Khai palo was introduced to Thailand by Chinese immigrants – its soy sauce broth sweetened by dark brown sugar and flavoured with cinnamon and star anise will taste familiar to Chinese-food enthusiasts.






Skill level

Average: 5 (1 vote)


  • 6 duck eggs
  • 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1½ tbsp Three-spice paste (see Step 3 here)
  • 100 g (3½ oz) palm sugar, grated
  • 150 g (5½ oz) pork belly, cut into 1-cm (½-in) thick slices
  • 250 g (9 oz) firm tofu, cut into cubes
  • 1 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise
  • coriander (cilantro) leaves, to garnish
  • steamed jasmine rice, to serve (optional)

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


  1. Fill a large bowl with iced water and set aside. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil over high heat and boil the eggs for 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to the iced water. Once the eggs are cool, peel them and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and sauté the three-spice paste until fragrant. Add the palm sugar and cook until it caramelises and turns a dark golden brown, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Once the sugar is caramelised, add the sliced pork belly and tofu. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, then add the boiled eggs and stir gently for a further minute, taking care not to break the eggs.
  3. Add 1.2 litres (1.2 quarts) of water to the saucepan, along with the sweet soy sauce, soy sauce, salt, cinnamon and star anise, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface.
  4. Remove from the heat and check the seasoning, adding more salt to taste if necessary. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the coriander leaves. Serve with steamed jasmine rice, if desired.


Recipe and images from Bangkok Local by Sareen Rojanametin and Jean Thamthanakorn, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99