Aromatic Chicken and Coconut Soup

No mistaking the Thai heritage here: coconut is a marker of true Thai cuisine. Such a soup has a richness one associates with cream, but here it is the effect of the coconut milk, whose opulence and aroma add so much to the dish that it is almost a meal in itself.

The authentic version of this soup requires chicken thighs. The recipe is often modified for Western palates by using chicken breasts, but I have found that chicken thighs, with their more robust flavour and texture, give the soup a depth and substance that is much more in keeping with the Thai tradition. It is better that way.

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass
  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) homemade chicken stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 400 ml (14 fl oz) tinned coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh galangal root or ginger
  • 6 kaffir fresh lime leaves or 2 tablespoons lime zest
  • 225 g (8 oz) boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 450 g (1 lb) unboned chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons finely sliced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce or light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Garnish

  • 2 teaspoons chilli oil
  • handful fresh coriander leaves

Method

Peel the lemongrass to the tender whitish centre and crush with the flat of a knife. Then cut into 7.5 cm (3 in) pieces. In a large pot, combine the lemongrass, stock, coconut milk, galangal and lime leaves. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour 20 minutes. Strain and discard the lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves.

If you are using unboned thighs, remove the skin and bones or have your butcher do it for you. Cut the chicken into 2.5 cm (1 in) chunks. Add the chicken to the soup together with the shallots, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and simmer for 8 minutes. Turn the soup into a large tureen, garnish with chilli oil and coriander leaves and serve at once.

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