I am freezing. I have been for a few days now. I just can’t seem to get warm.
Thank you, Negative-20-Degree Wind Chills. Pleasure knowing you. Now please leave.
Soup. All I think about is soup. I’ve said it many times already, and I’ll say it again: I love soup. It’s my go-to meal when I can’t think of anything else to make or when I’m craving something warm and cozy. It’s perfect for the deep freeze Philly has been experiencing this week.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I met for lunch at one of his favorite local Thai restaurants. We each ordered delicious noodle dishes that were hearty and complex in flavor. Delightful. To start, though, we each had a cup of soup. I chose the Thai coconut soup…and I’m so glad I did. It was sweet and savory, light and creamy, intensely flavorful, and absolutely delicious. It was served vegetarian style. When my bowl was empty, I told my hubs that I was going to have to attempt it at home. He heartily agreed.
I developed this recipe with some internet research but mostly from my own lunch experience. The flavors of that soup were so fresh, it made them easy to identify. I have an occasional tendency to overdo things…ya know, by throwing a million things into a pot and hoping it all meshes together. Sometimes when I’m developing a recipe, my mind takes me in too many directions, and the result is a confused disappointment. This time, I showed some restraint. I really wanted to highlight the same simple flavors without muddling them: ginger, lemongrass, coconut, and salt. The soup was incredibly clean tasting, and I wanted my at-home version to echo that. In this case, less is more. It’s a new way of thinking for me…at least when it comes to cooking.
I managed to cobble something together that was absolutely delicious and pretty close to the restaurant version! Exciting stuff, if you ask me. I bumped up the protein by adding some chicken breast, but you can definitely keep this vegetarian by omitting the chicken and swapping in vegetable stock for the chicken stock. Shrimp would also be a delicious swap. Heck, you could even throw in some noodles or rice. And even though it pains me to admit this, mushrooms would probably be a good addition, too. If you’re into that sort of thing…which I am wholeheartedly NOT.
Also, I feel that I must share that my husband does NOT like coconut…at all…and he loved this soup. So, if you’re in his camp (weirdos), still give this one a shot. The coconut milk definitely adds the flavor of coconut, but it’s subtle…and it works perfectly with the other more aggressive flavors like ginger and Thai chile. It’s more of CREAMY component than anything else. It ties everything together.
Think of this as a spiced up, more exotic chicken noodle soup….without the noodles. OK, so maybe that comparison doesn’t work at all…but it’s the same IDEA as chicken noodle soup. Cozy, comforting, healthy, easy to put together, and absolute perfection on a 5-degree day.
I could eat an entire pot of this right now…brrrr…only 70 more days until the first day of spring. With soups like this one, I think I’ll make it.
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup (makes 8 servings)
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or olive oil if you don’t love the coconut flavor)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 small Thai chiles, minced (be careful – they are extremely potent. I found that this was all the entire pot needed)
1 cup shredded carrots
¼ cup lemongrass, finely chopped**
3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken or veggie stock
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 2 limes
2 cups uncooked chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 (13-oz) cans unsweetened coconut milk (I recommend using the full-fat variety here)
1½ cups sugar snap peas (frozen are fine)
Salt, to taste
Ground white pepper, to taste (you can use black pepper instead – I just wanted to keep the broth “white”)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
1. Melt the coconut oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the sliced shallots, chiles, carrots, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic and cook for a few minutes until fragrant.
2. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add in the chicken, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice. Simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chicken is cooked through.
3. Add in the coconut milk and sugar snap peas and stir to combine. Simmer for another 5 minutes, and then season to taste with salt and white pepper. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.
**Note: I could not find fresh lemongrass at my local store this time of year (sometimes they have it), so I used a jar of minced lemongrass in water. It worked just fine! Look for it in the Asian/International section of your grocery store.