thai coconut curry chicken noodle soup

9:12:00 PM

Oh, it’s been so long. Last time I posted, the world was a better place. A combination of post-election horror (that will remain for at least the next four years), the fact that this city gets dark at about 4:00 p.m., and lack of lighting equipment to take a halfway decent photo have led me astray here. I took dozens of pictures that looked like they were taken in a hospital cafeteria, and I just couldn’t post them here because the photos didn’t do the recipe justice. My lovely Bob got me a bit of lighting equipment for Christmas, and though I still have a lot of work to do learning how to actually use it, I was able to at least photograph this delicious soup last night and I’m so excited to share the recipe.

There aren’t many soups in the world I love. At a restaurant, given a soup or salad option, I’ll go with salad 95% of the time. But this one is so great. Maybe it’s because it’s almost like a soup-sauce hybrid. Or like a saucy noodle bowl. Especially the leftovers, where the noodles soak up a lot of the soup and just become little delicious heaven spirals. I think I have made this soup four times in the last three months, which has to be a record for me. I like trying new things, and even making a recipe more than once is a pretty big deal for me.

This soup is the way that soup should be, in my opinion - it’s a one-pot meal, but you don’t just throw everything into the pot raw and expect it to be delicious (my biggest objection to slow cooker meals.) You cook the components first, browning the meat and the vegetables, allowing flavors to develop and meld, then add the broth and noodles and simmer just until ready. It’s easy, it’s relatively fast, and it’s awesome. Also, this is  meal in itself. No need for sides. 

I know I’m rambling here, but a couple more notes: this is completely customizable. The broth is the star here, so mixing up your proteins and vegetables is A-OK. Make it vegan by omitting the fish sauce and chicken (sub with tofu, chickpeas, edamame, or omit protein altogether.) Use beef or pork instead of chicken. Throw in some kale or spinach or really any other vegetables you have hiding in your fridge. Use more curry paste if you like more spice. Whatever you do, you’re guaranteed very rich, creamy, warming soup that makes great leftovers and will cheer up the dreariest winter day.

Coconut milk is a must for this recipe. You can use “light” if you wish, but here’s a fun secret… basically, using half a can of the full-fat stuff mixed with half a can of water is the same thing. Compare the ingredients in the light stuff too - often if has added other junk in it. So it’s cheaper to buy a can of full-fat, shake it well, remove half of it for another use, and fill the rest of the can with water.

One more note about the noodles. I use chuka soba which cook in about 3-4 minutes, but any curly noodle will work. Look in the Asian aisle at your store. Ramen noodles work. Be mindful, though - this recipe has you cook them in the sauce. If your noodles are really thick/hearty (like if you opt to use some kind of whole wheat pasta, which is fine), it may be wiser to cook the noodles separately according to package directions and then add them at the end. This will ensure you don’t get any thick, undercooked noodles in your sauce. 

Thai Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Soup
makes 6 good-sized servings, 4 gigantic ones

for the chicken
1 tbsp coconut oil
1.5 lbs chicken breast or thighs
salt and pepper

for the vegetables
1 tbsp coconut oil
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced or grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes
1 green bell pepper, chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped into ½ inch pieces
8 oz mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (baby bella or button)
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½ inch cubes

for the soup
3-5 tbsp thai red curry paste (taste it, and adjust for spice preference - mine is pretty mild so I go closer to 5 tbsp)
1 can coconut milk 
3-4 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
4 tbsp soy sauce (reduced sodium okay)
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar, packed
½ cup peanut butter
8 oz chuka soba or other noodle (see note above)

to finish
1 lime, cut into wedges
chopped peanuts

First, cook the chicken. Slice it very thinly across the grain, then season with salt and pepper. Melt coconut oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high (as large a pot as you have - you’ll cook the whole soup in this) and, once hot, cook chicken until no longer pink on the outside (it’s okay if it’s slightly undercooked - it will finish cooking in soup.) Remove chicken from pot and set aside.

Add another tbsp of oil to the pan and, once hot, add the garlic and ginger. Stir for 30 seconds, then add the carrot, sweet potato, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Saute vegetables for about 10 minutes, until all are softened and mushrooms have released their water.

While the vegetables are cooking, work on the broth - whisk together the curry paste, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a large bowl. Once vegetables are cooked, add this whole concoction to the pot, along with the four cups of broth. Heat until simmering, then add the noodles into the pot. Check the package for cooking time, and test the noodles to check for doneness as they cook. Once they are done, add the chicken back to the pot and cook just until heated through and chicken is fully cooked. 

Ladle soup into bowls, and top with peanuts, green onions,  cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. 

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