Thai Odyssey Part 2 – Hot and Sour Soup of Shredded Chicken and Lemongrass…

Posted By Stephen

… accompanied by Vermicelli Salad.

Phew, rather a long title for two relatively simple (but delicious) dishes.

I really love this picture that Kerri took of the soup; the coriander leaves floating on the surface look a little like lilly pads on the surface of a pond:


This picture of the salad turned out well, but I think it needs some carved vegetables around the edge to complete it; we’ll have to get practising this weekend:


The soup recipe is from the pink Thai Food book that started off our Thai Odyssey and is translated as “tom jiw gai”. Only after we had decided to cook it did I notice that the translation wasn’t “tom yam gai” as I had expected. I started worrying that it wouldn’t turn out as hoped since I had really wanted to cook tom yam, but checking the ingredients put my mind at rest, as it contained the main tom yam components of chillies, fish sauce, lime juice, lime leaves and lemongrass. The pink book is usually very good at providing interesting facts, but it was uncharacteristically silent on the reason for the difference in the name; perhaps there is something in the method that differentiates it.

We started with some chicken stock, but only had half the required amount of home made stock so had to make it up with shop stock. Brought it to the boil and added a pinch each of salt and palm sugar. (We have loads of palm sugar after I was let loose in a Thai supermarket and I’m doubting we’ll ever use it up unless we start to make lots of desserts). In the stock we simmered a couple of whole peeled shallots, a couple of lemongrass stalks, a couple of torn up lime leaves and a few slices of rather sad-looking galangal which still managed to add a bit of flavour.

After a few minutes, we added three sliced chicken thighs and simmered until they were done. We drained the stock, discarded the aromatics and kept and shredded the chicken. Into a bowl (sadly we don’t have a real Thai soup dish) we put four bruised birds eye chillis and a few tablespoons each of lime juice and fish sauce. We added the shredded chicken to the bowl and then poured over the hot stock. Into this we added finely sliced lemongrass, shallots and lime leaves before topping with some coriander leaves.

The result was a lovely hot, salty and sour soup, made very aromatic by the addition of the lime leaves and the lemongrass. I found it very interesting that three ingredients were present both in flavouring the stock and also added raw at the end: lemongrass, lime leaves and shallots. Mixing in the lime juice at the end and not cooking it keeps it fresh and the lime leaves and lemongrass add a wonderfully zesty perfume. The texture of the crunchy bits of finely sliced raw lemongrass was really good too.

The soup reminded both of us of a light, non-coconutty version of green curry. Some tom yam recipes add chilli paste which gives the top of the soup a red sheen; this one didn’t, but then it wasn’t called tom yam anyway. The verdict from both us was that the soup really good, especially as it is relatively quick to make and doesn’t require lengthly pounding of ingredients to make pastes as some Thai recipes do.

We were a bit remiss in taking ingredients pictures this time, so here is just one including the bruised chillis and the finely sliced shallots, lime leaves and lemongrass, ready for adding to the soup at the end:


After the soup we had vermicelli salad, which was from the cookbook released by the Blue Elephant restaurant. We had been there last week and eaten something similar and decided to try it ourselves.

After soaking bean vermicelli in cold water for 15 minutes, we drained them and cut them into 10cm lengths before briefly cooking in boiling water and draining again. To the vermicelli we added a long red chilli and a garlic clove that had been pounded together. Then we mixed in grated carrot, finely chopped celery, red onion and shallots and some cashew nuts and crushed peanuts. Over this we poured a couple of tablespoons of light soy sauce and a tablespoon of oil in which a sliced clove of garlic had been fried (along with the fried garlic itself). Mixed it all up, served it on some lettuce leaves and topped with coriander.

Although the salad contained chilli, it was not as hot as the soup and was good for cooling down our mouths. The chopped vegetables and nuts all mixed in well with each other and hid away in between the vermicelli to provide nice crunchy bits. The Blue Elephant book concentrates mostly on recipes rather than history and culture, so doesn’t give much in the way of history and context for this dish. I assume that as it contains noodles, it originated from Chinese influence. Also successful and relatively easy to make, so we’ll make sure we always have some vermicelli in our store cupboard in case we fancy it again soon.

Mar 3rd, 2008

5 Comments to 'Thai Odyssey Part 2 – Hot and Sour Soup of Shredded Chicken and Lemongrass…'

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  1. I’m not a fan of chicken soup, but the vermicelli salad looks absolutely fab. I’ve got to get some bean vermicelli and try it out.


  2. Kerri said,

    Thank you 🙂

    I don’t like chicken soup either but absolutely loved this, it was very different to traditional chicken soup because it was so aromatic and hot.

  3. L said,

    They both look gorgeous – I have a huge stock of bean vermicelli (or glass noodles, they’re sometimes called) so i’ll definitely give it a go.

    As for your palm sugar, have you tried making nam prik pao? It uses a fair bit of palm sugar. Its a great chilli sauce – smoky, pungent, and not too hot and a good addition to tom yum, green curries, even the Chinese won ton soup. Here is a recipe I used: it keeps forever, more or less.

  4. Stephen said,

    Thanks L, and good luck with the glass noodle salad. And thanks for the suggestion for palm sugar; I’m not that much of a dessert fan (Kerri is slightly more than I am) so using it in a savoury dish would be good.

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