Thai Chicken & Rice Soup
I believe that Thai cuisine has an unspoken standard for balance that not all other cuisines utilize. All of the flavors come together so the salty, sweet, bitter, spicy, sour & umami can work together as a team. Though Japanese food has a similar unspoken rule of cooking, Thai food feels so much more like comfort food for the masses whereas Japanese foods feels like sophisticated food for royalty. I love them both, but today I needed the warm comforting balance that is a Thai curry soup. Here, I simply twisted an American classic with some Thai flavors.
Thai Chicken & Rice Soup
190 g celery, sliced 1/4 in thick (1/2 cm)
250 g carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick (1/2 cm)
130 g leeks, sliced 1/4 inch thick (1/2 cm)
30 g yellow curry paste (see below)
1800 ml-2 L chicken stock
230 g chicken breast
1 400 ml can of coconut milk
2 c cooked basmati rice (or 3/4 c dried)
1 lemon grass stick
5-10 kaffir lime leaves (Asian market)
6-8 wedges of (lime for service)
1 bunch cilantro chopped (stems too-small)
1/4 c green onions thinly sliced
2 T olive oil
pepper, easy on the salt
Hot sauce or fresh sliced chilis
Begin by warming up your stock in a smaller pot.
Cut your lemongrass stick in half both lengthwise and widthwise. Then tie it together with twine, rolling it around the length a few times before making a knot of two. It's easy to fish out when the soup is done when it's all together.
In another large soup pot, with the oil, cook your carrots & lemongrass on medium-high heat with a lid for 5 minutes making sure they do not burn. Stir regularly. Next, add your celery. Cook for two minutes. Then, add the leeks and them cook until they begin to wilt. Add your curry paste of choice. I prefer a yellow curry (see photo below). Mix it around to warm it up and wake up its flavors. Add some pepper but no salt yet. Curry paste can be very salty so I often decide in the end whether to add it or not.
Now you can add your hot stock and stir well to break down all of the curry paste. Add the kaffir leaves and bring it to a boil. You will need to cook this soup with the lid on for about 20 minutes OR until the carrots are fully cooked through but not falling apart. If you are using dried basmati rice, throw this into the soup after 10 minutes of cooking time. But do be aware that it will soak up a lot of the stock, so you may need to add some more in the end.
Now it's the time to deal with the chicken.
I often use leftover roasted chicken for a meal such as this, but you can also buy chicken pieces of choice (I used breast meat because it shreds nicely, but you can also cut it up in cubes). I first cut the breast meat in 1 inch thick pieces (2.5 cm) that are about 3 inches long (7.5 cm). It helps the chicken cook evenly in the soup if they are the same thickness & size. I drop the chicken pieces into the soup and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes. Remove it carefully to a plate to cool, then shred it with your fingers or a fork.
Meanwhile, once the carrots (& rice -if added in dried) are fully cooked, add your coconut milk & shredded chicken. Remove the lemongrass. Sometimes I leave the kaffir leaves so the guests know it was made with more authentic ingredients, but you can also remove them here.
Slice up all of the cilantro (part with stems included VERY FINELY) and throw 3/4 of it it into the soup. The stems side I throw into the soup and leave the beautiful top leaves for decoration. Stir and serve.
To serve; in each individual bowl add some soup making sure to get all the good stuff on the bottom, then more cilantro leaves, green onions and fresh chilis or hot sauce to your desire. Don't forget to squeeze a wedge of lime to brighten it up at the table in your own bowl.
N.B. the photo above was made for a child in the family and had less "proper toppings."
And...Below is my yellow curry paste of choice. Some of them have a strange taste to them, so I buy a rather LARGE container of this and it lasts a long time.