Saturday, September 19, 2009

Thai-Style Chicken Soup

On one of my earlier dates with my husband, he took me to his favorite Thai Restaurant.  Other than Chicken Satay, I wasn't familiar with Thai food.  I also have an aversion to yellow curry, so I carefully scanned the menu for something I wasn't afraid to try.  I ordered Tom  Ka (coconut milk) soup and I fell in-love with that dish-- and my husband!  I also learned that there is more to curry than just yellow. I love red curry, and recently green curry!  I have, since, found a local restaurant that makes excellent Pad Thai, Green Curry dishes -- and I am now a huge fan of Thai Food.  I am fond of common ingredients in Thai food-- lemon grass, coconut milk, lime, basil, cilantro and peanuts. Yummy!

I found this particular recipe in Cook's Illustrated in 2007, and I have made this several times-- always with great results. What I like about this version is that you don't need to find an exotic market to find the ingredients.

Here's what Cook's Illustrated had to say about the development of this simple version of Thai Chicken Soup:

So, are you ready?

You need 3 stalks of lemongrass. If you've never worked with this, it's very easy to find in a grocery store nowadays.  It looks like scallions on steroids-- only they can be tricky to cut. You need a really sharp knife, or you might want to grab an ax (well, not really). I, once bought, lemongrass in a tube (located in the produce section).  It's just not the same-- please buy real lemongrass. I remove the outside leaves, wash them and then...

I cut them into chunks, with a very sharp and sturdy knife.. I also chopped three shallots. Shallots are always in my fridge. I love them, because they are milder than red onion so they don't overpower my sauces, or salad dressings. If you haven't used shallots, much, try them. You'll always want them on hand.

The rest of the ingredients are easy to find-- fresh cilantro, coconut milk (I use the Lite version), chicken broth, red curry paste and fish sauce.  Some of you might be crinkling your nose at the thought of fish sauce. I did, too.  However, give it a chance. Don't sniff it! It'll scare you. Honestly, the sauce is important and you cannot taste any fish. I wouldn't lie to you!

You want to slice boneless, skinless chicken breasts into really thin strips. The trick is to freeze the chicken for about 15 minutes-- this makes slicing it, on the bias (against the grain), so much easier. Don't cut chunks! You want it nice and'll see why in a few more steps.

You  begin by tenderizing the lemongrass and shallots in a little vegetable oil. Season with 1 Tbsp of fish sauce and the chopped cilantro (which I forgot to do...d'oh!)

Add the chicken broth... can of coconut milk, bring to simmer and cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Once the flavors have infused (don't forget the cilantro, like I did), strain the soup and discard the veggies.

Add one more can of coconut milk, 1 Tablespoon of sugar and bring to a simmer. (This is where I added the cilantro I forgot to before, and it worked out fine.)

Add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes. Now, add the thinly sliced chicken and cook until the pink is gone-- stirring often-- 2-3 minutes.  This is why you don't want big chunks of chicken!

Remove the chicken from the heat (as in turn off the stove!) and add 3 Tablespoons of fresh squeezed lime juice, the red curry paste.  and 2 Tablespoons of fish sauce.  You can serve the soup as an appetizer..

But I like to make rice....

...and to ladle soup over the rice, for a heartier meal. This soup comes really close to the authentic Tom Ga Ka Thai soup from my favorite restaurant.  We love it! It's very simple to make, and the red curry paste gives a nice little kick to the soup.

Yes, you can easily substitute shrimp instead of chicken.  I would even think you could use tofu as well, though I'm not sure if a vegetable stock would taste as authentic.  This is a pretty economical dish to make. The Thai ingredients aren't very costly and they last me for a while. I'm still working on perfecting a good Pad Thai dish. I really love that dish, too. If you're wondering what the differences in curries are, a friend of mine gave me this link:

Here's the recipe, below. If you're receiving my feeds on Feed Burner, you'll need to click on my blog link to view this. This one is one of our top favorite soups/dinners. We just love it!

 A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

Coconut Milk on Foodista

Lemon Grass on Foodista

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bella said...

Debby, I can't thank you enough for posting Tom Gha Kai soup with such wonderful step by step photos. It is my all time favorite soup....probably even beating out Italian Tortellini! But I've been too timid to make it. I have nearly all the ingredients and NUMEROUS saved recipes and Thai cookbooks to refer to for this recipe. I trust your judgement and Cook's Illustrated (I have that issue, so I'll get it out too) and can't wait to make this soup! Blessings, Roz

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

What a wonderful recipe! Thai is one of my favorite cuisines and I tend to gravitate towards it at least 3 or 4 times a week! I've never made tom gha kai at home, I think it's time to try!

Kerstin said...

Green curry is my favorite. Your soup looks delicious and could be served in a restaurant - yum! It's my hubby's favorite, so I should make it for him.

Monica H said...

Your soup looks great, especially served over that white rice for a heartier meal. Pad thai to come? I can't wait!

Debinhawaii said...

One of my favorite soups ever. Love all the photos. Thanks for sending it along to Souper Sundays.

TKW said...

It's cold and rainy here this morning and I would love a steaming bown of Tom Gha Kai. I adore it!! Thanks for the recipe!

Kim said...

It looks really beautiful. I haven't experimented too much with Thai food, but I am quickly learning that it is a favorite of many foodies!!

Alisa - Frugal Foodie said...

This looks heavenly!

Bridget said...

I love this recipe; it's definitely been too long since I've made it. You might want to check out Cooks Illustrated's pad thai recipe too. It's my favorite version - better than I've had at many restaurants.

Lindsey said...

I love this soup. By you posting the recipe, you will save me a ton of money at the local Thia restaurant. Yeah!

.... said...

Still making this, thanks for sharing!!! I often add some bamboo shoots, match stick sized red pepper, and bok choi for extra veg.