I am so happy to not be living in Lincoln Park anymore. Wicker Park, my new home in Chicago, is full of hipsters and with hipsters come good food and music. The apartment sits on top of an underground hip hop store, The Bassment. There is a Latino grocery store across the street. And one of the city’s premier restaurant, Schwa, is mere doors down. It is all just a refreshing change of pace from the typical Lincoln Parker, so with that in mind, I decided to change things up for a night in the kitchen, spice things up a bit, if you will. And considering this is the first of many meals I would cook in the kitchen, I brought out the big guns: my favorite beer ever, made and only sold in Wisconsin, Spotted Cow, and organically raised basil I’ve been growing in my windowsill since May. To celebrate a change of scenery, I adventured to cook a style I’ve never attempted, Thai.
Thai curry is one of my favorite sources for heat. The combination of ginger, garlic, curry, coconut milk, and peanut does really incredible things and maintains a true heat that will make you sweat with a taste that will have you licking every last drop. And that’s what we did this night, licked the spoons clean, salvaged every last drop of corn relish, and wasted not a single noodle. I guess this is a soup, but curry has that unique characteristic of blending soup and entree, probably thanks to the noodles or rice. I’ve never cooked Thai, or really even much Asian, so I can’t say for sure whether this is a pure Thai dish. All I know is it was out of this world good. The flavors were fully developed and distinguishable and while there was chicken in this version, making it vegetarian with tofu or just some extra noodles would not tarnish the sanctity in any way. The heat is dependent on the amount of curry, but I thought the amount I used pushed the level of heat right to the perfect limit, leaving your mouth burning, but not wanting to stop because the flavors were so spot on. I’m usually pretty hard on my dishes, but it’s hard to find many faults. I would give more corn relish because it added such a perfect combination of freshness and vinegar to the dish, I adjusted the recipe for that. I would also make plenty of noodles for seconds, I had just enough for 4 bowls and wanted more noodles to soak up the broth in my second go around. Other than that, don’t change a thing and thank me later!
Spicy Thai Curry Soup – serves 4 (as usual, nothing is exactly measured, taste throughout and add more of whatever you think is necessary)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (3 for curry paste mixture, 1 for corn relish)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 tsp coriander flakes
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- Dash of ground cinnamon
- 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
- 2 ears of fresh sweet corn, kernels sliced off
- 1 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- 2 limes for juice, 1/2 of 1 for corn relish and the rest for soup
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 onion, medium chop
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 2 stalks celery
- Coconut milk, 14 oz
- 2.5 cups l0w-sodium chicken broth
- 1.5 lb boneless and skinless chicken breast, cut into small, even strips
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- Chow mein stir fry noodles
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, season throughout the cooking process
Pour chicken stock in bowl, add brown sugar, squeeze of lime juice, chicken, salt and pepper. Let marinate while prepping everything else.
Finely mince garlic and ginger. Add cumin, coriander, tumeric, cinnamon, and curry paste to garlic/ginger. Grind into a fine paste.
Shave corn from cob. Add finely chopped basil and cilantro, 1 minced cloved garlic, fresh lime juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Melt butter on medium heat and add the mirepoix, 1 onion, 1 red pepper, 2 celery stalks, season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are softened and add the curry paste mixture, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the chicken stock mixture, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 10-15 minutes, until slightly reduced and thickened, or when chicken is almost fully cooked. Add the soy, peanut butter, and fish sauce, stir until fully integrated, and cook for another 5 minutes. When the soup has reached it’s desired thickness, take off the heat, squeeze in fresh lime juice.
While the soup is cooking, bring a pot of well salted water to a boil and add the lo mein noodles, cook until al dente because the hot soup will cook fully. Rinse well, put on bottom of bowl, ladle soup over the noodles and garnish with corn relish, basil, and cilantro.