Khao Poon Kalee (Curry Rice Noodles)

Recipe from Chef Seng Luangrath, Thip Khao

Khao poon, the national noodle dish of Laos, is sold at many markets and street stalls and eaten on festive occasions. It features rice vermicelli and different kinds of broth—some sour, some spicy, some with or without coconut milk. This version, one of my personal favorites, features a rich coconut curry broth. Serves 4. 


  • 4 quarts water 
  • 2 bunches (about 17 ounces) medium-thick rice vermicelli (preferably the Oldman Que : brand, labeled 802) 
  • ½ cup coconut milk (to cook the curry paste) 
  • 2 cups coconut milk (to create the curry sauce) 
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil  
  • 1 (14-ounce) can yellow curry paste (preferably Maesri brand) 
  • 1 tablespoon yellow curry powder (preferably Madras style)  
  • 1 cup cooked poultry (leftover shredded or ground turkey or chicken, optional) 
  • ½ cup bamboo shoots (rectangular slices) 
  • ½ cup onions (cut into small squares) 
  • ½ cup cooked, skinless potatoes (cubed) 
  • 5 tablespoons fish sauce (preferably Three Crabs brand) 
  • ½ teaspoon salt (preferably kosher or sea salt)  
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (broken up or crushed) 
  • 2 cups unsalted chicken stock 

Ingredients for plating:

  • 4 cups mixed julienned white and purple cabbage  
  • 2 cups mung bean sprouts 
  • ½ cup roughly chopped cilantro 
  • 16 mint leaves  

Preparing the Noodles:

Bring the water to a boil in a pot, about 15 to 20 minutes. Once the water reaches a boil, add the rice vermicelli and cook on high heat. Loosen them with a cooking spoon, then agitate the noodles frequently to ensure they cook evenly.  

The water will turn white and milky as starch leaches out from the noodles. Once the noodles are just past al dente, in about 10 to 15 minutes, remove the pot from the stove. Immediately dump noodles into a colander. Rinse thoroughly with cold water until all residual heat is gone. Set aside. 

Making the Sauce:  

On high heat, preferably using a nonstick pot, add the cooking oil and allow it to heat up, about 1 minute. 

Add ½ cup coconut milk and the yellow curry paste. Stir to integrate. Cook the paste, stirring frequently to prevent sticking as oil from the coconut milk rises to the surface and as the mixture bubbles.  

As the content darkens and shrinks, turn the heat to medium and gradually to low, until the oil from the coconut milk has reduced and dissipated, about 15 minutes. 

Add 2 cups of coconut milk, yellow curry powder, chicken stock, bamboo shoots, onions and meat (if desired), stir well and bring the heat back up to high. Add palm sugar, fish sauce and salt. Stir to blend, making sure the palm sugar dissolves. 

Allow sauce to reach a boil, about 5 to 10 minutes. Once boiling, turn off heat and add in the pre-cooked cubed potatoes. Set aside and prepare for plating.  

Directions for Plating (repeat for each individual serving)  

Place 2 cups of the noodles into a large bowl. 

Ladle curry sauce over the noodles with enough to generously cover but not to immerse. Top the noodles with ½ cup of bean sprouts. Then, add 1 cup of the white and purple cabbage medley. 

Sprinkle on cilantro as desired and top with 4 mint leaves. Mix together upon eating.