Author Notes: This dish is sort of a fusion between Massaman curry and chicken noodle soup. For those who aren't familiar with Massaman, it is a Thai curry with a lot of Indian influence. It typically contains a protein source as well as carrots, potatoes, and peanuts. I've taken liberties with the spicing both to suit my taste, and to make it fairly simple. It's best when made with a homemade chicken stock, but in a pinch I have used Swanson's Natural Goodness Low-sodium Chicken Broth diluted with water to good effect. The stock is infused with aromatics and fish sauce to give it some Thai flavors, then seasoned with sweet curry powder to add an Indian flair. Bone-in breasts give the dish a slightly meatier flavor, while the dish made with boneless breasts is a bit lighter and more floral. The coconut milk rounds out the flavors and adds richness. I like using the carrots in 2 forms -- cooked rounds for sweetness, and raw julienne strips for texture. The potatoes and noodles add heft. The peanuts add texture and flavor. The combination is extremely satisfying without seeming overly heavy. This dish can be prepped and cooked in just under an hour, yet it yields a surprisingly complex flavor. It's my new go-to jazzed up version of chicken soup for when I've got a cold, or just need a comforting bowl of warm goodness. —hardlikearmour
Serves: 4 to 5 (hearty portions)
6 cups chicken stock (or substitute 2 cans low-sodium chicken broth + 2 1/2 cups water)
1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus additional to taste
2 stalks lemongrass
A 4- to 5-inch-long piece ginger root, about 1-inch in diameter
4 large garlic cloves
2 Thai bird chiles (adjust to taste -- 2 gives the final soup a mild to medium amount of heat)
2 large chicken breasts (boneless, skinless or bone-in split)
3 large, fat carrots
10 to 15 baby yellow or red potatoes, depending on size
1/4 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts, plus additional for garnish
3 scallions (4 if they're really skinny)
1 1/2 teaspoons (1/2 tablespoon) sweet curry powder
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
2 packages pre-boiled udon noodles, 12 to 14 ounces total
- Heat chicken stock and 1 tablespoon fish sauce in a 4- to 6-quart stock pot over medium-high heat. Remove the outer tough and battered leaves from the lemongrass. Cut the root ends off, leaving enough to hold the leaves together, then cut the stalks into 6-inch long pieces. Carefully cut the stalks into halves lengthwise. Add to the stock. Peel the ginger and cut it into 1/8-inch planks; add them to the stock. Smash and peel the garlic cloves, trying to keep the cloves intact; add them to the stock. Remove the stem ends from the chiles, then cut the chiles in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds. Add the chiles to the stock. Increase the heat to high and bring the stock to a simmer.
- While the stock is heating, prep the chicken breasts. If they are boneless and skinless, trim any excess fat. If they are bone-in and skin-on, remove the skins and trim any excess fat. Set them aside until the stock has reached a simmer.
- Start prepping the carrots and potatoes. Peel the carrots and cut away the stem end. Using a julienne peeler (or very good knife skills), julienne away the outer layers of the carrots so you have skinnier carrots of fairly even diameter from top to bottom. Set the julienned carrot aside for garnishing the finished soup. Cut the now skinny carrots into 1/2- to 3/4-inch rounds. Place rounds into a prep bowl. Wash (and scrub if needed) the baby potatoes. Cut them into quarters or halves depending on their size. If cutting in halves, cut them lengthwise rather than crosswise to increase cooking surface area. You want to have roughly equal parts carrot and potato. Add the potatoes to the cut carrots. Add 1/4 cup peanuts to the bowl as well.
- The stock may reach a simmer before you finish prepping the carrots and potatoes. When it does, take a small spoonful, cool it a bit, and taste for salt. It should be just a bit on the salty side so it can season the chicken and the veggies; it will seem less salty once the soup is finished. Adjust with either more fish sauce or salt (this will vary depending on the salt in the stock/broth and the brand of fish sauce you use -- trust your palate!). Add the chicken, and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes (cut into a breast to check -- there shouldn't be any pink).
- While the chicken is cooking, finish prepping the carrots and potatoes if needed. Prep the scallions by removing any wilted “leaves” and root ends. Cut the scallions into thin, bias-cut slices, including all but the last few inches of the greens. Set aside. (There will probably be extra time here, so get the curry powder and coconut milk measured, and open the packages of udon noodles, then start clean-up.)
- Once the chicken is done, remove it to a plate. Strain the aromatics from the stock, either by using a skimmer or by pouring the mix through a strainer into a large bowl. Return stock to pot if needed, and stir in curry powder. Increase heat to medium-high, and return the stock to a simmer. Add the carrots, potatoes, and peanuts; simmer until tender, adjusting heat as needed, about 10 minutes.
- After the chicken has cooled at least 5 minutes, shred the meat into reasonably bite-sized shreds. Discard bones and gristle if present.
- Once the carrots and potatoes are tender, stir in the coconut milk, shredded chicken (and any accumulated juices), about 3/4 of the sliced scallions, and the udon noodles. Cook until udon noodles and chicken are heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with either salt or fish sauce if needed. Remove from heat, and serve -- dividing between bowls, and topping each bowl with julienned carrots, and garnishing with scallions and peanuts.
- (Note: I've also made this with a full can of coconut milk, but find the coconut becomes a bit of a flavor bully. If you're a big fan of coconut, feel free to go this route, but serve the soup with a squeeze of lime to help balance the flavor better.)
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