Like half the country, apparently, I’ve been felled by a particularly filthy cold. Chicken soup is a traditional remedy and this spicy, Thai-style broth is warming, healthy and deeply comforting.
The Thai flavourings of chilli, garlic, lemongrass and ginger (or galangal if you have it) seem particularly well-suited to helping fight off a cold virus and perhaps more to the point, you can actually taste them when it feels like someone’s poured quick-setting cement in your sinuses.
I’ve tried to make it as speedy as possible for those obliged to self-medicate – the only faff lies in chopping the aromatics and veg. Don’t skimp on the flavourings or you’ll end up with a wishy-washy English version … unless that’s what you want.
- Like all the best soups it is better for being made with a good quality stock. If you’re too groggy or busy to make your own, there are some decent ones ready-made in supermarkets, who will deliver to the door of the afflicted. If you only have stock cubes, mix part chicken and part ham, a tip from my new friend, Singaporean chef Lilian Hiw.
- I’ve used pre-cooked chicken for speed. You can substitute raw chicken thighs, skinned, and simmered with the stock veg. They’ll cook in the time it takes to infuse the broth. Remove them from the stock and finely slice the meat, discarding the bones.
- If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you obviously won’t be eating chicken soup, but you can make this with miso as a stock base and continue with all the veggies and aromatics below. Some cubes of tofu wouldn’t go amiss either.
- I’ve used readily available ingredients. By all means go for broke with enoki mushrooms, galangal and a garnish of Thai basil if you can source them. If you want to use shitaki mushrooms, put the tough stalks in the stock and save the caps to slice for the soup.
Thai-style Chicken Broth
1 1/2 litres chicken stock
About 90g-150g cooked chicken, neatly sliced (use the larger quantity if cooking for 4)
4 spring onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 large thumb of ginger, peeled
2 stalks of lemongrass
2 red Thai chillies (or more, to taste), sliced into thin rings
2 pak choi, the stems separated from the leafy part
50g French beans
A handful of beansprouts
2 chestnut mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 or 2 bundles of thin noodles of your choice (use the larger quantity if cooking for 4)
1/2 tspn toasted sesame oil
1 lime, quartered.
Peel the hard outer leaves from the lemon grass, set aside the inner part for later but put the trimmings in a saucepan. Take half the spring onions and chop roughly. Slit one of the chillies with a sharp knife. Bruise two of the garlic cloves with the flat of your knife. Thinly slice about a third of the ginger into rounds.
Place in the saucepan with the lemongrass trimmings and add the stock and a handful of fresh coriander. Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes. Taste – it should be deeply aromatic. Strain, discarding the vegetables, and put the stock back in the cleaned pan.
Keeping everything in separate piles, thinly slice the remaining chilli, mushrooms and spring onions, peel and thinly slice the remaining garlic cloves, finely chop the lemongrass hearts and cut the remaining ginger into fine matchsticks.
Trim the French beans and cut in half. Trim the pak choi, slice off the leafy parts and keep separate to the stems.
Cook the noodles in water according to the packet instructions, drain and rinse under cold water to arrest cooking. Toss with a tiny scrap of toasted sesame oil to prevent them sticking. Set aside.
Bring the stock back up to a simmer on the stove and add the French beans and pak choi stems, and the lemongrass, ginger and chilli.
Cook for three or four minutes, then add the chicken, mushrooms, beansprouts and the pak choi leaves. Simmer for a couple of minutes until the chicken is re-heated and the vegetables tender-crisp. Finally, throw in the remaining spring onion.
Check the seasoning and if the flavours need balancing, add soy sauce, a little more sesame oil and/or a spritz of lime juice, to taste.
Divide the noodles between the requisite number of warmed bowls and pour the hot soup over. Scatter with fresh coriander and serve, with extra chopped chilli and lime wedges on the side. The dried hydrangeas, I need hardly say, are decorative only and in retrospect a rather odd choice. My bad.