Thai Moon Soup

This one always tastes like a celebration. Indeed, this soup is one of my all-time favorites. That being said, I have cooked it several times now, and each time it has puzzlingly tasted slightly different. Maybe because fresh ingredients can’t be measured exactly in the same way dry ingredients can be? It’s worth it, though. This is definitely a more expensive recipe as my collection here goes, but it is the fresh ingredients that make it. It is smooth, full of very subtle but gorgeous flavors; eating it is like having the moon on your tongue, a strange, but lightly beautiful, experience. (If you think that’s unnecessarily weird of an analogy now, just wait til you try it and get all hippy-headed yourself.)

Thai Moon Soup

2 stalks of lemongrass
8 inches fresh ginger, peeled
2 cans lite coconut milk
2 cans regular coconut milk
4 boneless chicken thighs
6 cups chicken broth
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 lime, halved

It is easier to peel ginger if you use a short, sharp knife- rub the non-sharp, flat side hard and fast against your piece of ginger and the skin will fall apart easily. Do not mince the ginger, but rather, slice it into circular medallions with a width of about ½ to 1 centimeter. (The above picture shows one of my two 4-inch pieces of ginger.)

(Below: the lemongrass in my garden! It makes the air around it smell incredible. Lemongrass can be difficult to find in regular grocery stores. I first made this when living in the middle of nowhere in the woods of upstate New York, and in retrospect, it is totally bizarre that the little grocery shop in the nearest hickville stocked it in the produce section as if it were no biggie. If you’re near a Chinatown, Chinese market, or one of those schmancy organic grocery stores, visit any of them for a better chance at finding a fresh, aromatic bundle.)

Cut off the bad bits, and slice the two lemongrass stalks into 1-inch long pieces.

Peel the lime carefully, making sure you collect as little white as possible as you go.

Pour the chicken broth and coconut milk into a soup pot and set to medium-high. Add the ginger medallions, lemongrass pieces, and lime peel. Stir to mix all ingredients well. Sprinkle in some red pepper flakes, to suit your taste. Bring to a gentle boil.

Slice the chicken into thin strips (cutting skin-side down is easier)- if you want, you can also roll each strip in a little cornstarch to seal in more of the meat’s juices, so they come out more tender. Add the chicken to the soup, and cook for at least ten more minutes. Just before serving, you may squeeze a little lime juice into each person’s bowl. Be warned- this addition really alters the taste of the soup, because every taste is so subtle, and even in small quantities, citrus is pretty intense. I like it both ways, but in order to feel the real power of this dish, I’d suggest you maybe try it without the lime juice first.

Note: do not eat the lemongrass, medallions, or lime peel pieces- they are there only to saturate the broth with their flavor. It’s easier to announce this to the table, and have everyone eat around them, than to painstakingly pick them out beforehand.

It’s hard to convey this soup experience in a picture- but here’s a final shot!

Serves 4.

Meal Cost:

2 stalks of lemongrass- around $2.60
8 inches fresh ginger, peeled- $1.00
3 cans lite coconut milk- $5.40
1 can regular coconut milk- $1.50
4 chicken thighs- $2.00 (would be cheaper if bought frozen & in bulk)
6 cups chicken broth- $2.80
1 lime- $0.50
red pepper flakes- pantry

Total Calories:

3 cans lite coconut milk- 816
1 can regular coconut milk- 568
4 chicken thighs- 1113
6 cups chicken broth- 60
juice of one lime- 11

Is it just me, or do limes seem outrageously expensive?  I know avocados and eggplants have seen a recent spike in price, but I feel like that is different because it’s not like I’m ever overcome with a craving to sit down and feast on a lime.

Anyway, this recipe altogether costs $15.80 to feed 4 people. It’s a special occasion price. The calorie count should be saved for a special occasion as well- it’s 642 calories per person. Make it dinner and pair it with an afternoon workout.

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