- Place the noodles in the individual serving bowls. Ladle over the stock. This will help the noodles not to stick.
- Spoon over the sauce and add the bean sprouts and the remaining spring onions. Top with coriander.
- Serve with the remaining condiments. Remember that in Southeast Asia everyone at the table adds their favourite condiments to taste.
Traditional Recipes of Laos by Phia Sing and Alan Davidson
Food From Northern Laos: The Boat Landing Cookbook by Dorothy Culloty and Kees Sprengers
Hawker Fare: Stories & Recipes from a Refugee Chef’s Isan Thai & Lao Roots by James Syhabout and John Birdsall
Simple Laotian Cooking by Penn Hongthong
Book Laos and Luang Prabang Tours and Activities
As always, we’d love to hear from you if you make our Lao khao soi recipe. Let us know what you think in the comments below and please do share a pic on Instagram.