There are two ‘genres’ of food that I don’t think I could ever get tired of – Asian food and barbecue. I attempted to eat my weight in barbecue on my trip to Atlanta last month (photos on Instagram @loveiskneaded) and since then I’ve been on an Asian kick – Thai, specifically. Bronson and I have been getting Thai food nearly twice a week since I returned from ATL. Really. It’s pretty bad. I feel like we’ve ordered enough food from our two favorite local restaurants to keep their lights on for a month – each.
This realization pushed me to look into making Thai dishes at home, so that I wouldn’t have to get that knowing smile from the ladies in the Thai restaurants. I’m sure that they’re just thrilled that I’m getting their food so often, but it’s kind of awkward to have another person know how much takeout we eat in a week. I walk into the restaurant like, “Yeah… I’m getting your Pad See Ewe… for the second time this week…. And you’ll probably see me again… on Monday…’ and then quickly shuffle out, avoiding eye contact. It’s one thing if Bronson and I keep it to ourselves, but it’s another if there’s someone else to count the takeout boxes.
While eating takeout noodles one night last week, I dove into Pinterest for Thai recipes. This blogger’s recipe for Thai chicken soup looked fresh, authentic and delicious. I was stoked to make this recipe, but when I went shopping for all of the ingredients, the grocery was out of fish sauce and rice vermicelli. I didn’t want to wait for my homemade Thai food, so I grabbed a bottle of dark soy sauce and a package of bean threads and decided to use the original recipe as more of a guideline for making Thai soup since I was already switching out two of the ingredients. I figured that I could use more of the dark soy sauce to replace the fish sauce, since fish sauce is really just concentrated saltiness. And the bean threads looked exactly like the rice vermicelli noodles that I needed, so I decided to take a risk on them.
I started my Thai soup by sautéing ginger, garlic and the white bottoms of green onions in sesame oil at the bottom of a soup pot. Once the ingredients were aromatic and starting to soften, I added red curry paste and browned it until I could smell its spicy flavor and the onions were soft. ‘Browning’ pastes like curry or tomato paste helps deepen their flavor in a dish. I tossed thinly-sliced chicken into the pot and cooked it until it was almost done. You can drop raw chicken into a soup for it to cook in the broth, but I think that cooking the chicken in the curry paste first helps lock the flavor into the meat. Cooking the chicken halfway and then letting it finish cooking in the sauce ensures that the meat isn’t dry in the soup.
Once the chicken was ready, we added chicken broth, coconut milk, the dark soy sauce and a ton of red pepper flakes and brought that to a boil. When the soup was boiling and the chicken fully cooked, I removed the pot from the heat and threw in the bean threads (they come wrapped together in little bundles inside the package). I stirred the soup with chopsticks so that my noodle threads would separate, and they cooked in just a few minutes. To finish the soup, I tossed in a big bushel of baby spinach leaves and kept stirring with my chopsticks to cook them in the soup.
Even before I could taste it, I could smell the salty complexity of the soup as I swirled my chopsticks around the pot – the slight sweetness from the coconut milk mixed with the soy and chicken broth was so enticing! I tried to steal a single bean thread from the soup to taste, but couldn’t manage to because the bean threads were so long! I had assumed that the little bundles of bean threads were made of multiple threads, but as I pulled threads from the soup and lifted them literal feet above the pot, I realized that the bundles might have been just a few extremely long threads rolled into themselves!
I didn’t manage to snag a singular thread from the pot to taste it, so I started slurping directly above the pot. Don’t judge me.
All of the flavors that I smelled while stirring the soup exploded in my mouth. I could taste each ingredient in the fantastic blend – the fresh ginger and tangy garlic, the salty dark soy sauce and creamy coconut milk. The soup was so well-balanced; none of the ingredients overpowered one another. The red pepper flakes and curry gave the soup a wonderful spicy flavor that built with each bite, but never became unpleasant. I excitedly drew a glob of bean threads from the pot with my chopsticks and deposited them into a bowl. I scooped the broth from the soup with a ladle, making sure to catch plenty of chicken and spinach. I tossed some red pepper flakes over top and was eager to slurp some more!
The Thai ‘Noodle’ Soup was hands-down amazing – the broth was so deep and complex that it tasted like it could have been made in one of our favorite Thai restaurants! Apart from their hilarious length, the bean threads worked perfectly as a rice vermicelli replacement. The appearance and texture were exactly the same! I discovered that I could hook a few threads around my chopsticks and then use a piece of chicken – which was cooked perfectly; soft, moist and full of flavor – to corner a spinach leaf and get each element of the soup in one bite.
Making this delicious soup at home makes driving to pick up takeout seem like a hassle! I wonder if the ladies in the Thai restaurants will miss us….
Recipe for Thai ‘Noodle’ Soup:
2 Tblsp. Sesame oil
4 Garlic cloves, crushed
4 green onions, sliced, white bottoms separated from green tops
1-inch piece of Ginger, minced (see this post for breaking down ginger!)
4 oz. Red Curry Paste (I used the Asian Creations Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste)
2 lbs. chicken breasts, thinly-sliced and seasoned with salt and pepper
2 qts. Chicken broth
5 Tbslp. Dark Soy sauce
13.5 oz. Coconut Milk
2 Tblsp. Red Pepper Flakes
8 oz. Bean Threads
1 large bushel of Baby Spinach
Heat sesame oil in soup pot. When oil is warm, add garlic, ginger and white bottoms of scallions. When onions are slightly softened and ginger and garlic are aromatic, add red curry paste. Brown red curry paste for 2-3 minutes, until slightly darker in color and very aromatic. Add chicken and stir to coat with curry paste mix. Cook chicken until mostly white, almost done. Pour chicken broth, coconut milk, dark soy sauce and red pepper flakes into pot. Bring to boil. When chicken has cooked completely (~5 minutes at boiling), remove soup pot from heat. Add bean threads and use chopsticks to separate in soup. When bean threads are transparent, add spinach leaves. Stir into soup to cook.
Use chopsticks to pull bean threads from soup into a bowl. Use ladle for broth, chicken and spinach. Garnish with tops of green onions and extra red pepper flakes if desired.