Thai flavoured chicken and vegetable noodle soup

I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather with the flu and the only thing I felt like eating was a light but flavoursome chicken soup. This version of chicken soup combines Thai flavours like galangal and lemongrass with fresh green vegetables and poached chicken and is full of goodness but omits the traditional coconut milk which often features in Thai chicken soups like Tom Ka Ghai.

Prep time: 5 minutes  Cooking time: 1 hour
Ingredients

Poached chicken and stock
4 thigh chicken fillets on the bone, skin and fat removed
1 carrot peeled and chopped in large pieces
4 celery stalks chopped in large pieces
Large knob of fresh galangal peeled and chopped
Large knob of fresh ginger peeled and chopped
1 stalk lemongrass bruised then chopped roughly
4 cloves garlic
4 stalks spring onions chopped roughly
1 red chilli chopped
2.5-3 litres water

Soup
1/2 brown onion sliced finely
2 handfuls of honeysnap peas
5 button mushrooms sliced thickly
1 stalk bok choy finely chopped
4 cloves of boiled garlic retained from the stock and crushed into a paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
Shredded chicken
Handful coriander chopped
1 lime
125g vermicelli rice noodles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, 1 tspn sesame oil

Method
Place chicken and stock ingredients in large stock pot and bring to a boil
Lower heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes, skimming surface to remove any “scum” that appears
Remove chicken pieces from stock and set aside to cool
Strain remaining stock to remove vegetables, reserving the loves of garlic for the soup
Shred the chicken and discard the bones
Heat vegetable and sesame oil in seperate saucepan
Add onion and cook gently until transparent
Add paste of crushed garlic cloves and mix through onions
Add honeysnap peas, fish sauce, pepper and stir fry for 2 minutes
Add bok Choy and mushrooms and stir fry for 1 minute
In the meantime bring stock back to a rolling boil, add vermicelli noodles and shredded chicken and cook for 1 minute, add vegetable mixture and cook for another minute or so.
Garnish with coriander and fresh chilli.
Squeeze over lime juice and add extra fish sauce to taste.

Serves 3-4

Carrot cake and more at Zion Rd Hawker Centre, Singapore

We had heard about carrot cake from our son Nick who is currently living in Singapore. This is not carrot cake as we know it but a pancake made with diced daikon radish, flour, scallions/spring onion cooked in plain, sweet or savoury style and can be made into an omelette when fried with eggs.

Intrigued by this description we went to the Zion Road Hawker Centre which claims one of the best carrot cake stalls. Situated alongside the river at the end of Zion Road, in River Valley, this food centre is a smaller, spotlessly clean traditional eating venue with about 25 stalls. On Saturday morning when we visited the centre was filled with locals enjoying early lunch.

As with most hawker centres, each stall has a speciality which it is usually renowned amongst locals for. We headed directly to the Lau Goh carrot cake stall, quickly followed by the stall for Chicken Rice and Bak Kut Teh(pork rib broth). Friendly stall holders helped us with our orders and soon we were tucking in to lunch.

The Carrot Cake which is more like a radish scramble was a mixture of “white” without kecap manis, “dark” which has the sweetness of kecap manis and some scrambled with egg. Somehow the various textures and flavours combine to produce a delicious outcome which is worthy of it’s reputation.

Carrot cake Singapore style - radish, onion, flour steamed then fried and scrambled with eggs.
Carrot cake Singapore style – radish, onion, flour steamed then fried and scrambled with eggs.

I was surprised to see the chicken rice served with the sweet, salty kecap manis and slightly chilli sauce poured over the top of the sliced poached chicken and rice, garnished with spring onions and cucumber. The sauce had been absorbed by the rice and chicken and to my taste the flavours of each of the elements in this famous dish were not as distinct. Having said that the combined version was tasty and still ticked all the comfort food boxes. The clear, chicken broth accompanying heightened the flavours of the dish whilst also acting like a palate cleanser.

Zion Road Hawker Chicken rice with kecap manis sauce and spring onions
Zion Road Hawker Chicken rice with kecap manis sauce and spring onions

The Bak Kut Teh is another famous Singapore/Malay soup with each country boasting distinct versions. It is a slow cooked pork rib broth served with sides of rice, kecap manis with fresh chilli and green tea. This version had a mixture of herbs, whole cloves of garlic in their skins, and a seaweed textured green fern in it. Spicy with white peppercorns and with a hint of star anise with tender pork falling off the bone, this Bak Kut Teh was fresh and fulfilling. For added flavour we burst open the super soft garlic and mixed it through the broth!

Bak Kut Teh - Singapore  Pork rib soup with garlic and herbs
Bak Kut Teh – Singapore
Pork rib soup with garlic and herbs

All in all our visit to this authentic, local Hawker centre was fun, delicious and very, very cheap. Hanging out with local residents having their Saturday lunch in relatively peaceful surrounds was also a nice way to get an insight into the lives of real Singaporeans.

Thai Chicken Soup with rice (Khao Tom Gai)

Adrian has been down and out with the flu – so this morning I promised him the fix all, hearty, spicy Thai chicken Soup with rice that is part congee, part soup. This version has helped our family through many episodes of cold and flu. Add fresh chilli as a garnish along with coriander and chopped spring onions and your sinuses will feel a lot clearer by the time you finish the first bowl. The rice and chicken add nourishment and the stock has a silky texture from the rice being cooked in it.

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 25-30 minutes
Ingredients
1 cup uncooked jasmine rice
1 litre chicken stock
1 litre water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 tablespoons ginger finely sliced
2 chicken thigh fillets chopped into bite size pieces
1 onion finely diced
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
4 tablespoons fish sauce
Garnish: fresh red chillies, coriander and spring onions

Method
Wash rice and rinse several times
Bring water and chicken stock to boil and then add rice
Simmer for about 20 minutes on a rolling boil until rice is of almost a porridge consistency, adding more water to ensure there is plenty of rice stock
In a seperate large pot, heat vegetable oil then add ginger, garlic and onions and stir fry over medium heat until onion is translucent and there is a bit of caramelisation starting
Add chicken, pepper and fish sauce and stir fry until chicken is cooked about 15 minutes adding some of the rice stock to stop sticking or burning if necessary
(I put the rice on about 10 minutes before cooking the chicken)
Transfer rice and rice stock into pot with chicken and simmer together for 5 minutes until flavours meld together
Garnish and serve in bowls with extra fish sauce added if needed.
Have extra chilli and tissues on hand to help really clear those sinuses.

Before garnish Thai Chicken soup with rice
Before garnish Thai Chicken soup with rice