Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao is considered a Northern Thai dish. It originates from the Shan State of Myanmar, which borders to the northern part of Thailand. Though first introduced by the Shan minorities, it has since become very popular among northern Thais, to a point where it is often considered one of the most favorable dishes in the Lanna tradition.
There are many ways of spelling the name (ขนมจีนน้ำเงี้ยว), when writing it down using the English alphabet: Khanom/kanom Jin/jeen Nam Ngiao/ngiaw/ngeow. I have even seen it spelled Khanomchin Nam-Ngeo. Khanom jin, refers to rice vermicelli noodles, nam to mixing things together and ngiao to the Shan people (in a somewhat derogatory form). But it is even more challenging to come up with a name in English, that is true to the Thai name, and descriptive of the dish at the same time. “Pork rib noodle soup w/tomatoes” is my best attempt so far….
My first encounter with a simple version of Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao was at a farmers market outside Chiang Mai. It was good, at least good enough to leave an impression. After that, I suddenly started noticing it being served everywhere from street vendors and local restaurants to banquets and special occasions. I am sure it was before as well, I just hadn’t paid attention to it.
The soup is made from chopped spareribs and minced pork, and supplemented with cubes of congealed blood and tomatoes to provide acidity. The dried stamens of kapok flowers “dok ngio”, and “tua nao” – a fermented soybean – are also essential ingredients, both adding to the characteristic flavor of this rich and oily stew-like soup.
Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao is served over vermicelli rice noodles, accompanied with pickled mustard green, fried dry chilies, bean sprouts, deep-fried crispy garlic, spring onions, and lime as toppings. It is sometimes also eaten with fried pork rinds.
The dish is packed with loads of incredible flavors. I have included all the traditional ingredients in the recipe, because I wanted to stay true to tradition and present you with the most time-honored version. Some of these might be a bit hard to get your hands on, but they can be left out or substituted with other ingredients. See below for more details.
When I was first introduced to making Nam Ngiao at home, we added chicken feet. Indeed, it contributed to the richness of the taste, but it was a bit weird for me to eat. Chicken feet are mainly skin and bones, which isn’t that appealing for me to munch on. By studying a number of new and old recipes, I found that the majority doesn’t include chicken feet, so in my subsequent attempts at making it, I have chosen to leave it out.
I took a bowl of Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao to a potluck at my church, in an attempt to test what the locals thought about my cooking. I got the thumbs up! Every single drop of soup was eaten, seemingly with delight, which I choose to consider as a final stamp of approval for sharing this recipe with you.
A few tips before you begin cooking:
- Dok Ngio – even though this is is a signature ingredient of Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao, it is possible to leave it out, without compromising too much on the taste. If you are determined to include it, but having trouble finding it, I am happy to send you some. For more info, view this post: Dok Ngio – dried kapok flower stamens.
- Thua Nao – is a dried fermented soybean ingredient, common in Northern Thailand. Similar products are available in other countries as well. Try the following as substitutes: natto or miso from Japan, kinema from India, or doenjang from Korea.
- When boiling the ribs, you will likely see a lot of grey foam floating on the surface and bone sediments at the bottom of the pot. To get rid of this, you can do the following as a first step: Put the pork bones in a pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Boil hard for one minute. Drain in a colander in the sink and rinse thoroughly. Clean the pot, and put the bones back in.
- You can hold back a bit on the curry paste and not add it all, if you are afraid the soup might be too spicy. Or perhaps start out with fewer chilies than listed in the recipe. Another trick to reduce spiciness is also to remove the seeds from the chilies.
Khanom Jin Nam Ngiao - pork rib noodle soup w/ tomatoes
- 800 gr. pork spareribs, preferably meaty ones, cut into 2 -3 cm. pieces
- 250 gr. ground pork
- 1 pcs. pork blood cakes
- 1.5 cup cherry tomatoes
- 15 pcs. dried kapok stamens (or omit them)
- 1.5 dl. vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 liter water
- 1 kilo fresh khanom sen noodles
- Curry paste:
- 8 pcs. arbol chilies
- 8 pcs. guajillo chilies
- 8 pcs. shallots
- 3 pcs. coriander roots (or stems)
- 1 big slice galangal
- 2 stems lemongrass
- 1 tbsp kapi
- 10 pcs. garlic cloves
- 3 disks thua nao
- Bean sprouts
- Pickled mustard green
- Spring onion, chopped
- Coriander leaves
- Fried arbol chilies
- Deep fried garlic
- Step 1 Soak the dried chilies in water (for appr. 15 minutes).
- Step 2 Put the rib bones in a pot and cover with 2 liters of water. Add salt and leave it slow cooking for about 1 hour.
- Step 3 In the meantime clean the vegetables. Dry fry the kapi and tua nao.
- Step 4 Make the curry paste in the following order: First galangal, coriander roots, and lemongrass. Then onions, chili, kapi and last the tua nao. Pound until an evenly smooth paste.
- Step 5 Take the desired amount of garlic for topping (appr. 15 – 20 cloves), clean them leaving a thin skin on, smack with the knife, and chop. Fry in 1.5 dl. vegetable oil and remove from the oil, when golden brown.
- Step 6 Turn the heat off and fry the arbol chillies that are going to be used for topping. Be careful not to burn them.
- Step 7 Leave both the garlic and chilies to cool on a piece of paper towel to drain excess oil.
- Step 8 Fry the chili paste in the oil from the garlic and chili until fragrant. Add the minced pork. Fry until tender. Add the tomatoes and fry for a few minutes until they soften. Put everything into the pot with the boiled pork chops.
- Step 9 Add the kapok stamens and leave it simmering for about 10 minutes.
- Step 10 Cut the pork blood cake in squares at a size approx. 1.5 x 1.5 cm., and add to the soup. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Step 11 Taste. Add more salt if necessary.
- Step 12 Serve the soup boiling hot over a bowl of Khanom Jin noodles. Sprinkle with chopped spring onions, fried crisp garlic and coriander leaves. Bean sprouts, pickled mustard green, fried chilies and lime are served on the side.