Thai/Vietnamese Fusion Chicken Soup, a recipe

I was hungry for something spicy, and had a few odds an ends lying around, so I decided to make this soup. It is very spicy, but can be made less so by diminishing or leaving out the chili.

I’ll admit this is a bit difficult to write up, because I wasn’t measuring and had to guess how much of what to add, but I think that if you follow the approximate measurements and then adjust to your tastes, you’ll have something very nice.

Tools:

  • cutting board and several size knives
  • large soup pot
  • small pot
  • colander

Ingredients:

  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 qt chicken stock
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 leek
  • 1 bundle spring onion
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bundle cilantro
  • 1 bundle basil
  • 5 kefir lime leaves
  • 3 stalks of lemongrass, or about 2 Tbsp minced, preserved lemongrass (found in tiny jars)
  • a large ginger lobe, about 2 inches square or larger
  • red and green Thai chili (I’d get about 10 of each, looking for the ones that are fat on one end, but curled and shriveled on the other. If you’re not able to tolerate that much, cut it back to two in the pot and about six in the oil. If you want more and are tickled at the notion of the punishment, add several ghost chilies.)
  • baby corn
  • 2 heads of bok choi
  • button mushrooms, about 1 c.
  • 1 tomato
  • 5 limes
  • bean sprouts
  • fish sauce
  • a little olive oil
  • Vermicelli noodles

Instructions:

  1. Mince 1/2 the onion, the garlic, ginger. Chop up the cilantro, especially the stems. Pluck the leaves off the Basil. Cut about 1/2 the leek into ringlets. Bisect two of each color chili, discard the seeds, and mince the meat. Pound the lemongrass to release the aromatics, then chop into segments. Cut the tomato into quarters.
  2. In the large pot, place the chopped onion, leek, garlic, ginger, 1/2 the basil leaves, kefir lime leaves, 1/2 the minced cilantro (stems and leaves), lemongrass, and the chopped chilies. Drizzle with oil and then toss this over medium heat until you can really smell the elements.
  3. Add chicken stock and chicken breasts. Toss in the tomato. Add the juice of 3 limes. add about a quarter cup of fish sauce.
  4. When this is boiling, add the mushrooms, corn, and the leaves of the bok choi.
  5. Allow to boil until the chicken is cooked, then remove the chicken. On the cutting board, shred the chicken and return it to the soup. This will be your opportunity to taste the soup and determine what it needs. It should have a tangy, citrus flavor, but be spicy and richly savory too. If it appears to be missing anything, add more ginger, lemongrass, or fish sauce.You can also add stock cubes or bouillon.  Then allow the thing to boil a little longer
  6. While this is boiling, put the vermicelli noodles in the small pot. Add whatever you like to the water (I usually put a bit of lemongrass and some lime in) and cook through. When done boiling, it’s best to shock the noodles with cold water as they drain in the colander, in order to stop the cooking process.
  7. While everything is cooking, prepare your condiments. Remove and discard the seeds from all but two of the chilies and mince the meat. Place these into a small dish. Mince the last two chilies whole and add to the same dish. Smother this in about a cup of fish sauce and set aside
  8. Quarter the remaining limes, mince the green onion and remaining cilantro. On a plate, arrange the lime segments, bean sprouts, cilantro, the remaining basil leaves, and the green onion.

To serve, put a lump of noodles into each bowl. Fill with soup. garnish with a lime segment, a few basil leaves, green onion, cilantro, and been sprouts. Each person can add the chili-infused fish sauce (by spooning out only the oil) to their bowl if they wish. It also keeps very well and becomes hotter as it sits. I also have a lovely jar of Tom Yum Chili Oil that I add to this. This soup can easily be adapted to shrimp, or even thinly sliced pork.

 

Dill Pickles, a recipe

This recipe is a tip of the hat to those who’ve been paying attention to my Tumblr blog. You may have seen my recent bit of humor concerning my Decade Dills, called “Decadills” by one reader, and I like the name well. In truth, it’s not wise for humans to eat a decade-old pickle, and I seldom leave them that long. You can certainly try, if the seals are all still good, the acid levels right, the canning lid still intact, but that is a very rare occurrence, indeed. I make them for me — which is why I hide them, but…it seems wrong to tease and never give the humans a chance to experience my pickles for themselves. So here you have my recipe.

Tools:

  • medium sauce pan
  • 1 qt. mason jar with ring and lid
  • pot large enough to submerge the jar, up to the ring
  • mortar and pestle

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 c water
  • 4 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (if you add more chilis, you may prefer the white, if you want more tang, add the apple cider.)
  • 1 lb cucumbers (I know many people use a specific type of cucumber, but I just use whatever I have handy. I usually have quite a variety, because I like to add them to all sorts of things. I believe the brand most often used is called Kirby)
  • half a dozen garlic cloves (I’m sassy, but you can get away with 2-3)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flake (you can substitute whole tiny chili if you like, simply omit the red pepper flake from the dry spices and pack five or six peppers into the jar as you do the garlic cloves)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp.allspice
  • 5 sprigs of a dill plant, cleaned, or 2 tsp dill seed
  • 5-10 dried bay leaves
  • 1 large grape leaf

Instructions:

  1. Sterilize the jars by boiling them and their lids. If setting them aside for a time, set the lids on to keep them covered.
  2. In the medium saucepan, heat the water, vinegar, sugar and salt until boiling. Stir until the salt dissolves completely then set aside to cool
  3. Peel and smash each garlic clove
  4. In the mortar, combine the pepper flake, pepper, coriander, allspice, mustard, turmeric, and bay and grind together until you have at least a coarse powder
  5. Wash the cucumbers thoroughly and snip off the very ends, not just the stems. This can keep them crispy longer. You can also cut the pickles into spears, if you prefer. It’s up to you.
  6. Pack the cucumbers into the jar, adding in dashes of the spice mix (aim to use half to all, but this is what makes the recipe unique to you, so do a few test batches to see what your tastes are), sprigs of dill (or pinches od dill seed), garlic cloves, and pieces of the grape leaf evenly distributed. Pack tightly, but be sure to leave s bit of space at the mouth of the jar, so that it can vacuum seal.
  7. When the liquid is completely cool, pour this over the cucumbers. Shake the jar gently to get out any air bubbles, and continue to fill, leaving the space in the neck of the jar.
  8. Place the lid and ring on tightly.
  9. Submerge the jar into the large pot and fill up to the neck with water. Boil this for about 20 minutes to seal the jar and perform low grade pasteurization. If you want a crispier pickle, then try to measure and keep the temperature between 180-185 for 30 minutes without going under or over.
  10. Remove this carefully from the pot and allow it to cool completely before you store it away. Be sure to test the lid to make certain the seal has firmly depressed.

These must cure for at least a month to become pickles. After that, they can sit on a shelf for a few years in a cool, dry place. If opened, you should refrigerate them to keep fresh.  You can try leaving them for a decade, as I always do, but you’re not a monster, so I wouldn’t recommend it. However, so long as the seal is unbroken and the food smells fine, it is usually fine to eat. Just remember, the longer they sit, the more rubbery they become, so I’d recommend that you eat them within a few years, and that you serve them chilled.