Jan asked for chicken soup with rice—props to Maurice Sendak—for a weekday dinner, but that seemed too common to me. I decided to make Thai Chicken soup with rice stick. I can make it a bit less spicy than it is made authentically.
Note: The spiciest soup that Jan and I ever ate was a restaurant Thai fish soup that we incautiously answered “Thai hot,” to the question of, “How spicy?”
Lemongrass is a key ingredient in Thai soups. While I have used lemongrass before, I had never looked up how one is supposed to use it. In the past, I had always cut it into thin rings and then simmered them in my broth before straining them out of my soup. Looking on-line, it was suggested that the tender parts should be ground in to flakes with a mortar and pestle. I decided that a standing blender would do a better job of this task.
Many of the recipes on-line where a bit short on vegetable matter or had ingredients that some in my family won’t eat. I added napa cabbage and red onion to the usual green onion and cilantro. I also substituted enoki mushrooms—the only mushroom that Eilene will eat—for the more common button or shitaki mushrooms.
Karl’s Thai Chicken Soup
1-2 bunches rice stick
3 chicken thighs, boneless skinless
32 oz. low sodium chicken broth
2 stalks lemongrass
14.5 oz. coconut milk
2 Tbs. Thai fish sauce
1½ Tbs. Thai red curry paste (more to taste)
1 inch thumb of ginger, cut into matchsticks
¼ cup red onion, chopped
5 green onions, cut into 2 inch pieces, white and green parts kept separate
½ cup enoki mushrooms, cut into one inch pieces
1 cup napa cabbage, sliced crosswise, thick and leafy parts separate
1 cup cilantro, chopped, separate uses
1 lime, ½ juiced, ½ cut into wedges, separate uses
1 jalapeño, sliced
½ cup mung bean sprouts
1. Place the rice sticks into a large bowl and pour boiling water over it to cover.
Tip: You may use cold water but it will take longer for the noodles to soften.
2. When they are soft, rinse the noodles in cold water and set them to drain.
3. Cut the chicken into small bite sized pieces.
4. Put the chicken broth into a soup pot and add the chicken.
5. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer the chicken for 4-5 minutes.
Note: When you boil raw chicken, the lipoprotein—water soluble proteins on the meats surface—coagulate to form a scum on the surface of the broth. While this scum is completely edible, it is unattractive and may feel grainy in the mouth. By precooking your chicken, you may strain out this scum for a clearer broth.
6. Scoop out the chicken with a slotted spoon and place it in a bowl.
Tip: You will be eventually returning this chicken to the soup, but if you are going to be more than half an hour it is a good idea to cover and refrigerate it.
Note: It is not vital, at this point, for the chicken to be cooked through—you will be cooking it more at the end of the cooking process.
7. Strain the broth and return it to the pot.
8. Remove the moldy outer leaves of the lemongrass and slice the lower ⅔ of the stalks into thin rings.
Tip: Discard the root end of the lemongrass. You may crush the upper parts and add them to your broth, but do not forget to remove them before serving the soup.
Note: The outer leaves of lemongrass are almost always a bit moldy. While the lower parts of the lemon grass are tender enough to eat, the top bit will never soften no matter how long you cook it.
9. Put your lemongrass rings in a standing blender and add half a cup water.
Tip: You may use the warm chicken broth if you wish.
10. Process the lemongrass on high until the rings are completely broken down.
11. Add the lemongrass slurry, coconut milk, fish sauce, curry, red onion, white parts of the green onion, enoki mushrooms, and the thick parts of the napa cabbage to the chicken broth.
Tip: Rinse the blender out with a splash of water or chicken broth and add it to the pot.
12. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
13. Stir in the rest of the napa cabbage, half of the remaining green onions, half of the cilantro, the lime juice, and the chicken pieces.
14. Simmer the soup for another 5-10 minutes.
15. Diners place as much of the rice stick in their bowl as they wish and ladle the soup over it.
16. Serve the remaining green onion and cilantro, jalapeño, bean sprouts, and lime wedges on the side for your diners to top their soups as they wish.
Tip: Some diners may want Siracha to add as well.