3 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1¼ pounds chicken breasts*
1 large carrot
½” galangal root
¼ head red or Chinese cabbage
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
½ tablespoon fresh mint
12 ounces rice vermicelli noodles
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon lemongrass paste**
1 red chile
2 tablespoons red curry paste**
½ tablespoon sesame or vegetable oil
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
¼ pound bean sprouts
6 kaffir leaves
½ teaspoon salt
* = Can be made with ground pork or cooked fish fillet. If using these choices, add them to pot after you add the coconut milk.
** = Can be found in Asian supermarkets or online.
Serves 6. Takes 1 hour 10 minutes.
Add chicken to large pot. Add chicken broth and water. Bring to boil using high heat. Lower heat to medium. Simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken breasts can be pulled apart with 2 forks. Stir enough to prevent burning, Remove chicken breasts to large bowl. (Keep liquid in pot.) Shred chicken with forks.
Grate carrot and galangal root. Shred red cabbage. Dice cilantro and mint. Cook rice vermicelli noodles according to instructions on package. Drain, fluff, and set aside.
While rice vermicelli cooks, add garlic, lemongrass, red chile, red curry paste, and shallot to food processor. Grind until you get a uniform paste. Add vegetable oil to pan. Heat oil at medium-high heat. Oil is hot enough when a bit of uniform paste will start to dance. Add uniform paste to pan. Heat for 3 minutes or until it turns dark red. Stir constantly. Add coconut milk and fish sauce. Bring to boil. Add shredded chicken, bean sprouts, carrot, galangal root, kaffir leaves, red cabbage, salt, and uniform paste to pot. Simmer soup at low-medium heat for 10 minutes.
Add cooked rice vermicelli to serving bowls. Ladle soup over rice vermicelli. Garnish with cilantro and mint.
1) The name of this dish sounds a lot like “Ka Boom.” This is not accident.
2) In 1352, Laos was divided and weak.
3) Neighboring countries took turns invading and annexing parts of Laos. Indeed, the rulers of Siam, and what is now Vietnam and Cambodia sometimes invaded simultaneously.
4) This created confusion on the battlefield. When Siamese, Vietnamese, and Laotian armies met, they didn’t know whom to fight. And no one likes a chaotic clash of arms.
5) So, Laos’ neighbors signed the Treaty of Bangkok. Each of the abutting lands was assigned four months each year for invasion.
6) This made life better for attacking countries.
7) Not so much for the the Laotians who still got overrun.
8) This, almost needless to say, depressed the Laotians who survived these vicious incursions.
9) Then, in 1353, Carl La Fong, a humble chef, invented the pressure cooker.
10) La Fong’s pressure cooker drastically reduced the time needed to prepare the thousands of Khao Poon servings he needed for his daily guests.
11) Unfortunately, Carl’s pressure cooker didn’t possess all the safety features of the invention’s modern version. Indeed, the darned thing proved quite prone to exploding an entire restaurant.
12) It was after he lost his fourth restaurant that the synapses finally fired in La Fong’s brain. “Why,” he said, “my exploding pressure cooker could annihilate entire armies. Khao poon! Or Ka boom, in English.”
13) In 1354, the plucky La Fong presented his device to King Fa Ngum. Ngum routed army after invading army with his pressure-cooker battalions.
14) Then in 1893, the French invaded Laos. Alas, the baguette eaters employed artillery which far out ranged the Laotian khao poons. The French soon won. Whereupon they settled down to eating Khao Poon every day. That and baguettes, they were French after all.
Paul De Lancey, The Comic Chef, Ph.D.
My cookbook, Following Good Food Around the World, with its 180 wonderful recipes, my newest novel, Do Lutheran Hunks Eat Mushrooms, a hilarious apocalyptic thriller, and all my other books, are available on amazon.com.