Thai-Style Coconut Curry Chicken Soup
This version of a Thai classic uses light coconut milk and ingredients that you can find at most local markets but the flavor is just as bold, comforting and authentic as the original.
My husband and I spent the week between Christmas and New Year in Sun Valley, Idaho. While it was a grand time spent with good friends we both returned home with a bad cold so all my plans for greeting 2019 with an exercise plan went out the door.
We spent New Year’s Day camped in front of the fireplace, loopy from cold meds, sniffling, sneezing, spent. It would be a few days before the luggage would be unpacked and put away. The bustle of the holidays had finally caught up with us and sit around we did…for a few days, at least.
Thankfully, staying warm and nourished wasn’t an issue. This Thai-Style Coconut Curry Chicken Soup has been on repeat since early December. I’ve prepared it at least a half dozen times since, twice this week to help us get over this cold.
What I love about this soup is that it doesn’t pretend to be authentic Thai (the classic soup is tom kha gai). Yes, its foundation is a Thai red curry paste, fish sauce and coconut milk but the rest of the ingredients are what you and I always carry in our pantry.
There’s no lemongrass or galangal here but a lemon or lime provides comparable brightness. I don’t keep Thai rice noodles in stock in my pantry so the whole grain angel hair pasta I always have is a decent substitute. In absence of Thai bird chilis I use sambal oelek (or a mediterranean red chili paste) for heat and a second layer of flavor. I use a light coconut milk to reduce the fat content and I can’t tell the difference. And yes, I added cabbage and kale to up the green factor–you don’t have to but I recommend it. I’ve made this with and without ginger and even prefer it without.
All of the Asian ingredients are readily available in most American markets and I’m happy to say that there’s no compromise on taste. The hot-sour-creamy components are all here–something I especially appreciated this week since my taste buds took the week off when this cold came along.
Cooking hasn’t been a priority this week so this recipe has been a godsend for how easy it is to throw together–some days I ate it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It has been our go-to soup for warmth and comfort all winter long and I can attest that it will carry you through a cold or two, too.
Thai-Style Coconut Curry Chicken Soup
- 3-4 tablespoons Thai Red Curry Paste (See Note)
- 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, sliced in bite size pieces
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons chili paste or sambal oelek (optional; See Note)
- 6-8 cups low-sodium chicken stock (see note)
- 3 ounces Thai noodles or angel hair pasta
- Juice of one lemon or lime
- 1/4 -1/3 wedge small cabbage
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
- 1-2 cups sliced kale (optional)
- 1/2 15-oz can light coconut milk
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- more lime/lemon wedges and cilantro for serving
- 2 tablespoons olive, canola or vegetable oil
Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the chicken pieces and 3 tablespoons red curry paste and chili paste (if using) and cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and/or the chicken has cooked on the outside.
Add the fish sauce, six cups of chicken stock and pasta or noodles and bring to a boil. Keep the liquid at a hard simmer or low boil until the pasta has cooked. This could take 5-10 minutes depending on the pasta/noodles you use.
Add the lemon or lime juice, cilantro, all the vegetables and coconut milk and simmer for a few minutes until the vegetables are done. Taste and adjust to your liking by adding the last tablespoon or curry paste, more fish sauce, citrus and/or stock. If you’re not using any chili paste or if you add the rest of the stock you may need to add more curry paste and fish sauce to bump up the flavor.
Ladle into bowls, garnish with lemon/lime wedges and cilantro and serve.
- This recipe is very flexible and easy to adjust to your taste. Add or omit the vegetables according to your preferences.
- Thai Red Curry Paste: I use the Thai Kitchen brand that is available in most grocery stores. Start with the lower amount listed and add more if using the greater amount of broth or omitting the chili paste.
- Chili Paste: I use a spicy Mediterranean red chili paste that lends a lot of flavor to this soup. If you omit this, you will need to compensate for lost flavor with additional fish sauce or more curry paste. Sambal Oelek is a good substitute (also widely available in markets). Vinegar-based or sweet hot sauces like Tabasco or Sriracha would not be a good substitute.
- Chicken Stock: Low-Sodium would be preferred here to keep the sodium content down. Chicken stocks all taste differently. I recommend using a combination of Swanson’s Low-Sodium Chicken Stock and Imagine Organic Low-Sodium Free Range Chicken broth. They have the best flavor. I use half and half of each in this recipe because together they provide the best flavor and lower-sodium combination.
- This soup is reheats well and tastes better the next day. Just add more broth and adjusts seasonings accordingly.