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.
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?
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.
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. 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.