Thursday, February 8, 2007

Spicy Chicken Thai Soup – Exploring the boundaries between culinary pleasure and pain


I almost called this “Cream of Endorphin-releasing” soup, but it didn’t quite have the same ring to it. Endorphins are those mysterious pain-relieving, pleasure-giving chemicals released by your brain when the body comes under some type of trauma. While intended as a support mechanism when the body is seriously injured, two groups of people have figured out how to intentionally induce the release of these precious substances; athletes and spicy-food aficionados (actually there is a third group that we really can’t discuss here). The “natural high” that you hear athletes talk about is a result of these endorphins. Today’s clip is in honor of the second group.

Most fans of spicy foods know exactly what I’m talking about, that post-meal euphoria that makes it worth every tear and bead of sweat. If you’ve never experienced these feelings, today’s recipe is a great one for you to try. By controlling the amount of red curry paste you add, you can tailor this to your own threshold of pain. I used 2 full teaspoons of this explosive paste. But, you can start slow, and add a bit more each time you make it until you reach that perfect, beautiful, burning bliss.

The only exotic ingredient would be the fresh lemongrass. I’ve found most large grocery stores do carry it, but if not, you can substitute a few tablespoons of lemon zest, or even some lemon verbena.

IIngredients:
2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 10)
12 oz white mushrooms
1 red onion
3 tbl fish sauce
1/2 bunch cilantro
2 limes
2 14-oz cans coconut milk
2 tsp red curry paste (you’ve been warned)
4 clove garlic
4 inch piece ginger
3 stalks lemongrass (or lemon zest)
1 tbl vegetable oil

1 quart chicken stock

note: traditionally this soup is served with a side plate of sliced jalapenos, cilantro leaves, and lime wedges

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I am gonna try it!

Anonymous said...

what are the ingridients of this food?

Chef John said...

oops,i forgot them! I just put them in. thanks.

해영 said...

chef john! do you have any planning to demonstrate lobster bisque making in near future? thanx

Chef John said...

I love to!! The budget is a little low for lobster now. So, hit the donation button and get the ball rolling...

Zach said...

Chef, my parents do not like spicy food, but like thai soup (I know it's odd). If I leave out the curry paste, will it taste similiar and be not so spicy, or is it not worth trying?

Chef John said...

you can try, but the red curry paste is a major component and I've never seen a mild version. You could leave out and add some puree red bell peppers.

Thomas said...

Chef John, please let of have more fantastic demos on Thai food.

For example, I would love to see your version of a red curry.

Chef John said...

check the sidebar, ive done red curry beef.

Thomas said...

John, yeah I know about the red curry beef. I will try that one soon.

Still, I would like to see more demos of thai food :)


By the way, I think you forgot to put the coconut milk on the ingredients list.

Anonymous said...

u forgot the coconut milk on the list mate :)

Chef John said...

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Chef. I've made this soup 6-8 times and the most consistent thing about it is that each time I make it it seems to be less spicy. What's with that? The most recent time I prepared it for friends in a different city 500 miles away from home. The verdict: where did the heat go?" It seemed to be there, albeit far less than expected, until we added the coconut milk. After that it took whole teaspoonfuls to spice-up a single serving. Does this stuff lose its potency on the shelf or in the fridge? Is the spicyness of the chilis (in the paste) unstable?

Chef John said...

yes, it can lose heat. get a fresh jar!

Anonymous said...

anonymous of Sept 27, again ... I've had three 'fresh' jars of the stuff -- the same brand as you used ... and they're all very flat compared with the first version I made (back when the this recipe debuted on this blog). I even checked the expiration date ... it was 2012 (oh, wait, was that my bank card?) and am beginning to suspect there is a problem somewhere in the manufacture or distribution of this product.

Anonymous said...

I bought fish oil instead of fish sauce. Will that work? thanks

Anonymous said...

Nevermind Chef John

It turns out I did buy fish sauce

Would you ever consider coming out a cookbook?

Chef John said...

NO!!!!! Not even close to the same thing. So not use fish oil.

