Thai Chicken Soup

I was thinking last weekend how amazing it was that I hadn't gotten a cold since moving back to Wisconsin - and what do you know - I woke up Tuesday morning with a horrible sore throat. I should have known better!

I was very happy to still have a large Tupperware full of frozen home-made chicken broth I had made from the brined chicken we had back in January. It was a big frozen block, so Tuesday and Wednesday night I took an ice pick to it and chipped off enough "broth chips" to fill a soup bowl. I simply heated it up with some sliced mushrooms, salt, and herbs. Very basic, but exactly what the doctor ordered. I'm a serious believer in the restorative powers of broth - it's chock full of vital minerals, plus the steam is good for the sinuses, the soup itself is warming, and it's a good way to get more liquids in your diet - plus it brings me back to being a kid and being sick and having my mom serve me chicken soup.....

On Thursday I decided to get a little more fancy, and made Thai chicken soup with the remainder of the broth.

Here are the vegetables I started off with - local Carrots, onions, and a lonely shallot I found at the bottom of my storage basket, plus some very non-local galangal root (aka Thai Ginger.) This is beautiful galangal - I purchased it at Yu Wah, the oriental food market down the street from my house. It seemed fresher than any of the galangal I've seen. galangal is similar to regular ginger (it's a very close relative,) but it's more fibrous, and has a bit of a menthol-y flavor compared to ginger. It's essential to Thai cooking. I should also have gotten lemongrass at Yu Wah, but I completely spaced it. They didn't have any kaffir lime leaves, which are another essential ingredient - the lady at the counter told me there just isn't enough supply to meet the demand. So I got my galangal and counted myself lucky - I do live in Wisconsin after all, it's a little absurd to think I can have all the flavors of Thailand at my fingertips!

One more note about this soup - like the pizza I made a while ago, this is definitely not an attempt at a traditional recipe. I made it to taste good, not to attempt any traditional Thai cookery.

It took awhile just to thaw out the broth - it was a pretty solid frozen block. Here it is when it was finally liquid. Mmmmmm..... there is nothing like the smell and taste of chicken broth when you're under the weather.

I chopped up the galangal as best I could (it's really hard, and I wasn't feeling too ambitious, so I ended up with some pretty weirdly shaped chunks.) and added it to the simmering broth along with some rice. I used the brown basmati rice we had in the pantry - again, not a traditional Thai ingredient, but it worked.

I got these two local chicken legs at the Regent Market Co-op in Madison. I like leg meat - it's inexpensive and I think it tastes better than breast meat. I didn't really want to deal with cutting up raw chicken, so I put it in a baking dish and baked it.

After the rice had been cooking for about 20 minutes I added the onions, shallot, and carrots.

When the chicken was cooked (about 25 minutes,) I let it cool a little bit, took it off the bone, and added it to the soup.

It all simmered for another 20 minutes or so, until the carrots were tender and the rice completely cooked. Finally, I added two cans of coconut milk (full fat - I'm not into the light stuff) and seasoned it with cayenne, a whole lot of lime juice, fish sauce (another vital Thai ingredient), and salt. You really have to be carefull with coconut milk - if it boils it curdles and gets really weird. That's why I added it at the end.

And here it is! This is a really easy soup - just the thing for a sickie like myself who didn't really have the energy to cook anything elaborate, but still wanted something delicious and a little sophisticated.

Thai Chicken Soup
2 Quarts chicken broth
1 Piece galangal root (about 6 inches long)
4-5 Kaffir lime leaves (if you can find them)
2 Stalks Lemongrass
2 Cups rice
3 Carrots
2 Onions
2 Whole chicken legs
2 Cans full fat coconut milk
1/4-1/2 Cup lime juice
1/4 Cup fish sauce

Heat broth in a large soup pot. Slice galangal into pieces and add to broth, along with rice. Cover and let simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, bake chicken in a 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes. Slice carrots and onions, add them to the broth and continue cooking. When chicken is done, let it cool enough so you can comfortably handle it, take the meat off the bone, and add it to the soup. When the carrots, onions, and rice are fully cooked, turn the heat off or to very low and add the coconut milk. Season to taste with lime juice, fish sauce, cayenne, and salt. This should be a very limy, spicy soup, so don't skimp of the seasonings!

One other warning - the galangal is pretty much just for flavoring, and is to fibrous to eat.

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