Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cooking Challenge Week 3 - Soup - Chiang Mai Noodle Soup

Some people probably go through life without ever making soup from scratch.

I am not one of them.

There are nine different soups in my freezer right now.  Not just nine freezer bags of soup--nine types of soup, most with two bags' worth, a few with three.  Despite only having to feed myself and my husband, I never make a batch of soup smaller than four servings, usually six, sometimes even eight or ten.  I love soup.  And I love how well most of them freeze!

(For the curious:  top row, left to right - chicken noodle, Dublin coddle, turkey mulligatawny, potato, pork and sweet potato stew.  bottom row, left to right - spicy bean soup with carnitas, white turkey chili, ground beef chili, and borscht.)

So when I saw that this week's challenge was soup, I nearly threw my hands up in despair.  I make soup every week!  What on earth could I do to make it special?

Answer: Reread every recipe in my trusty The Cook's Encyclopedia of Soup, and find an overlooked recipe that was bound to set my taste buds on fire.


And so I present Chiang Mai Noodle Soup.

Chiang Mai Noodle Soup
(adapted from The Cook's Encyclopedia of Soup; 4 servings)
  • 1 15-oz can coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cups cooked chicken meat, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • lime juice, to taste
  • 2 to 3 oz. rice sticks (a.k.a. cellophane or glass noodles)
Garnish options:
  • chopped scallions
  • sliced fresh red chilis
  • minced shallots
  • pickled mustard leaves, chopped
  • fried sliced garlic
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • fried noodle nests
Pour about one-third of the coconut milk into a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring often.  Add the curry paste and turmeric, stir to mix together, and cook until fragrant.  Add the chicken meat and cook about two minutes, stirring well to ensure all the chunks are well-coated with the paste.  Add the remaining coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, and soy sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the rice sticks in shallow heatproof dish and pour boiling water over to cover.  Leave to soak 10 minutes.

Next, prepare your chosen garnishes.  (I just went with scallions, not having thought to buy red chilis as well, and not having access most of the rest.)

Remove the soup from the heat and add the lime juice to taste.  Drain the rice sticks and divide between four bowls.  Ladle the soup over the noodles, add the garnishes, and eat!

Bring the little bit of coconut milk to a boil.
Dump in the turmeric and curry paste.  (It's obviously supposed to be Thai red curry paste for a Thai/Burmese dish, but I didn't have any--I used an Indian hot curry paste, it tasted fine.  Once you add the fish sauce, you can't mistake it for anything but southeast Asian!)
It smells pretty amazing at this point.
Toss in the chicken and let that cook for two minutes or so...
...then add the chicken stock, fish sauce, soy sauce, and the rest of the coconut milk.
These are the only non-pasta noodle my local grocery stocks, so that's what I used.  The recipe actually calls for one pound of fresh egg noodles, and the picture shows the kind of thick, round noodle I've seen in some Chinese dishes.  I like rice sticks, so I had no problem using them instead.  I used one of the three 'cakes' of noodles in the package, which seemed like plenty.
Pour boiling water over them.  This is another reason I love our electric kettle, it doesn't take up a burner!
Meanwhile, prep your garnishes.  I fancied up my scallions by chopping them at an angle--easy, but it looks pretty.
Like so.
Take the soup off the heat and add the lime juice.  Purists will insist on fresh-squeezed, but I prefer the value and convenience of bottled.  I honestly can't tell the difference!
 The rice sticks are ready to drain...
...and divide between the bowls.
Ladle on the soup...
..and throw on those garnishes!  Since I didn't chop up any fresh chilis, I added crushed red chili pepper as well, which is an easy way to customize the heat level.  Hot for me, extremely hot for my husband!

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