This is a fresh-tasting and fragrant soup that’s really easy to prepare and the hot bright flavors will dance on your tongue.
Leave out the chili altogether if you prefer – or increase it until steam comes out of your ears; it’s entirely up to you. I like moderate heat so that I can still taste the ingredients without searing off my taste buds.
Use organic ingredients where possible and you could substitute fish or very thinly sliced pork or beef fillet for the chicken. You’ll need to simmer the vegetables in the broth and fish sauce for a few minutes before adding fish or shrimp as they’ll cook more quickly than chicken, pork or beef. Vegetarians can substitute thinly sliced firm tofu which needs to be sauteed as per the chicken, but be aware that nam pla (fish sauce) is made from anchovies.
CHICKEN SOUP with LEMONGRASS, COCONUT & BASIL
1 tablespoon of grape-seed, avocado or canola oil
4 large lemongrass stalks, inner pale parts only – crushed
1 small head of celery – trimmed, rinsed and chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and shredded/grated
2 medium onions, sliced very thinly
2 Thai or Serrano chilies, seeded and minced – or – ½ to 1 teaspoon of dried chili flakes (Optional)
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 4 boneless skinless thighs), sliced into ¼ inch / 1/2 cm strips
3 tablespoons of Indonesian fish sauce (Nam Pla)
6 cups / 1.422ml of chicken broth
½ cup / 118ml of light coconut milk
The juice of 1 lemon or lime
½ cup of fresh basil leaves, washed and lightly torn
Heat the oil in a wide pan and sauté the crushed lemongrass for a couple of minutes. Add the celery, carrot onion and chilies (if using); sauté for a few more minutes then season with salt and black pepper.
Push the vegetables slightly aside – add the chicken and sauté until opaque.
Add the chicken broth and fish sauce; bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced by about 1 cup / 237ml.
Add the lemon juice and coconut milk – adjust the seasoning and warm it through.
Stir in the basil leaves just before serving.