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Ohn-No Khao Swè - Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodles (Recipe)

Ohn No Khao Swè - Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodles

The national dish of Burma is called mohinga, a kind of fish chowder with lemongrass and banana stem that's served over rice vermicelli noodles. But arguably the most famous Burmese dish is one called ohn-no khao swè - Coconut Chicken Noodles.

The reason for this is that ohn-no khao swè is generally considered the predecessor of the famous Northern Thai noodle dish Khao Soi - a dish so beloved that it has spawned its own fan sites and even essays.

Apparently "khao soi" doesn't actually mean anything in Thai, so it's very likely that the name is just a derivation of khao swè, the Burmese word for "noodles", which literally means "fold pull" ie the method for making noodles.

To add support to this theory, outside of Burma, ohn-no khao swè is also known as khao sway, khauk swe, khaot swe and my absolute favourite, cow suey. That's what happens when you try to transliterate a non-Roman language like Burmese.

"Ohn-No Khao Swè" literally means "Coconut Milk Noodles" (and then you get into all kinds of murky cultural metonymy, as "No" not only means "milk" but also "breast" in Burmese), but the protein which is generally used is chicken, hence my paraphrase of Coconut Chicken Noodles.

This is a wonderfully subtle, lightly curried dish, vaguely like laksa but comforting and flavoursome without whacking you in the face. Of course, you can also adjust the seasoning to taste - adding more fish sauce, squeezing more lime or sprinkling more chilli at the table.

Which reminds me, ohn-no khao swè will also go down in my personal history as the dish that I cooked for John and Gregg at the Miele MasterChef Cook-off - happy days ...

Ohn No Khao Swè - Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodles

Ohn No Khao Swè - Burmese Coconut Chicken Noodles
Serves 4
  • 3 medium white onions
  • 1/2 inch chunk of ginger, skinned
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 shallots or 1 small red onion
  • 2 spring onions
  • 250g egg or wheat noodles (standard packet)
  • 4 deboned chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp gram flour
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • Small handful of dried flat rice noodles aka rice sticks
  • 3 tbsp chilli flakes
  • 3 tbsp paprika
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • Fish sauce
  • Vegetable oil
Dice the onions finely. Add a little oil to a saucepan, heat and then sweat the diced onions in the hot oil. Take spoonful of the onions and add to the ginger, garlic and spring onions and mince the lot in a blender till it forms a rough paste.

Slice the chicken thighs into small strips. Mix chilli flakes, 1 tbsp paprika and a little salt in a heatproof cup.

Whisk the gram flour with 100 ml cold water and then add to the pan of sweated onions. Add four dashes of fish sauce and the stock cube. Bring to a simmer and then top up with 500 ml cold water. Bring the broth back to a simmer.

Heat a 2 inch depth of vegetable oil in a small frying-pan/wok. When it's hot (you'll feel a wave of heat coming off the top), ladle a few spoonfuls of the oil over the chilli flake mix so it sizzles and becomes fragrant. Set the toasted chilli oil to one side.

Next, snap the dried rice noodles straight into the hot oil so they puff up, and then use a slotted spoon to fish out the now-crispy rice noodles onto some kitchen towel. Turn off the heat and pour away most of the oil from the frying-pan, reserving about a tbsp.

Boil the egg/wheat noodles and drain. Soft-boil the eggs and slice into wedges. Slice shallots/red onion finely and soak in some cold water.

Ohn-No Khao Swe Sauce cooking

Reheat the frying-pan/wok which has the tbsp of oil, and add the minced garlic, ginger, onion, spring onion. Add the chicken and 1 tbsp paprika, and stir-fry the lot till browned.

Add the coconut milk and the last tbsp of paprika to the saucepan of broth. Lob in the stir-fried chicken and bring to a simmer.

Place the egg/wheat noodles in bowl, then ladle the chicken broth over. Top with the sliced shallots, the eggs and the crispy rice noodle garnish.

Add another dash of fish sauce, and serve with the toasted chilli for sprinkling and a fat wedge of lime for squeezing.


BribedwithFood said…
Why would you post this so early in the morning?!
I now want me some!!!

Becs said…
This looks amazing, it *looks* similar to Laksa but different taste. Will definitely have to make this for tea this week!
This looks gorgeous. I want to try this. Plus, next time Emma asks me what Burmese food is like, I can do more than simply reply, "You know, like, food they eat in Burma." This has made my mouth water and October can't come soon enough.
PDH said…
This has made my tuna sandwich for lunch look very unappetising. I want noodles now! :^D
meemalee said…
@BribedwithFood - To tease you :)

@Becs - Yeah, laksa's the way I usually describe it to people but it's not powerful/pungent like laksa.

