Spicy Chicken Soup

This aromatic and assertively seasoned soup is one of my favourite Thai dishes. A bit unusual in that it contains no coconut milk, it is nevertheless very much a Thai dish: spicy, zesty, and altogether satisfying.

I prefer to use chicken thigh meat: it is more flavourful than other chicken meat and imparts a heartiness that almost makes this soup a meal in itself.


  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass
  • 1.5 litres (2.5 pints) homemade chicken stock or store-bought fresh stock
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh galangal root or ginger
  • 6 fresh kaffir lime leaves, shredded, 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
  • 2 small fresh red or green Thai chillies, seeded and finely chopped
  • handful fresh coriander leaves


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

If you are using unboned thighs, remove the skin and bones from the chicken thighs 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 25 minutes. Stir in the chillies and coriander, turn the soup into a large tureen and serve at once.