Khao soi noodle making Tai Neua style

replacing already steamed tray with new tray of noodle
La with finished khao soi noodles
La with finished khao soi noodles

Kees and I were fortunate to be able to watch 16 year old La make her Khao soi noodles in Ban Siliheuang, Muang Sing. The workspace she uses is shared with other village women on a roster basis. After grinding her rice and water batter La has about one hour to make a large bowl of noodles. Her work is a ballet of time and motion, not a single movement is wasted as she interweaves making new noodles, steaming the noodles, transferring them to a long bamboo pole, and finally folding them ready to be cut and sold. As soon as she is finished, she removes her logs from the fire and inserts the logs of the next woman so the newcomer will have a roaring fire to operate the steaming wok and its cover. La then washes her batter bowl and extinguishes her own firewood with the bowl-washing water, ready for next time.

Khao soi batter is in left bowl, finished noodles in the right bowl
Khao soi batter is in left bowl, finished noodles in the right bowl

La gets 7 – 10 kg of noodles from 4 kg of plain rice. In the market, Khao soi noodles sell for 5,000 kip (about 75 cents) a kilo. La can make 4 kg of noodles in an hour, not counting the time spent grinding the soaked rice and water into a batter.

A ladle of batter is added to the homemade noodle pan
A ladle of batter is added to the homemade noodle pan

The batter is thickish like pancake batter or paint that you would want to thin. An oily cloth is run over the noodle tray every 2 -3 times it is used. La works with two trays made from what looked like biscuit tins. Spreading the batter takes around 30 seconds.

The water in the wok has to be boiling fast to generate the steam which cooks the noodle sheet. As soon as the new tray of noodle is in place the fabric padded lid is put over the wok and a ladle of water swirled around the edge of the wok to generate more steam. The noodle dough puffs up when it is cooked, coming away from the bottom of the hot tray.

Khao soi noodles are cut and used in the Northern Lao version of Khao soi, a noodle soup topped with a pungent fried sauce of pork mince, garlic and fermented soybean paste (mak tua nao) chopped spring onions, coriander and greens, as well as other noodle dishes. Never refrigerate these noodles as they lose their texture. They can survive about 2 tropical days unrefrigerated and can be refreshed in boiling stock for a few seconds.

© Food From Northern Laos | Galangal Press

6 thoughts on “Khao soi noodle making Tai Neua style

  1. Hi Dorothy. Love your blog. Thank you for sharing all the great info and photos on Lao food and culture, especially from northern Laos, which is really unique and special. Khao soi? Is this similar to Lao pho? Thanks again for spreading the love.

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    1. Many thanks for your feedback. No, it’s not like pho. When everything is mixed together the soup is thicker, with more chilli and a slightly pungent taste from the fermented bean paste. I couldn’t say which tastes better though as they are both delicious. Maybe khao soi is best on cold days, it really sticks to your ribs!

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  2. Kao soi from Luang Namtha and Meuang Sing is very good and healthy.
    Very nice pictures and feel hungry when seeing these photos of Khao soi.

    Thanks

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    1. Thanks for sharing Taineua cultures and foods to the world.

      Khao Sai, Khao Liang Foon, Khao Ky Maah and many other staples are very tasty and enjoyable foods in Taineua Cultures.

      Other foods that are made to last for months or years like Tho Noaw(fermented bean) are preserved vegetables such as: Pak Som Bong (preserve vegies) , Ho Peuk Bong (preserve radish), Neu Som Bong (preseve meat) , Tho Som Bong(preserve Green Bean), Pa Som Bong ( preserve fish), Tho Fu Yi (Fermented Bean Curd) and many other things that can be made to last for long time.

      There is a saying in Taineua that: If you come to my house, I can serve you a meal without making a fire. It is true that in Taineua culture a meal can be offer with at least 5 dishes without making fire.

      Again,

      Thanks for you interests and sharing our cultures.

      Kodkeo Phasouk

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      1. Thanks for your great contribution,
        Kodkeo. I still have some wonderful to Fu yi from the same village that made the fermented bean paste. It is deliciously smooth and like the best French soft cheese in a pungent chilli paste. tai Neua food is delicious!

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