I discovered Khow Suey quite late - the first time I tasted it was in a friend's house in Chennai. Her mother is an expert cook and she had made this dish for dinner. My friend's Dad was in the merchant Navy and had travelled a lot around the country. Her mother learnt to make this dish when they were posted in Calcutta. I was very, very impressed with that delightful mix of flavours I tasted that day - the creaminess of the gravy, the lovely array of toppings which made it a sort of a customised delight for oneself (while still letting someone else do the cooking!) and of course my undisguised love for coconut milk. The next time I tasted Khow Suey, was also in Chennai - in a delightful, little restaurant on TTK Road in R.A.Puram called Stop at Sam's (which sadly closed down) which had quite an eclectic menu. The fact that I got to meet and speak to my only fav B town hero Aamir Khan (those were the days he was dubbing for Lagaan) , may have added to my memories of the dish, but it definitely left me hankering for more.(The dish not Aamir).
But its been after coming to Delhi that I have really been able to eat Khow Suey to my heart's content. The Kitchen at Khan Market - run by the same team which manages Ploof and Blanco - serves up an excellent Khow Suey and I don't think we have managed to try much of the other items on their menu because their Khow Suey is so heavenly. They have managed to crack the code completely - not too cloyingly thick, not too sweet, not bland at all - a perfect blend of flavours which pleases the palate. Their Khow Suey counter was running well into a hundred thousand, the last time we visited. I have heard rumblings that the one at the next door Market Cafe is better, but why miss with perfection, really?! Unless of course, we are talking of the Khow Suey cooked by one of my friends in Delhi - I would abandon all pretensions of loyalty to have the one she slaves over for a couple of hours, till it is just right.
It was after quite a while therefore, that I even decided to try this at home....I am still tinkering with recipes to create my version of what is just right - Khow Suey is perfectly suited for tinkerings, there are as many recipes there are people who love it. The main ingredients are coconut milk, onion, ginger, garlic and lentil paste for the creamy consistency. The piece-de-resistance, according to me though, are the toppings - the noodles of course are much the main dish; and then boiled eggs, chillies, lime juice, crushed peanuts, fried garlic - you can add as much or as little of what you want to create YOUR perfect dish. Soupy noodles? or noodles with a bit of gravy. More heat? Less tang? medium crunchiness? NO annoying add ons between you and your dish? As you please. It makes for a perfect dish to have on a party menu, precisely for this reason.
This time I have played around with this recipe I found on the Food Fairy's blog. I brought down the proportion of lentils considerably to suit our taste, but I did think that the idea of using lentils itself was much better than the gram flour (besan) which is usually recommended. It lends itself far better to melding with the coconut milk than flour does. It also does not mask the taste of coconut milk like gram flour might. I also increased the chilli powder, since between the lentil paste and the coconut milk, the heat just wasn't coming through.
For the toppings, I added chilli flakes and fried garlic to the toppings - I would also recommend chopped spring onions since it lends a lovely crunch to the dish. Hubby loves green chillies while I like red chilli flakes and our daughter loved the boiled egg. I also marinated the chicken for a bit and it absorbed the flavours of the curry beautifully - I would definitely recommend doing this, though since it cooks for quite a bit, its not really necessary. The lentils were cooked in a pressure cooker instead of on the stove top and this saved a lot of time; plus I didn't have to puree the lentils, just whipped them and they were smooth.
With the weather turning cooler, this is a perfect dish to have. The combination of noodles drowned in a delicious, creamy curry topped with some piquant bites of this and that makes this one of those irresistible meals where you can keep going on and on.
I am sending this to Nupur's Blog Bites 8 - the latest edition is themed around One Pot Meals. While I usually don't write out the recipe for this event since the intention is to share recipes from other blogs, I have adapted this a quite a bit and have just written the quantities out for my own reference, while I go about trying to see what happens as I tweak things around a bit. Do however, visit the original post for Malini's step-by-step recipe complete with pictures.
Burmese Khow Suey
(adapted from a recipe from Food Fairy)
Egg Noodles - 1 packet, boiled in lots of salted water, tossed in 2 tbsp of hot oil in a wok for 2 minutes and kept aside. (Next time I will use thinner noodles, like the ones you get ready made in Delhi's local markets)
Chicken - 250 gm of boneless chicken chopped into cubes and marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, salt and a pinch of turmeric for half an hour.
Oil - 1 tbsp
2 onions chopped
1" ginger piece chopped
10 small cloves of hill garlic or 6 big cloves of garlic chopped
2 green chillies chopped
To be sauteed and ground to a paste.
1/2 cup chana dal soaked in water for 1 hour;
then pressure cooked with turmeric in 5 cups of water for two whistles and 3 minutes on low. Remove, drain a little of the water and reserve and whip the lentils till smooth. I kept adding a little of the reserved lentil water as and when the curry thickened, since we like to have it thinner.
Coconut milk - extracted from 3/4th of a big coconut (about 350 to 400 ml)
Chilli powder - 1 tsp or more, according to taste
Chicken stock cube - 1
Coriander leaves for garnish
Salt - to taste
Detailed recipe - here
In short, the chicken needs to be sauteed with the onion paste and then simmered with the lentil puree, seasonings and coconut milk for about 20-25 minutes till smooth and creamy. Water down as needed and keep stirring from time to time.