- Joined: 7/3/2004
- Location: San Francisco, CA
RE: coconut chicken soup
Thu, 12/1/05 4:09 AM
Personally, I doubt this could really be considered "Chinese" (one doesn't often encounter coconut in Chinese cooking for one thing). In places with small Asian populations, I have discovered most Asian restaurants call themselves "Chinese" or, at least, offer Chinese-American dishes, often along with dishes from whatever country the owners call "home". Since most southeast Asian countries including Thailand have large ethnic Chinese populations, this can actually be fairly legitimate. The owners of the place in question could easily be ethnic Chinese from Thailand. But, in any case, the soup was most likely a version of Tom Kha Gai. To quote another site:
Thailand has two really famous soups: tom yam (or tom yum) and tom kha gai (or tom kha kai). Both are complex and delicious, filled with exotic aromas and flavours. Such is the genius of Thai cuisine that although the two soups contain many of the same ingredients, their characters are completely distinct: tom yam takes on a fiery heat and slight sourness from the addition of tamarind chili sauce (nam prik phao), while tom kha gai is silky smooth because of the inclusion of sweet and mellow coconut milk.
Should you wish to try making it (if unobtainable locally, most of the essential ingredients such as galangal and lemongrass can be ordered on the internet), here's a recipe from the same site:
tom kha gai
12 ounces boneless chicken
1 14-ounce can straw mushrooms, drained (whole are best)
1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
2 cups water
4-6 fresh Thai chiles
1 stalk lemongrass
3-4 lime leaves
1 inch galangal root
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4-1 teaspoon chili oil (optional)
Slice chicken thinly and set aside. Chop the chiles finely (remove the seeds for less heat), cut the lemongrass into 1/2-inch lengths, tear the lime leaves into pieces, and cut the galangal into 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick slices; set all of these aside.
Combine coconut milk and water in a large pot. Warm over medium heat, stirring, but do not allow to boil. (A little bubbling is okay, but a rolling boil will kill the flavour.) Add the chiles, lemongrass, lime leaves, and galangal and cook for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the chicken and mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. (If you've sliced it thinly enough, it shouldn't take this long.) Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, and chili oil and cook for 1 minute. If desired, add chili paste to taste.
Serve immediately. Do not eat the lemongrass, lime leaves, or galangal, but they should be left in the soup even after serving to continue to add flavour.
Vegans may omit the chicken and substitute soy sauce for the fish sauce.
Lemongrass, Thai chiles, lime leaves, and galangal may be difficult to find if you don't have a half-decent Asian grocery nearby. If necessary, substitute 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for the lemongrass, 3-4 serrano chiles for the Thai chiles, 1 tablespoon of lime juice for the lime leaves, and 1 inch of ginger for the galangal.
If allergies or salt intake are a problem, replace the fish sauce with an equal amount of reduced-sodium soy sauce.
Incidentally, this is one of my favorite soups and, when I'm in San Francisco where there's a restaurant on practically every corner that serves it, I eat it several times a month.