In the morning, I had decided to reheat the leftover chili for dinner. When my daughter Eilene finally woke up, she said, “Oh yes, I forgot to tell you that my friends are coming over tonight”—dinner for six, not three. I could have thinned out the chili with more beans, but one of her friends does not like beans. After a discussion, we settled on Thai red curry chicken soup.
I had some Thai red chili paste in the refrigerator—for a dish I made years ago—but when I checked the expiration date I found that it was long out of date. I would have to start from scratch. Looking online, I found some ideas on ingredients, but none of the recipes really grabbed me—time to get creative.
Karl’s Thai Red Curry Chicken Soup
1 lb. chicken thighs
1 stalk lemon grass
32 oz. chicken broth, low sodium
2 inches fresh ginger, sliced into coins, separate uses
2 Shanghai bok choy
8 green onions
8 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño chili
¼ lb. snow peas
½ red bell pepper
1 bottle (11 oz.) Trader Joe’s Thai Style Red Curry Sauce, separate uses
1 can (13.5 oz.) coconut milk
1½ Tbs. Thai Fish Sauce
1½ limes, juiced (about 4½ Tbs.)
1 Tbs. brown sugar
1 small bunch cilantro
1. Remove any excess fat from the chicken and cut it into bite sized pieces.
2. Put the chicken in a bowl with the marinade ingredients and toss to mix and coat the chicken.
Tip: Trader Joe’s has a fairly good Thai Style Red Curry Sauce. I used some of this sauce in my marinade, but I added the rest of the bottle to the soup—I was making a very large pot of soup.
3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
4. Remove the ends and outer leaves of the lemon grass and slice it finely.
Tip: The outer leaves of the lemon grass are frequently moldy.
Note: Lemon grass is a tough, fibrous stalk. While some recipes call for mincing it finely and leaving it in your dish, I prefer to steep it in my broth and then strain out the bits before adding the rest of the ingredients.
5. Slice 2 inched of fresh ginger into coins.
Note: Put half of the ginger coins in the broth and reserve the rest to put in the final soup.
6. Put the lemon grass, chicken broth, and ginger coins in a large pot and bring it to a boil.
Tip: Rinse the can out with a bit of water—this is partly to replace any liquid that may boil away.
7. Remove the pot from the heat, cover it, and let the lemon grass steep for 20-30 minutes.
8. Put the rice noodles in a pot of cold water and let them soften for 3-5 minutes.
9. Drain the noodles and set them aside.
Tip: Have a pot of water over a low heat ready to hand to finish cooking the noodles when the soup is nearly finished cooking.
Note: While the meat is marinating and the broth is steeping, prepare the rest of your ingredients.
10. Separate the bok choy into stalks and cut the leafy parts from the pale green stems.
Note: You want about 2½ cups of bok choy—this is two large Shanghai bok choy.
11. Cut the stems into one inch pieces and set them aside.
12. Stack and slice the leafy parts into ½ inch wide strips.
Tip: Keep the leafy parts separate from the stems.
13. Cut the white part of the green onions into 2 inch pieces and set them aside.
14. Slice the green parts of the onions into one inch pieces and set them aside.
Note: These will be added to the dish at the last moment as a garnish.
15. Slice or mince the garlic and set it aside.
16. Remove the seeds and slice the jalapeño into rings.
Tip: Cut off the stem end of the pepper and insert a paring knife down into the top of the pepper. Twist the knife around to free the veins and seeds of the jalapeño, without breaking the skin of the pepper. Starting at the open end, slice the pepper into ⅛ inch rings.
17. Rinse the snow peas and remove the tough strings along the back seams.
Tip: Do not cut up the pods, you will be adding them to the soup whole.
18. Dice the red pepper and set it aside.
19. Strain the solids out of the broth and return it to the soup pot.
Tip: Now is a good time to turn up the heat on the pot of water to be used to finish cooking the noodles.
20. Add the rest of the bottle of Thai Style Red Curry Sauce, coconut milk, Thai Fish Sauce, lime juice, and brown sugar to the broth.
21. Bring the pot to a boil and add the marinated chicken.
22. Return the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
23. After three minutes, add the white parts of the bok choy, the white parts of the green onions, garlic, and jalapenos to the soup.
24. Rinse and coarsely chop the fresh cilantro and set it aside.
Tip: These leafy greens will start to brown along the cut edges fairly quickly, so you want to wait until you are almost ready to use them before you start chopping them.
25. Continue simmering the soup for two minutes and then add the snow peas, leafy parts of the bok choy, and the red bell pepper.
26. Put the rice noodles in the separate pot of boiling water.
Note: While some cooks would simply add the noodles to the soup, my wife has trained me to almost always serve the starch for a soup—rice or noodles—separately. This way my diners may choose how much of this Noom “red food” they wish to add to their personal bowls.
27. Simmer the soup for another 2-4 minutes.
29. Serve the soup with the rice noodles on the side.
30. Garnish individual bowls with the cilantro and green onion greens.
Tip: If you wish you may also serve lime wedges and a bottle of Thai hot sauce for your diners who wish to “doctor” their soup further.