After visiting my sister in Washington D.C. and being taken to this amazing Thai restaurant (Thai X-ing) we came home with a craving for more! I do not have a very wide repertoire of Thai or East Asian recipes so similar to my ignorance about what rhubarb looked like or how I didn’t know ginger existed, I had a problem finding fresh lemongrass. What does it look like? How do you prepare it?
My search took me to a local Asian market where I looked high and low for lemongrass. Finally, I asked for help and was led by a young lady over to the back corner where her grandmother was picking through a 5 gallon bucket with these grassy stalks poking up out of it. Translating for her grandmother, I was thankfully helped to find a “good” one. From this crash course, a good one is one that is thicker and doesn’t have dark spots.
The look of the lemongrass reminded me of a cross between a celery stalk and an un-shucked ear of corn, kinda? The leaves of it are comparable in their color, texture and how they wrap around the grass stalk, of course, there is no corn showing or corn silk. Anyway. The stalk is very fibrous and smells AMAZING when cut. You may be shocked to find out but it smelled very lemony! I peeled off the loose, outer leaves then washed it well, sliced it into 3″ pieces and crushed it with the butt of my knife before adding it to the hot water. From what I read, the stalk if cooked long enough can break down enough to be pureed and used but since it is so very fibrous, the pieces were better taken out prior to eating.
- 1 can (14 oz.) light coconut milk
- 1 can (14 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or use homemade)
- 6 quarter-size slices fresh ginger, crushed (don’t be afraid to add more if you like ginger!)
- 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in 3-in. pieces, crushed
- 3-6 Thai chili’s, whole (optional for extra heat)
- 1 pound boned, skinned chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-in. chunks
- 8 oz mushrooms (straw, oyster or shiitake)
- 3 Tablespoon fresh lime juice to taste (or ~10 Kaffir leaves)
- 1 Tablespoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili paste or oil (optional)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped
- kosher salt to taste
In a medium saucepan, combine the broth, ginger, lemongrass, and chili’s and bring to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and add chicken, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, chili paste, and coconut milk. It is important to reduce the heat because as with cooking using dairy products, prolonged high heat will cause the dairy product to break down and separate, coconut milk (yes, I realize isn’t true dairy) will do the same thing and you’ll lose the consistency you want from your soup).
Simmer until chicken is firm and opaque, about 15-20 minutes. Discard lemongrass, chili, and ginger chunks and kaffir leaves if you found some. Garnish servings with basil and cilantro.
This is a small recipe, that makes for an appetizer to go with something else. To make a meal of it, try doubling the portions and adding some cooked rice noodles to the bowl.