Autumn has arrived – it’s soup time!

Ok, admittedly, soup is one of my favorite things year round.  However, the arrival of autumn makes me think of the joy of soup more often.  I’ll also admit that the following recipe isn’t a type of soup that generally comes first to my mind when thinking of fall soups and stews such as chili, beef stews and anything with fall root vegetables (is there anything better?).  However, Rickie and I had been thinking of finding a recipe for our lemongrass we are growing this year and I found the following Thai chicken soup recipe.  To me, it feels like a classic Thai soup and perfect for cool evenings!  I will preface by saying the lemongrass does not take a starring role; however, it is part of the very complex ingredient list and flavor!

I have made a few editorial changes, but the original recipe can be found at: http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaisnacks/r/TomKaKaisoup.htm

Thai Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk (Tom Ka Gai)

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1-2 chicken breasts, sliced, or 1-2 cups roasted chicken (we chose this route as it’s quicker and we think the roasted chicken brought even more flavor to the dish)
  • 1 lemongrass stalk or 3 tbsp frozen, prepared lemongrass
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger, grated
  • 1-3 fresh red chilis, minced (to taste), or substitute ½ to ¾ tsp. dried crushed chili
  • ½ to 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2+ tbsp fish sauce (we had oyster on hand, so we used that)
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar (optional according to taste)
  • Handful of fresh cilantro
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves (we used our Genovese (“traditional”) basil)
  • 3 spring (green) onions, sliced
  • Optional: other vegetables like sliced bell pepper or cherry tomatoes (we used both of these suggestions)
  • Optional: wheat or rice noodles (we went with rice noodles)

Preparation:

  • Remove outer portion of lemongrass stalk (if using fresh), and mince lower portion of stalk (white center portion).  Retain the upper portion (cut into inch pieces).
  • Place chicken broth in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil.
  • Add chicken, mushrooms, minced lemongrass and chili.  Place kaffir lime leaves and one inch pieces of upper lemongrass stalk in a reusable tea bag (or make your own out of cheesecloth) and add to the soup.  The bouquet garni makes for easier removal later.
  • If your chicken was uncooked, it will likely need about 5-8 minutes boiling time.
  • Turn heat down to medium and add the ginger, ½ can coconut milk, fish (oyster) sauce and other vegetables (optional).  Stir well and cook another 1-2 minutes.
  • Turn heat down to low and simmer.  Add lime juice and stir.
  • Do a taste test.  Look for a balance between spicy, sour, salty and sweet flavors.  For more salt, add more fish/oyster sauce.  If too sour, add the brown sugar.  If too spicy or if you’d like it creamier, then add more of the coconut milk.  If you prefer spicier, add more of the chili.
  • If serving over noodles, prepare your noodles separately to avoid thickening the soup too much.

·         Place prepared noodles in the bottom of the bowls and ladle the soup over the noodles.  Sprinkle with the fresh cilantro, spring onion and basil!

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