This soup is served at the UK (and now also NYC) chain Pret-a-Manger. The first time I had this soup was on a trip from Boston to London in Winter about five years ago. It was cold and this soup was delicious and warming with a nice chilli hit and inexpensive to boot (as you would expect from a chain). Upon returning back to even colder Boston, I found the recipe online and this soup became one of my staple dishes on a cold Winter’s evening in Boston. So now Winter has hit Bondi, sure its not Boston cold, but there is an ice-rink (albeit a melting one) set up at the beach and I thought it was time to make this old favourite soup.
My minor moderations to the original recipe include substituting fresh ginger for galangal and lemongrass paste for fresh lemongrass (as galangal and fresh lemongrass can sometimes be hard to come by – but if you have them by all means use them). The original recipe also referred to what I term the “spicy soup base” as a spice paste, but I find it mixes together more as a spice mix than a paste (especially if you can’t be bothered chopping everything ultra finely). In any event, the blending of the soup later on in the process ensures all the ingredients marry together. I also garnished with a little fresh coriander (cilantro) and bean sprouts for some added interest.
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- A thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric powder
- 2 red chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemongrass paste (or use a stick of fresh lemon grass if you can get it, finely chopped)
- 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of canola or other light vegetable oil
- 1 litre chicken stock
- 1 – 2 medium potatoes, peeled and roughly diced (the original recipe called for 2 potatoes, but I used a very large sweet potato and only had one lonely potato in the vege bin)
- 4 medium, boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks
- 200ml light coconut milk (original recipe called for coconut cream, but light coconut milk is a slightly lighter alternative)
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut roughly into chunks
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce (you can vary this amount to taste)
- 3 spring onions, sliced
- Juice of a fresh lime
- Scatter the red chilli flakes into a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and simmer for about two minutes – just before the water dries up.
- Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, red chillies, lemon grass paste, shallots and vegetable oil and gently fry for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour the chicken stock onto the paste and add the sweet potatoes and potato.
- Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes (or until the potatoes are soft). Blend with a stick blender to your desired consistency.
- Add the coconut milk and chicken and then simmer until the chicken is cooked (around 10 minutes). Blend again with the stick blender to combine.
- Add the fish sauce, spring onion and lime juice. Add optional garnishes – such as bean sprouts, coriander (cilantro) or extra chilli (for the brave!) and serve
A word about Turmeric (In an effort to put this soup into superfood category!)
This soup includes turmeric as part of the spicy soup base – which helps to give the soup a vibrant yellow colour. Obviously turmeric is no new thing and has been used for thousands of years in some countries but it has been getting a lot of good food press lately because of its anti-inflammatory properties. The active ingredient in turmeric – curcumin – is thought to help with a number of ailments. Researchers have suggested that consumption of turmeric may have some role in the low rates of alzheimer’s disease in countries that consume a lot of turmeric – such as India and Sri Lanka. So you may want to add a pinch or two extra to the soup!