The Cheap-Ass Gourmet – Thai Coconut & Lemongrass Soup
This is the second part of a three-part series of economic meals, all of which stem from a simple roast chicken. (We also looked at using leftovers from that same meal to make chicken and red mole enchiladas.) Each of these recipes is especially good for those on a budget that love tasty food but find the thought of cooking intimidating.
In today’s recipe, we’ll take the carcass from the roast chicken, as well as any leftover meat and vegetables, and use it to make a soup that combines some of the most pungent and delicious flavors associated with Thai food: coconut, lemongrass, peppers, fish sauce and basil.
First, a few quick notes on the soup:
- If baking is science, soup making is art. Which is to say that when you make a loaf of bread, for example, it’s important to follow the recipe very closely – otherwise the right chemical reactions won’t happen the way they’re supposed to and you might find yourself with a pan of gooey, burnt paste for your troubles. Soup is on the opposite end of that spectrum, so don’t be afraid to switch things up on a whim when making it. For example, I love basil so I might use far more of it than I’m asking you to use; you might like things more salty, and use a bit more fish sauce. If you like it, use it – If you don’t, don’t. It’s actually hard to screw up soup, especially since you can taste as you go and adjust on the fly.
- The recipe here calls for noodles, but you can easily substitute rice. Actually, you could choose to use neither – though if you do so you might want to include more vegetables or chicken meat in order to make it more of a one-pot meal.
- A little more about the noodles: It is tempting to just throw the noodles in the soup pot. Don’t, unless you plan on eating all of the soup that night. If you do so, the noodles (or the rice) will continue to absorb the broth and you will find that your next meal will be damp, soggy, mushy starch. Yuck.
- For this recipe I use Serrano peppers to add a touch of heat because you can get them in any supermarket. If you wish, however, you can use traditional Thai red peppers.
- While we’re on peppers: If you’re like me you live in a house where different people like different amounts of heat in their Thai food. The best work around for houses like mine is to make the soup mild, and have Sriracha sauce (known throughout the West as Rooster Sauce) on hand at the dinner table. A squirt will dissolve quickly into a cup or bowl of soup, and will increase the heat while keeping the overall taste authentic.
- Because we have already used so much of the chicken from your carcass for other dishes, I am having you cut the chicken broth with… well, chicken broth. Depending on your tastes and budget, you can choose to just use water in place of the added canned broth. The more watery version is actually more authentic to the taste of Thai street food, but the more chicken-y broth makes it taste more like what we Americans expect from our chicken soup. Either way is good in my book.
- If you don’t want to roast a chicken, you can always start with six cans of chicken broth. If you want chicken as well, just buy a boneless breast or two, cut into small pieces, sauté with the onions.
- If you don’t like Thai food, you can use your leftover chicken carcass to make chicken soup the Dr. Saunders’ way, which is most delicious.
Recipe after the jump.
1 Chicken carcass, along with any additional leftover meat – (No additional cost)
6 Cups Water, plus water to cook noddles
4 Lemongrass stalks ($2.00)
1 Tablespoon Staple Olive Oil ($0.02)
1st Optional Addition: “Hard” vegatbles, such as a couple of carrots or celery stalks ($0.50)
2 Onions, sliced thin ($0.75)
1-3 Serrano chilies, seeded and minced ($0.20)
2 Cups canned Chicken broth ($2.00)
3 Tablespoons Fish sauce ($0.05)
¼ Cup Coconut milk ($0.50)
1 Lemon – ($0.75)
2nd Optional Addition: “Soft” vegetables, such as zucchini, greens, leftover potatoes, tomatoes, etc. ($2.50)
Handful of Thai or Sweet Bail leaves, roughly chopped ($1.00)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Noodles, such as udon, spaghetti or whole wheat linguini ($0.75)
Total time from start to finish: Somewhere between an hour to an hour and a half.
Amount of time you’re actually doing stuff aside from drinking wine: About 20-25 minutes total.
Cost per Each Servning: – $1.80 – $2.90, depending upon what optional ingredients you do or don’t use
- Put chicken carcass in the water, and bring to a slow boil. (If you have leftover meat, do not put in.) Simmer for about ½ hour, until the liquid is reduced by approx. 25% – about 4 cups total. Using a colander or slotted spoon, remove all bits of chicken carcass from the both. Set broth aside.
- Cut about an inch off of the root end of the lemongrass, and the reedy part of the grass end. Peel away the tough outer layer. Depending upon how long the lemongrass was, you should now have a piece about 6-9 inches long; cut this piece in half. Using the flat end of a large knife, pound the stalk a few times, so that you just begin to crush or flatten it. Do this with all four pieces.
- Heat the pot over medium heat on the stove. Add the oil and coat the bottom of the pan, then throw in the lemongrass. Stir the stalks in the oil for 2-3 minutes.
- (About this time in the process, heat some water in a sauce pan and – as you are making the soup – cook the noodles, drain, and then set aside.)
- Add onions, chilies, and “hard” vegetables (if using) to the lemongrass in the soup pot; continue to stir for another 1-2 minutes.
- Add water from the carcass, as well as the two cans of broth and the fish sauce. Simmer uncovered until the broth is reduced by about 15-20%, about 5-10 minutes.
- Add the coconut milk and the juice from the lemon, any leftover chicken meat, and any of the soft vegetables. Let sit on lowest heat for a few minutes.
- Stir in basil.
- In a bowl, place a small serving of noodles, and then ladle in soup. Serve.