I've only recently discovered the joy of Soup As A Meal, largely because I have very high expectations for it—there needs to be, above all, plenty of texture; I have a deep-seated and possibly irrationally enthusiastic distaste for anything that smacks of "drinking my dinner."
(Exceptions may be made for large bottles of Cabernet, if they are accompanied by snacks made of cheese.)
The classic grilled-cheese-sandwich-and-tomato-soup combination has always failed to excite me, mostly because I find tomato soup so dimensionless. It can be spicy, yes, or herby or rich or velvety, but there's no ... well, chew.
Don't even get me started on smoothies. If I don't need my teeth, it's not food.
This soup, on the other hand, hit all the right notes—chunky and hearty and satisfying, and certainly NOT possible to be consumed with a straw. The recipe, adapted from Food & Whine (genius), has all of the spicy warmth that I love from the coconut soup at my favorite local Thai restaurant, with a few surprising additions—lemongrass, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce—that keep you with your head buried in the bowl.
I picked up a packet of cilantro in the fresh herbs section of the grocery store before coming home to find out that I would have to surrender my gold star for reading comprehension for the day. It was actually something called "culantro," marketed as having a similar flavor to cilantro but the shelf life of a much more robust herb. I ... sorta hated it. The flavor was lovely, to be sure, but the cactus-like spininess was off-putting.
Remind me to start that herb garden I keep not following through on.
Thai Chicken-and-Rice Soup
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups basmati rice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sunflower oil, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
2 tablespoons lemongrass paste
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup half & half
½ cup lite coconut milk
2 teaspoons red curry paste
1½ teaspoons chili paste or sriracha
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Garnishes: chopped cilantro leaves, sriracha
1. Bring butter and 4 cups water to a boil. Stir in rice and salt; cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes. Remove rice to a large bowl.
2. Return pan to burner over medium heat, and add 1 tablespoon oil. Sauté mushrooms until just softened. Remove mushrooms from pan, and set aside.
3. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan, and sauté onion and bell pepper just until softened. Stir in reserved mushrooms, chicken broth, and chicken, stirring until heated through.
4. Stir in lemongrass, fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in half & half and coconut milk; cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 2 more minutes.
5. Combine curry paste, chili paste, tomato paste, cornstarch, and 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl; add to soup, stirring until it thickens slightly. Stir in 2 cups cooked rice, cover, and simmer 5 minutes.
6. Serve soup with remaining cooked rice; garnish, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.