Monday, January 9, 2012
Thai and I
Gonna Make You Sweat by C+C Music Factory
I'm not a huge spicy food fan but I'd have to classify this soup as spicy. Good news - you can completely control the amount of spice! Having said that, though, I love the "warmth" that comes off of this soup. The Thai flavor profile is exciting, interesting, and very flavorful. It WILL make you excited enough to dance, even if it's a head-bob while sitting in your chair. The song choice today is to make that dance a fun one! Caution: if you take the leftovers to work (which I know you're gonna want to do) you might want to take some to share. You know, so you won't have to dance alone!
I had Thai food for the first time a few years ago. One of my friends wanted us to try a place in town so our little group went for lunch one day. Ummmm. Not a fan. I know it's not the best idea to use non-appetizing descriptors in a food blog, but, let's just say - there were odors more closely associated with a gym locker room than a restaurant and, well, I just couldn't get past them. They say you eat with your eyes first, meaning, that food that looks appealing has already won half the battle! On this occasion, though, my eyes kept getting interrupted by my nose, which was saying, "Hold on, Nellie! There's no way you're getting that past me!!" I didn't want to appear rude so I ignored my nose and ate - sparingly. My nose, it appears, was right. I left with the determination that Thai and I would never again meet!
Then, a few years later, another friend, of the same group, asked me to join her one day for a Thai lunch at another place in town. I confided how I wasn't sure I was up to it after my last experience. She assured me that this was authentic and very good. I trusted her. And I'm glad I did! It was lovely! I particularly loved the soups - and the pleasant aroma of the place in general! Ok! Thai and I were now better acquainted - although I have to admit some hesitancy still remained.
Shortly after that, while attending culinary school, I watched as one of my instructors demonstrated the prep for a Thai dish that was to be on that day's menu. I firmly proclaimed that I would not be tasting that particular dish. He gave me a glance out of the corner of his eye and inquired as to the reason for such resolution. I explained my trips down the Thai lane and we bantered back and forth about it, ending with my decision still rooted firmly in place. But, then, you know what he did? With his prep all done, he started the cooking part of his dish. He heated that sauté pan and started throwing in garlic and ginger, and chili paste, and the aromas that wafted down to my end of the station were heady and enticing. He made a bowl for himself and one for my teammate, Brian. The instructor left, but I watched Brian chow his down. And I was jealous. Because it looked wonderful, smelled divine, and I could tell it tasted good, too. I sheepishly went to the instructor and asked if he wouldn't mind preparing one for me after all. Of course, he had to give me a hard time first - and I thought he wasn't going to do it at all - but he eventually did. And I would say my eyes were opened to how lovely and satisfying Thai food could be.
This soup is another find in that Cooking Light magazine I was reading on my way home from a holiday trip. It was right up there on the excitement scale along with the rice pudding from last post. The first thing I wanted to do when I tasted it was share. And that's what I'm doing today. I modified it just a bit, cutting the amount of chili paste in half, to tailor it to my non-spicy taste but it ended up being plenty spicy even so. You can use that as your guide. Oh - and another tip - I would advise NOT standing directly over the pot when you add the sambal oelek (chile paste). Cough! Cough! Just sayin'!
Some of these ingredients might not be familiar to you but you'll be able to find the chile paste, fish sauce, and coconut milk in the Asian food section at your grocery store and the ginger and lemongrass in the produce department. I used a pre-roasted chicken from the deli as well! It made this dish a super quick fix! "Everybody dance now!"
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
adapted from Cooking Light
Printable Recipe Card
2 t. canola oil
1 c. sliced mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 inch peeled fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (3-5 inch) stalk lemongrass, halved lengthwise
1 t. sambal oelek (ground chile paste)
3 c. chicken stock
1 1/4 c. light coconut milk
4 t. fish sauce
1 T. sugar
2 c. shredded, cooked chicken breast
1/2 c. green onion strips (just take the green stem and pull small strips down, like string cheese)
3 T. fresh cilantro leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add oil and stir to coat. Add the mushrooms, bell pepper, fresh ginger, and lemongrass and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the chile paste (stand back!) and cook for another minute. Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add chicken and cook until heated through. Discard the lemongrass and ladle the soup into bowls. Top with the green onion strips, cilantro leaves, and a lime wedge. It is key that you don't forget to use the lime wedge! Give it a squeeze over the bowl and dig in!