My life these days revolves around snow—all seven feet, eleven inches we have here…and counting. When I’m not shoveling, I’m at the grocery store stocking up for the next storm. This winter has been a real challenge for so many Bostonians, especially those who commute. (Sympathies to those of you who have to travel more than a block.) Lucky for us it’s not an issue. Most of the time Philip’s commute is up to his third floor office and mine is a straight shot into the kitchen. Even so, I could sure use a tropical vacation right about now!
One of the most satisfying things I cooked up on one snowbound day is this delicious Indonesian-inspired chicken soup. It’s a clear herbal chicken broth layered with subtle, intriguing flavors of fresh lemongrass, turmeric and ginger. Freshly ground spices ramp up the flavors. Chewy noodles and tender chunks of chicken are buried in the steaming, fragrant broth and crowned with fresh herbs and a hard-cooked egg. A squeeze of lime and a dollop of chili paste added just before eating brightens it up even more. Make no mistake, this soup is a meal. (And a warm and heartening one at that.)
This recipe calls for fresh turmeric. I hope you can get your hands on some. It’s a staple ingredient these days at our local Whole Foods. It’s quite different from dried, ground turmeric. It has earthy notes, with hints of citrus and a bit of the tongue-numbing power of Sichuan pepper. I know the ingredient list looks a little daunting, but most of them get thrown into a food processor or spice grinder. Instead of using a whole chicken, I use chicken broth fortified with chicken thighs to save on cooking time without compromising flavor.
I think this soup may be one of my favorite winter treats because it instantly transports me out of Snowmageddon and the sub-zero temps are a distant memory for a few delicious minutes. What can I say, with everything I have going on, it’s the closest I can get to a tropical vacation. This year, I’ll take what I can get!
Indonesian Inspired Chicken Noodle Soup
- 2 teaspoons, plus 3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
- 2 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed and fat trimmed
- 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, cut lengthwise in half and then cut into 3-inch pieces
- 6 kaffir lime leaves fresh or frozen (optional)
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
- Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 5 shallots, peeled and halved
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh turmeric or 1 teaspoon dried ground
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 1 large sweet potato (about 12 ounces), peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
- 2 (8-ounce) packages Shirataki tofu noodles or 8 ounces of dried rice or glass noodles
- 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
- ¼ cup cilantro, Thai basil or mint leaves
- 4 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut in half
- Asian chili paste for serving (such as sambal oelek or sriracha)
- Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken thighs, cover the pot and cook the chicken until the meat is no longer pink, about 10 minutes, turning the chicken thighs once or twice. The aim is to ‘sweat’ (not brown) chicken. Add chicken broth, 4 cups water, lemongrass and lime leaves if using. Bring to boil and then lower heat to medium-low and gently simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain broth into a large bowl. Set chicken thighs aside. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bone and shred into bite-sized pieces. Discard lemongrass and lime leaves. Wipe pot clean with paper towel.
- Meanwhile, combine peppercorns, coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a spice grinder and pulse until finely ground. In a food processor, pulse shallots, garlic, turmeric, ginger and ground spices to form a thick paste. Add a little water if needed.
- Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in now-empty pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add spice paste and cook, stirring until paste is fragrant and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the strained broth and bring to a boil. Add sweet potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken and Shirataki noodles and simmer for another 5 minutes. (If you are using rice or glass noodles cook in a separate pot of boiling water according to the package instructions.) Add lime juice and season with salt. Ladle soup into bowls and serve with herbs, eggs, lime wedges and chili paste.