Hey coconut!!! That was my son’s favorite greeting when he was about 3 years old. We still tease him about it and he is 19! I, for one, love coconut anything, this is why this soup is one of my favorites. There is a little Thai restaurant in my town that makes this soup. I seriously think mine comes pretty close.
The centerpiece of Thai cuisine
Coconut is found in most Thai dishes, in some way shape or form. This is not surprising given that Thailand is a tropical country. Coconuts go back a long, long way. In ancient times in India, coconuts were one of the three food items that were considered sacred because the entire fruit could be used, even the fuzzy exterior which was used to weave a rough fabric called coir. It was also used to make rope. Coir is still used today to make outdoor mats. Yes your welcome mat is made of coir. How about that?
A balance of flavors
Thai coconut chicken soup makes use of a variety of ingredients that are typical in Thai cuisine such as lemongrass, fish sauce (yes, fish sauce) and lime. My daughter who travels to Thailand often tells me that Thai food is about establishing a balance with all the flavors, different from our western culinary concept of accentuating a specific flavor. The Asian food section of my grocery store just started carrying preserved lemongrass in a jar. This is really exciting because before, I had to go to the Asian market or sometimes out of town. Lemongrass is a perennial and you only need a small amount because the flavor is strong. Lemongrass is also used in soaps, perfumes, and lotions.
Fish sauce (nam pla) is another ingredient in Thai coconut chicken soup. Fish sauce? Yes, fish sauce. Not as weird as it sounds. It really adds a lot to the soup and no, your soup will not taste fishy. History flashback!!! Fish sauce is a close relative to garum, a fish paste of sorts that was all the rage during the Roman Empire. In fact the markets of the time did a brisk garum business.
Here are the steps to make a great Thai coconut chicken soup. We will start with the chicken.
Step 1: Gather all your ingredients and have them ready: mushrooms, coconut milk, salt, fish sauce, Thai red curry paste, chicken, chopped lemongrass, minced ginger, cilantro and chicken broth.
Step 2: Have your chicken breasts split width wise for fast cooking and easy shredding later. Add the chopped lemongrass.
Step 3: Add the minced ginger.
Step 4: Add the Thai red curry paste.
Step 5: Evenly cover the chicken with the added ingredients.
Step 6: Flip the chicken pieces over and when almost done add 1/3 cup water and simmer for 5 minutes. Set the chicken aside on a plate and save all the liquid to add to the soup later.
Now we will construct the soup in a soup pot and this is so easy!
Step 1: Add the coconut milk and chicken broth. Leave on medium heat.
Step 2: Add the salt.
Step 3: Add the cilantro.
Step 4: Add the mushrooms.
Step 5: Add the fish sauce and simmer for 20 minutes on medium.
Step 6: When the chicken has cooled, shred it into small pieces with 2 forks.
Step 7: Add the shredded chicken to the soup pot and also the reserved liquid from cooking the chicken.
Step 8: Simmer for a few minutes and serve. Enjoy!
Thai coconut chicken soup is hearty enough that it can be eaten as a main meal.
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
Here is an authentic Thai coconut chicken soup with a typical balance of flavors found in many dishes of Southeast Asia. My daughter who travels to Thailand often tells me that Thai food is about establishing a balance with all the flavors. A balanced combination of salty, sweet, sour, bitter and some heat. This has lemon grass, ginger, and curry paste to bring on some of those flavors.
In a non stick skillet place uncooked chicken, lemon grass, ginger, and curry paste. Cook on low until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add 1/3 cup water when the chicken is almost done. Simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. Reserve the liquid from the cooking.
In a soup pot place coconut milk, chicken broth, salt, cilantro, mushrooms, and fish sauce. Heat on medium for about 20 minutes. Add liquid in which chicken was cooked.
Shred chicken and add to soup.
Serve with a lime wedge if desired.