One of my favorite noodle soups is Khao Soi, Tai Lue style, which originates from Northern Laos. This spicy soup is eaten with a unique meat and fermented bean paste, rice noodles, green onions, cilantro, limes and any other garnishments you might enjoy. It is great during the winter but I can eat this any time or day of the week. The fermented bean paste should be made in advance so you should start the process even before thinking about cooking it. I have not been able to find fermented bean paste at local Asian stores and since it is such an obscure item I decided to make it myself – it actually happened on accident but it was a happy accident which led to delicious meaty soup! Once you have the fermented bean paste made, you can use it in the Meat and Bean Paste, add that to the soup base and cooked noodles. This is a labor of love when made from scratch and takes time. I hope you try it and enjoy it as much as I do!
Recipe for the Meat and Bean Paste
4 big cloves garlic minced
1 cup fermented soybean paste (see recipe below for fermenting your own beans)
3 – 4 tablespoons mild chilli powder
3 – 4 tablespoons coarser dried chilli flakes
1.5 lbs. fatty pork such as belly pork, minced or a mix of pork and beef
1 cup palm oil (or other vegetable oil)
Salt to taste
2 tomatoes, sliced in small wedges
MSG to personal taste (optional)
1. Sautee garlic in cup of oil until fragrant and golden
2. Add bean paste and fry for 2-3 minutes stirring to mix the oil and garlic in.
3. Add chili and tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes down, then add the meat, salt and MSG and cook thoroughly. This is a concentrated amount that should last for a few days. The oils help to preserve the mixture naturally but you can also freeze in various increments that are suitable to your household.
Recipe for the Soup Base
1 lb. fatty pork sliced
4 quarts water
Salt to taste
Boil water, add sliced pork and salt. Continue boiling until meat is cooked. You can serve the meat in the soup or reserve it for other dishes. Skip this process if you want to use canned stock or other soup bases. Chicken or beef can be substituted and other flavoring elements but this is a basic soup base that can be used in a pinch. Most of the flavor from the soup is in the Meat and Bean Paste.
Recipe for the Fermented Bean Paste
2 cups of soybeans (you can also substitute with other types)
4 cups warm water
1. Soak beans for 3-4 days in a bowl on your counter or other warm place. Rinse and add new water periodically.
2. Rinse beans and boil slowly in a pot or pressure cooker with plenty of water, add more water during the process if necessary. Cook for 4-5 hours or until tender.
3. Allow the pot of beans and water to cool, covered on the counter or other warm place for 3-4 days.
4. Strain, reserving liquids and pound or mash the beans into a paste. Add salt and any other spices for flavor. Reserved liquids can be added in increments to improve texture of the paste but you don’t want it to be runny.
5. The paste can be used right away but the longer it ferments the better it will be. Please follow proper canning procedures if you plan on a longer fermentation process.