Thursday, 21 January 2010

Laotian Chicken Soup with Onions, Shallots & Coriander

This Laotian recipe is taken, with a little adaption, from Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet (page 59). It’s a variation on the sort of simple chicken soup I write about here. To Alford and Duguid’s version I’ve added rice noodles (to make the broth into a heartier meal), and my own technique for making chicken broth.

Laotian Chicken Soup with Onions, Garlic & Coriander, adapted from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet
Serves up 4-6 healthy sized bowlfuls

1 well-sourced chicken, around 1.5 kg in weight, rinsed inside and out
½ kg extra wings, backs or drumsticks (optional, but will enhance the broth)
4 green onions, trimmed of some of the green tips and chopped into 5 cm pieces
5 whole coriander plants, including their roots, that have been well rinsed. Concentrate especially on cleaning the juncture between root and steam to make sure no grit remains trapped. If in doubt, just cut this bit out and disgard.
8 whole peppercorns
1 long mild red chilli, cut into cm slices
1 tsp sea salt
Water to cover
3tbsp Thai fish sauce
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
8 small shallots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1 head of garlic, cloves separated, peeled & cut lengthwise in half
freshly ground black pepper
a couple of handfuls fresh coriander
4-6 handfuls of fresh rice noodle (from your Asian grocer, optional). Cut into 1cm thick noodles.

Prepare the broth as you would in this Simple Chicken Soup Recipe, except instead of using the vegetables and herbs it specifies, use just the green onions, chilli, whole coriander plants, peppercorns and sea salt. After following the Chicken Soup instructions and when the leg meat is cooked, pull the chicken from the broth and separate the legmeat, breast meat, and oysters from the carcass. Leave the rest of the extra wings, backs of drumsticks in the broth and return the carcass to it as well, and continue to cook the broth until it is full flavoured (around 2.5 to 3 hours). To get a sense of how you know when this point is reached, read here.

Drizzle a spoonful of broth over the reserved meat, cover and set aside until the broth is cooked (if it’s anything but a cool day, refrigerated it as well).

Once the broth is finished, immediately pour it through a fine sieve, but don’t press any of the flesh or bones to get out the last of the liquid. This only introduces impurities into the broth. If you’ve made the broth ahead of time, you’ll have time to let it cool and can skim off the fat. If not, you can either leave the majority of it (fat is a bundle of flavour after all) or try to skim some of it from the surface of the broth. Trying to do this when the broth is warm is a little wasteful, but if you save all the fat in a bowl and refrigerate it, any of the broth you’ve skimmed accidently can be retrieved for flavouring other dishes.

20 minutes before you plan on serving the soup, heat the broth in a large pot, and add two-thirds of the fish sauce (you can add the rest at the end if the soup still needs seasoning). Once the broth is boiling, add the onions, shallot and garlic and gently simmer until the shallots are tender (around 15 minutes).

As the broth cooks, shred the chicken into long thin pieces. Add about half of it to the broth, once the shallots are down. Check the broth for seasoning and add more fish sauce if it needs it. Soak the noodles in hot water, just until they are softened and can easily be broken up and separated.

Place a handful of noodles, some fresh coriander, a grind of pepper in each soup bowl and pour the steaming broth over, making sure some shallots, garlic and chicken make it into each bowl.

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