I’d never tried kowse before opening Naqiyah Mayat‘s The Beginning: Indian recipes from my home. It’s a cookbook by the local chef comprised of the most delicious dishes – some of which I’m familiar with, others I couldn’t wait to try.
Her kowse, pronounced ‘ko-seh’ or ‘kho-seh’, was the latter, a two-page spread in her book as a result of the sheer grandeur of this dish.
“Everyone has their own interpretation of Kowse,” she writes. “In fact, there are so many variations to use as toppings. I like to keep our version fairly simple; I often cook it when I’m expecting guests and want to keep the meal centred around a pasta dish. Kowse is food fit for a crowd.”
Where did the dish come from?
To put it simply: kowse is a pasta with a curry sauce that balances salty, sweet and spicy flavours, with just the right amount of freshness and crunch provided by the many toppings accompanying it.
The Indian dish appears to be a fusion of flavours; it was adapted from a Burmese noodle soup, khow suey. The Burmese dish is made of egg noodles with curried beef or chicken soup made with a coconut milk-base, and served with a variety of contrasting condiments, with a squeeze of lemon juice completing it.
Myanmar, a country in Asia, borders India, as well as Bangladesh, China, Lao and Thailand. Khow suey came to East India with those who migrated from Burma during World War II, while communities from Pakistan also adapted the dish, known as khausa.
As Naqiyah said, there are various interpretations of the tasty dish.
How to prepare kowse
“Kowse requires some (lots of) chopping,” says Naqiyah. “Once the accompaniments are taken care of, you can work on preparing the sauce. Chop each ingredient and place it into a dish that you’re happy to serve from.”
For the toppings, you’re going to cube onions – I like to use red onion – chopped fresh coriander, chillis and quarters of lemons. Place them all in separate bowls, ready for serving.
Slice fresh ginger into matchsticks as well, and cut or tear up pieces of samoosa pur. Later you’ll fry these in oil just before serving.
Naqiyah’s recipe says to sprinkle the pur with paprika and salt and vinegar spice, which adds a lovely, burst of flavour.
In the meantime, prepare your curry sauce: Allow one can of coconut milk and one can of coconut cream to cook in a handful of desiccated coconut until it begins to boil and infuse.
In a pan, sauté onion in butter or ghee with olive oil before adding cubed chicken (around 4-6 chicken breasts). Let it cook through before adding your spices: red masala, ground cumin powder, ground coriander powder, ground ginger, minced garlic, ground turmeric, tomato paste and squeeze of lemon. Season with salt. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add your coconut cream/milk mixture to your chicken and allow it to cook on low heat until your chicken has completely softened.
While your curry sauce is cooking, boil your pasta, and fry your ginger and samoosa pur until golden brown – though I like to take the ginger a tad further to really crisp it up.
Once you’re done, dish all your remaining components into serving bowls and lay them out on the table for your family and guests to assemble – the shareability is the best part of this wholesome dish!
Begin with your pasta at the bottom of your bowl, ladle a good amount of curry sauce over the top, and garnish with your onion, coriander and fresh chillies. Finish it off with your crunch elements – your ginger and samoosa pir – and squeeze of lemon. Pace yourself though – I guarantee you’ll be going back for seconds!
Have you made Kowse before? Let us know in the comments section below!