@Lost in the Larder - Your poor wife :)

@Pavel - Tuna sandwiches are always unappetising :^P
I want Burmese cooking classes!
Yum, yum! Now what could I use instead of the chicken? I'm thinking something like quorn or tofu for appropriate texture, rather than a vegetable?
meemalee said…
@Catalan Cooking - In your dreams, sunshine

@TheFastestIndian - Indeed, both tofu and Quorn work well - as do king prawns :)
Su-Lin said…
Oooh, I do have most of that in my cupboard or within easy reach. Hmmm... this might be dinner this weekend...
franmouse39 said…
This looks really good - will certainly have to try it.
meemalee said…
@Su-Lin - Yeah, it's all fairly easy to get hold of except maybe the gram flour. I use Natco which you can get in most Asian shops.

@fran39 - Please do and let me know how you like it :)
Mr Noodles said…
I can't believe you put the garnishes on the side. Only kidding! I mean do I look like a greengrocer?

This looks wonderful, especially the slightly soft boiled egg which just begs to be dipped in with the crispy rice noodles.
Rabia said…
wow, I've been looking for this recip e for ages! This is a really popular dish in the Karachi bohra community - instead of the crispy rice noodles, it's often garnished with Pakistani chili chips (slims) and thinly sliced green chilis...
Sharmila said…
I love this dish, and have had a recipe for years that I haven't got around to making. I will have to now.
meemalee said…
@Mr Noodles - Thank you! And that's exactly what I do with the egg :)

@Rabia - I never knew that - cool! I love the sound of the slims.

@Sharmila - Do post your recipe too - variations are always great!
Anonymous said…
It looks absolutely delicious. Not the kind of meal I usually cook but I will keep it in mind
Food Urchin said…
Nice dish MiMi but how would YOU season it?
Ailbhe said…
Looks and sounds delicious And I have all the ingredients (even gram flour) so this is one to make Thanks
The Ample Cook said…

That looks delicious. I bet the coconut milk makes the chicken and the noodles velvety.

meemalee said…
@mathildescuisine - Thanks Mathilde :)

@Food Urchin - To taste, innit.

@Alibhe - Cool, thanks! And I'm impressed you have the flour!

@The Ample Cook - Thanks Jan! Yes, velvety is a really good description. Makes it too easy to hoover up :)
bron said…
Mimi you have just solved my dilemma for tomorrow night's dinner - have everything except the flour but have to go to Brixton market and they have it there. I love laksa so am thinking this will be a definite treat.
This looks lovely ,just wondering what it would be like with all rice noodles?Have you ever tried?
(So its Gluten free)
meemalee said…
@bron - Ooh, let me know if you do make it!

@Northern Snippet - If you want to use rice noodles, go for bun noodles which are thick round Vietnamese ones. You need to have the fat texture for the sauce to cling to.
Peeko said…
Just wanted to say thanks for posting this recipe. We made it for dinner this evening and it was completely devoured. YUMMY! Thank you :)
sjaficio said…
Making it was a hugely satisfying convivial, bonding family affair, lasting hours, from the cooking, extending through the meal and into the doing of the dishes. Didn't understand what was said in Burmese but enjoyed it all the same. Thank you for the recipe.
michael d said…
Missing Burmese food soo much has led me here and yes I cooked the noodles tonight according to your recipe and it was amazing. Its way better than the packet I normally get. Thank you sooooo much.. ;0)
michael d said…
Missing Burmese food sooo much has led me here after googling the name for the recipe. We made it for dinner this evening and it was amazing. It was way better than the packets I normally get. Thank you do much for posting the recipe and don't forget to let me know if you are doing the pop up restaurant again... ;0)
Anonymous said…
Mimi, I am cooking a dish from every country in the world on my blog and would like to ask your permission to use this recipe (with credit and a link to your site, of course) for my entry on Burma - it's going to be preceded by Laphet Thoke, the pickled tea for which I have just found via mail order!

One question though - what is the most common choice in Burma for the noodles: egg or wheat?!?! I can't seem to get a solid answer on this.

Infinite thanks!
Was looking for an authentic khao swe recipe...guess I just found it. Thanks!
Unknown said…
I must say this dish is simply amazing. I had learnt it from my mother who prepares the dish in a most divinely manner. Thank you for sharing with us!
Unknown said…
This is exactly the way my father cooked it when I was younger. Now I'll have to make it for dinner. Thanks for sharing!