Total approximate time from start to finish: 35-40 minutes
FALL IS HERE! The leaves are changing colors, temperatures are a little cooler (on some days at least) and it’s finally time for soup! I could honestly eat soup every day of the year but my family prefers that I limit the soup dinners to when it is 72 degrees or less. Not to say that I don’t sneak a pot of vegetable soup in during the summer… But I do get excited when fall arrives because there are so many wonderful recipes out there for soup. Just about every culture eats some kind of soup or stew. I am so excited to share several of my favorite recipes over the next few months.
This particular recipe is probably my husband’s absolute favorite dinner (and he’s not a huge fan of soup!). They actually had soup day at his office last year. Different folks brought various kinds of soup and raised money for Relay for Life and I made this one for him to take. Most people were a little reserved at first because let’s face it; most of the white soups you find in the south are made of chili (white chicken chili anyone?). However, I am told it was devoured in less than 20 minutes. It is really delicious and has all of the right flavor combinations. It is wonderful right after you make it and even for leftovers the next day. I think I mentioned in a previous post just how much we love Thai food. If you are familiar with the coconut soup found in a Thai restaurant, this recipe builds on that amazing soup. It is heartier with the addition of rice and chicken. You can make it hours in advance or even the night before if you want a warm and hearty dinner ready to eat the next night. If you make it in advance, it helps to keep some chicken broth on hand to thin it out a little as you warm it up. It thickens as it cools but the chicken broth works beautifully to thin it out and retain every bit of the yummy flavor.
Here is what you will need:
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into small chunks
3 tablespoons of Asian Fish sauce (you can find this at Winn Dixie or Kroger)
1 ½ tablespoons of fresh lime juice plus extra lime wedges for serving
4 ¾ cups of low sodium chicken broth
3 strips of lemon zest/peel (3 inches long, about ½ inch wide)
1 piece of peeled, fresh ginger (about 2 inches long), cut into about 4-6 chunks
1 cup of jasmine or basmati rice (uncooked)
1 15 oz can of unsweetened coconut milk (on the Asian food aisle)
2 jalapeño peppers, diced into fine pieces (leave the seeds and ribs if you want extra heat, remove them for less spice)
3 tablespoons of chopped cilantro (and a little extra for garnish)
A few sprinkles of dried red pepper flakes for garnish
In a medium glass dish, add the chicken, fish sauce and lime juice. Make sure it is thoroughly coated then put it aside while you prepare the base of the soup.
In a large stew pot, add the broth, lemon zest strips and ginger. Bring it to a boil then reduce it down to medium and let it simmer. Add the rice and let it simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes or until your rice is done.
Add the coconut milk next and make sure you shake the can very well before you open it. The contents will sometimes separate over time and it is harder to get out of the can and is a little harder to blend into the soup. After you add the coconut milk, bring it back up to a simmer (medium to medium high depending on your stove). Stir in the chicken/fish sauce/lime juice mixture and cook it for about 5 minutes or until the chicken is done. The first time I made this recipe I was paranoid that 5 minutes wasn’t long enough to cook the chicken. But the soup is hot enough that it cooks the chicken very quickly and very thoroughly. If the soup is too thick for your liking, just add chicken broth until it reaches the desired consistency. Stir in the jalapeños and cilantro and it is ready to serve. I like to sprinkle a little extra cilantro on top as well as some dried red pepper flakes - it adds to the flavor and it makes a nice presentation.
Note – if you are making it in advance, save the cilantro and add it right before you serve the soup otherwise it loses it’s pretty green color. You can do the same with the jalapeños if you like your soup a little less spicy. Making it in advance with the jalapeños included increases the spice because the flavors have time to really meld together.
When serving this to company, I usually fish out the lemon strips and the ginger chunks right before serving. I don’t mind the sudden burst of ginger or lemon but it can be a little surprising if it’s your first time eating the dish. I just love serving this soup with some crusty bread and maybe a salad. However, if you don’t have time for the extras – it is a meal in and of itself. Also, make sure you serve it with lime wedges – I know its a little extra trouble but it is well worth it. The lime juice adds the final touch which sends the flavors bursting forward in this delicious and fairly simple soup.
A Note about the ingredients: Asian Fish Sauce and canned coconut milk can be found on the Asian food aisle at Winn Dixie, Kroger or Food World. When you are extracting the lime juice, you don’t need a fancy juicer, just a fork. Cut it in half right down the middle where the stem end is to your left or right. Stick the fork in the middle and turn it with one hand while squeezing the lime half with the other hand. It works every time and saves on clean up. On the lemon peel – it may seem like a pain but don’t skip this step – the lemon adds an essential flavor to the broth. It is very simple, just use a very sharp knife and starting at the stem end, peel down the side of the lemon being careful to get only lemon peel if possible (you want there to be very little white on the other side of your strip). If yours doesn’t stay in one solid strip, do not fret - the soup will still be delicious. If you plan to take out the lemon strips and ginger before you serve it, just make a note of how many strips you put in. For the ginger – you can find it in the produce section of your local grocery store. I usually break off about what I need and only purchase that amount. Otherwise I end up with a huge chunk of ginger in my fridge that will probably go to waste. Ginger has a nice thin skin and it should peel off nicely with a sharp knife. It is a bit fibrous when you cut it but that will dissolve as it cooks in the broth.