Thai is one of my favorite cuisines and I always look forward to dinner at one of the several excellent Thai restaurants in my area. Many of my favorite dishes I would never attempt to make at home…to complex for one reason or another…but there are a few favorites that are so easy to prepare in my own kitchen. If the long list of ingredients in many Thai recipes puts you off don’t worry about it. Most are available in mainstream grocery stores and once you have the basics in your pantry you are ready to cook.
Fish sauce, curry paste and coconut milk plus easy to find, lemon grass, cilantro and lime are the basis for many delicious Thai dishes including this very flavorful hearty soup that won’t take more than 20 minutes to put together. I found this recipe at A FEAST FOR THE EYES and it tastes just like one of the best soups at my favorite Thai restaurant. If you haven’t met Debby I urge you to stop by to visit. She is one of the best cooks I know and her German recipes remind me of the wonderful dishes my Mutti used to prepare when I was a child.
If you haven’t cooked with fish sauce or “Nam Pla” before don’t be alarmed. It has a very fishy smell that disappears when combined with other ingredients. It is one of the essential flavors of Thai food. ABOUT.COM has this to say…” Good fish sauces are made from a mixture of fish and salt that has been allowed to ferment for 1 year to 18 months. Anchovies are typically used, although some fish sauces are also made from other types of fish or squid. The basic ingredients of a good fish sauce are: fish, water, and salt. Sugar may also be added, but isn’t necessary”.
This is a perfect dish to make at home if you love Thai food but shy away from recipes because they seem too complicated. The flavorful broth is easy to make and the chicken and vegetables simmer in it until done. Curry paste is added at the end and it’s very easy to regulate the heat of the dish…so don’t worry about getting it too hot. Debby suggests serving this soup with rice…which I thought was delicious…and next time I might add a sprinkle of chopped peanuts along with the garnish.
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- 3 stalks lemon grass - tough outer leaves removed, bottom 5 inches halved lengthwise and sliced thin crosswise.
- 3 large shallots, chopped
- 8 sprigs fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 4 cups chicken broth, homemade is best
- 2 14-oz cans unsweetened coconut milk, well-shaken (I used 1 can in this recipe)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ pound white mushrooms, cleaned, stems trimmed, cut into ¼ inch slices
- 4-oz fresh green beans, blanched and cut into 1 inch pieces (my addition)
- 3 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered (my addition)
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved lengthwise and sliced on the bias into ⅛-inch thick pieces
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice from 2 to 3 limes
- 2 teaspoons red curry paste
- ½ cup fresh cilantro leave
- 2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced (Optional)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add lemon grass, shallots, cilantro, and 1 tablespoon fish sauce; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 2 to 5 minutes (vegetables should not brown).
- Stir in chicken broth and 1 can coconut milk; bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover. Reduce heat to low and simmer until flavors have blended, about 10 minutes.
- Pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer and discard solids in strainer. Rinse saucepan and return broth mixture to pan.
- Return pan to medium-high heat. Stir remaining can coconut milk and sugar into the broth mixture and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce heat to medium, add mushrooms, green beans and potatoes and cook until tender. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until no longer pink, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Combine lime juice, curry paste and remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce in a small bowl. Stir into soup. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro, chiles and scallions. Serve immediately with lime wedges.
- If desired, serve soup with a scoop of steamed rice.