Nothing quite satisfies like a steaming bowl of soup when it’s cold out. As much as I love a good stew, I’ve been craving something not only warm and soothing, but cleansing and restorative after the culinary sins of the holidays. As I perused my olfactory rolodex, I came across a concoction that I turned to time and again during our years in Cold Lake, Alberta – a Thai-inspired coconut soup.
One blessing in disguise during our northern exposure was a total lack of Thai food within about a 4-hour radius. Andrew and I both look to Thai cuisine as comfort food, especially when it’s chilly. So, due to sheer lack of availability, I forced myself to learn the fundamentals of Thai cooking at home. I stocked up on supplies during a trip to Edmonton (also four hours away) and set my hand to learning some of our favorite dishes. Over time, I tweaked Tom Kha Gai into something of my own and the result is this recipe, which has become a winter favorite in our house.
What I really love about this dish is the therapeutic quality gleaned from some of the ingredients. Ginger is not only beneficial to the tummy, it’s a rockstar at fighting off cold and flu. Cilantro is another delicious ingredient with serious medicinal power. It actually acts as something of a coagulate for toxins and heavy metals and is incredible at flushing them out of the body – talk about a cleanse! Garlic and lemongrass are not only natural antibiotics, they’re also anti-viral and anti-fungal. So whether it’s a healthy alternative to your favorite stew or just speaks to your current cravings, give this soup a whirl.
- 1 chicken breast
- 2 bone-in thighs
- 1 jalapeno, halved & sliced (set aside)
- 1 red chile, halved & sliced (set aside)
- 4 white mushrooms, thinly sliced (set aside)
- 8 asparagus spears, ½ inch slice (set aside)
- 2 green onions, ¼ inch slice
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 inch ginger, half minced & half thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon lemongrass, minced (you can substitute edible lemongrass essential oil)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- juice of ½ lime
- 1 can coconut milk
- sea salt & white pepper, to taste
- vermicelli noodles (or substitute zucchini noodles for a grain-free dish)
- chili garlic paste
- cilantro, chopped
Although you can use packaged chicken stock for this recipe, I prefer to make a quick, thai-inspired stock. It’s quick, easy and will finish up while you’re chopping. First, cut most of the meat off your bone-in chicken thigh and put it in a pan. Add 12 ounces of water, 1 kaffir lime leave, a few slices of jalapeno, a dash of minced garlic and a couple of ginger slices to the pan. Bring to a boil then immediately turn to medium-low to simmer.
In the meantime, chop all your veggies and thinly slice the chicken (think Pho for thinness). In a wok (a dutch oven will also do), heat up your coconut oil and add 2 kaffir lime leaves, ginger, garlic, carrots, the whites from your green onions, sea salt, white pepper and lemongrass. Sautee the ingredients for a couple minutes then add coconut milk, chicken and the chicken stock you’ve been simmering. This should simmer for about 4 minutes.
In the meantime, boil your vermicelli noodles if you’re using them. If not, steam the zucchini noodles for a couple minutes. When these are ready, strain and put them in a bowl. Add the jalapenos, red chili, mushrooms, asparagus and green onions to the pot and allow them to simmer for about one minute – you want these guys al dente.
Pour the soup over the vermicelli or zucchini noodles and garnish with ample cilantro and a dollop of chili garlic paste. Enjoy!