Thai penicillin • 01.27.10
You know how they say that chicken soup is Jewish penicillin? Well this soup (yes! another soup… I know!) could be considered Thai penicillin. Warm and aromatic and full of things that are guaranteed to make you feel better if you’ve got a bit of the sniffles, this soup is spicy medicine in a bowl.
Thai food has to be some of my favourite food ever. I love the chillis and garlic and piles of coriander that are used to flavour the food. I adore the scent of fresh ginger and lemongrass. When this soup is bubbling away my house smells like a restaurant in Bangkok, rather than a little flat in rainy, cold England.
Some of the ingredients in this soup may be a bit hard to find for people (like me!) who live in smaller towns. I made a trip to the nearest city over the holiday break and went to the Chinese grocery store. I found almost everything I needed to whip up authentic Thai flavours at home. So, to get my Thai food-fix I can either drive 20 minutes and cook for myself, or take an 11 hour flight. I know which I’d rather do (frequent flyer points!), but this soup makes it bearable on days when all I can manage is the drive.
Thai chicken noodle soup
The measurements I’m giving you for this soup are the ones that I use, but you might not want your soup to be exactly the same. The key to this soup is to include more of what you like and less of what you don’t.
For the soup:
2 smallish chicken breasts
1 inch of ginger, peeled and left whole
1 stalk of lemongrass, cut into pieces
3 kaffir lime leaves, torn to release their oils
1 handful of coriander (cilantro) roots and stalks
1 birds eye chilli
3 tbs soy sauce
3 tbs chilli oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 chicken flavoured stock cube
2 carrots, cut into thick strips
2 handfuls of snow peas or sugar snap peas, cut into matchsticks
2 large button mushrooms, thinly sliced across
1/2 package of rice noodles
For the garnish
fresh ginger, cut into very fine matchsticks
fresh chillis, chopped
4 small radishes, sliced very finely into rounds
one large handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, roughly chopped
Start by placing the chicken breast into a large stock pot and covering with plenty of cold water- enough to almost fill the pot. Then add the ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, coriander stalks, chilli, soy sauce, chilli oil and sesame oil to the water. Bring this mixture to a gentle simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes.
Remove the chicken breasts and bring the broth to a rapid boil. Crumble in the stock cube and allow to dissolve. Taste the broth. You want it to be very flavourful. If you think it needs more salt, add soy sauce. More heat? Add more chilli oil. Once the broth tastes great to you, drain it into a large bowl to remove all of the ginger, lemongrass, etc. Then pour the broth back into the stock pot and return to a medium heat.
Cut the chicken into thin strips. Add the chicken, the carrot strips and the snow pea strips to the broth. Allow to cook for 5-10 minutes, until the vegetables are just cooked through. Then add the mushrooms for another 2 minutes.
While the chicken and veg are cooking, prepare the rice noodles according to the instructions on the package. I have to pour boiling water over mine and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, until soft.
Once the noodles are cooked and the veg is ready, you can layer up your soup.
In a large soup bowl, place a dash of chilli oil at the bottom of the bowl. Then add some noodles. Top the noodles with strips of chicken and some of the vegetables from the broth (I pull the veg out of the broth and add them to the bowl first, but Andy thinks I’m crazy for doing this.) Ladle in broth to fill the bowl. Then top each bowl with the sliced radishes, strips of ginger, a sprinkling of fresh chilli and a handful of coriander leaves.