Chef John said...

yes I will someday.

Atif said...

Made it! It was great. Thanks Chef John.

Leukoplasthea said...

Wow, this is great - today I started reading your blog from the very beginning in order not to miss a recipe I might want to try. And voilà!! This is it. I have almost all the ingredients for the soup at home, so tomorrow's dinner is fixed!!!

Thanks a lot, Chef John ;D

Greetings from Germany!
Susanne

imanoodle said...

Isn't this called Tom Kha Kai?!
i think you should re-do and re-post this!

Pat J in NC said...

I loved the cauliflower soup, but I must admit, this is even better. I started out with three teaspoons of red curry paste. I am in soup nirvana.

boilwater said...

The first time I made this was without the fish sauce. The second time I made it, I opened my first bottle of fish sauce and - as my mother used to say,"that stuff could gag a maggot!" But dutifully I added it. I really don't care for the "added aroma". What else am I missing if I leave it out? Should I just cut the amount in half? It really manages to permeate things...

Chef John said...

yes! put less! everything in cooking is "to taste"

Anonymous said...

how much lemon zest should I use to substitute for the 3 stalks of
lemongrass?

Anonymous said...

Chef John, DELICIOUS! I made tonight & used shrimp instead of chicken...thank you:)

Anonymous said...

Omg! So good. Since the beginning of the year I have been trying to eat healthier and at home. Missed my Thia soup, now I can Have it and be sure of the fat and sodium. Thank you so much. I agree chicken thighs so much better. And straining, what a difference can enjoy the soup rather than play find the bits.

Anonymous said...

YUM! got this link from allrecipes. I just made this soup and it smells great! I am having the same result with my (new) red crurry paste ~ really mild. So I added a teaspoon of cayanne pepper and that did the trick!

Gretchen said...

This was soooo good on this blustery pre-Mardi Gras eve day! Added some fresh thai basil, was kinda stingy with it since it's expensive at Whole Foods, can't find it elsewhere. So, Chef J, is there any type of noodles you might recommend with this instead of rice??

Gretchen said...

Also wanted to say, if you do manage to find fresh lemongrass, try to get a piece with even the tiniest bit of root at the end. I did that about 3 yrs. ago and planted it and now have fresh lemongrass all the time. It's super simple to grow, and stands up to any weather, blazing hot to freezing, just likes a lot of water. It can actually be invasive, i.e., grow all over the place unchecked, so try growing it in a large planting pot.

sephers said...

I'm going to try making this tonight. It sounds AMAZING! I love anything with ginger and coconut milk and anything spicy. Looking forward to it!! I hope I can find Lemon Grass though!! Will post after I make it :)

sephers said...

And as i said, I would come back after I make it. OH MY GAW!!! Amazing! I had something similar at a thai place last week but this recipe blows it out of the water. It's so good and SO SIMPLE. I couldn't find Lemongrass but I used the zest of a large lemon and that worked perfectly! Love It!!

Jeff said...

Apparently, there is more than one type of curry paste. I like extreme heat in my foods. Perhaps it is just my individual taste. I've eaten Thai food here in Southeast Asia, and it has been explosively hot. I loved it. However, the red curry paste I purchased, manufactured in Thailand, was disappointing. I even tripled the amount the second time I made the dish ~still disappointed. Is there a brand name for the paste you are using? I tried a brand called "Suree". Too bad the Thai restaurant I used to frequent here closed down. I could ask them about it.

Anonymous said...

For a more hot spicy flavor . . . add diced raw asian/thai peppers (Remove seeds for less burning hotness. Handle with care or wear gloves. Usually found at Asian Markets.)or try a combination of crushed to a powder dried asian red peppers (Find dried red peppers at Asian Market and then crush in a mortar and pestle for freshness and hotness. Be careful when crushing half cover mortar w/ one hand while crushing w/ pestle in other hand. Add a little salt if needed to prevent peppers flying to your eyes.). These peppers are often used in Thai/Laotian dishes and are the staple point in hotness in such dishes as papaya salad, a highly popular asian dish.