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Ohn-No-Kauk-Swe (Burmese Chicken Soup)

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“I was lucky to live in Burma for several years in the 1980s. I was even luckier to have Wah Htoo working in my home. She is the best cook of Burmese food I've ever met. Her version of this soup is famous in Rangoon. Once a Burmese guest at our table called Wah Htoo out of the kitchen to tip her -- the only way he knew to convey how impressed he was with her cooking. Of course, I never got that recipe from Wah Htoo. But after many attempts, I think even Wah Htoo would be proud of this effort. This is a mellow, rather than a spicy, recipe. Add plenty of the crushed dried chilies for heat. Note: Burmese chickens get a lot of exercise -- they are tough, but full of flavour. Please use free range, organic chicken thighs if you can get them (a small whole, free-range chicken also works -- cut into 10-12 pieces and with or without skin). Also resist the temptation to play around with this. Trust me, I've played around with it for ages -- trying to get it just right. Finally -- don't let the number of ingredients or steps deter you. This really is easy to make.”

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Put the vermicelli and noodles in a large bowl, and cover with boiling water. As they soften, use two forks to separate the strands. When fully softened, drain them in a colander, and set aside.
  2. Rub the chicken with the fish sauce, and set aside.
  3. Dissolve the chickpea flour in the water, and set aside.
  4. In a food processor, blend together the onions, garlic, turmeric, ginger and chillies. When well-blended, add 1/4 cup of the coconut cream, and process to a smooth paste.
  5. Heat the peanut oil in a pan large enough to hold all the soup ingredients. Add the paste and fry for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken and continue frying for another 3 minutes, still stirring. Add half the stock (2 1/2 cups) and one stock cube, if used, and bring to a boil. Continue cooking another 15-20 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes. You want the sauce to start thickening.
  6. While the soup is cooking, prepare the garnishes, and set aside.
  7. While the soup is cooking, also heat the other half of the stock (and a second stock cube, if used) in another pan until it starts to boil. Add the dissolved (and stirred again) chickpea flour/water mixture, still stirring well to minimise lumps. When this thickens some (about 5 minutes) pour this mixture through a sieve into the pan containing the chicken mixture. Stir well. (The sieve is important -- no matter how much you stir, there are still a few lumps.).
  8. When the soup just starts to boil, add the remaining coconut cream. Then bring soup back to a rolling boil.
  9. While the soup is returning to a rolling boil, bring a full 2-liter kettle of water to the boil, then pour the hot water over the vermicelli and egg noodles you softened earlier. Get the garnishes ready to serve.
  10. Let diners serve themselves. Have each person put some noodles in their soup bowl, then ladle over the soup/chicken mixture and top with the garnishes they like. Those who like salty should add a few shots of extra fish sauce.
  11. Attack with a spoon and fork while the soup is hot.
  12. Note: We use all the garnishes -- liberally.

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