F left town, and I immediately came down with a cold. I feel certain it’s my body’s reaction to being back in an office all day. Suddenly I remember what it feels like to be indoors in a small space with so many people for 9 hours a day. Someone at the end of the hall gets a cold and within days we’re a sniffling, sneezing bunch. Fortunately it’s almost the weekend, and I am perfectly content to sip on soup and tea and tuck myself into bed at an absurdly early hour until this thing runs its course.
Considering my cold and the general grumpiness it was instilling, I decided to splurge and take myself over to Au Bon Pain (they appear to be quietly taking over the world) for lunch. I got myself a cup of vegetable soup, thinking the best thing I could do was track down a comforting American-style cure.
Unfortunately for all my anticipation of soothing broth and hearty vegetable satisfaction, I was utterly disappointed. The soup was flavorless – the vegetables soggy, the broth oily. I couldn’t even touch the stuff. Yuck. I felt guilty as I surreptitiously tossed that lunch “splurge” straight into the garbage (and gave some money to a man begging on the corner…Thailand is not the place to mess with your karma by wasting food).
Fortunately, all was not lost. For a quarter of the cost of my ill-fated vegetable soup, I bought a cup of Tom Yam Gung from a place near my office. I had only to smell the fragrant, spicy, lemongrass-laden liquid as it was poured into (what else?) a plastic bag, to wonder why I ever considered ABP. And the best part? It truly made me feel better. The warmth soothed my throat and the spice worked wonders for my stuffiness. The rich, herby broth was comforting, but at the same time perked me up just enough to make it through the afternoon.
I know that spicy soups are not for everyone when they’re feeling crummy, but I’m always surprised at how good they make me feel when I’m battling a cold. By the end of the day today, I was ready to pack myself up and head for the couch, but not until I bought a few supplies to make another soup for dinner.
And prepped it in the dark as a storm rolled in and the power went out. (It came back on by the time I was ready to cook.)
This Thai-Style Chicken Noodle Soup was exactly as advertised – delicious yet undeniably restorative. The garlic, lime juice, chilis, and broth have their cold-zapping benefits, but the flavor from the peanuts and coconut milk offer up all the things that I love about Thai peanut dipping sauce. (What’s not to love about Thai peanut dipping sauce?)
This is a keeper of a recipe – even without the excuse of a cold.
- 1 pkg. vermicelli or thin egg/wheat noodles
- 4 heaping Tbsp. dry baking-style coconut, unsweetened
- 6 cups chicken broth 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tsp. chilli powder
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red or green chilli, finely sliced (seeds removed if less heat is desired – I left them in for super heat)
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce, plus more to taste
- ½ cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, finely ground in a food processor or with pestle & mortar
- ½ can coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice
- fresh cilantro
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- Soften the vermicelli. Place the vermicelli in a large bowl. Pour room temperature water over the noodles and allow to soak while preparing the soup. (In room temperature water, the noodles should be tender in about 15 minutes. The goal is to get them about to that “al dente” point so that when you pour the hot soup over them, they will be tender but not mushy). Divide the noodles into 6 portions and place in individual serving bowls.
- Toast the coconut. Toast the coconut flakes in a small, dry pan over medium heat, stirring or tossing them constantly to prevent burning. When the coconut is golden-brown, about 3 minutes, remove from heat, and set aside.
- Make the soup. Pour broth in a large pot and bring to a boil. With heat at medium-high, add turmeric, chilli powder, garlic, and fresh chilli. Stir well. Add the chicken and continue boiling until chicken is cooked through (8-10 minutes). Reduce heat to a simmer and add fish sauce, ground peanuts, and coconut milk. Cook for 1 minute more and remove from heat. Add lime juice.
- To serve, pour soup over prepared noodles. Top each serving with cilantro, spring onion, and toasted coconut.