Asian Style Soup

Last night I wanted something DIFFERENT! But I didn't have anything DIFFERENT in the house. Yet I managed to come up with a surprisingly good soup that reminded me of Hot & Sour soup. So good. This Asian style soup recipe really lends itself to some experimentation, have fun with it!

Three boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I buy these frozen and by the bagful at the grocery store and keep them for recipes just like this one--they're individually frozen and it's so convenient and time saving to be able to just pull out what you need.

8 cups Chicken Stock

A tablespoon or two of grated ginger-- if you are remote like me, buy a hand or two of ginger the first chance you get and stick it in a Ziplock freezer bag and keep it frozen, grating off what you need. It will last you a long while. The ginger will soften quickly out of the freezer, so you can always opt to just let a hunk of it sit out for a little while and slice it super thin if you prefer it that way. I prefer it grated. You'll really have to use your own judgment as to how much ginger to use for this recipe. I've never gotten too much.... yet. You don't have to cook with ginger more than a few times to figure it out though. By the way, ground or crystallized ginger is not the same as fresh or frozen ginger. You can't substitute ground ginger for fresh/frozen ginger.

4 cloves of garlic, 1 left whole but peeled and the other three peeled, and sliced thin.

1 and 3/4 cups of rice, preferably Jasmine or some other aromatic rice. Whole grain is fine. So is any old white rice. If using quick cooking rice then you'll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. The rice needs to be cooked in the stock, however. Leftover rice in this recipe wouldn't be right.

1 and 1/2 TBS chili powder

2 TBS soy sauce

Dried or fresh peppers. We grow Kung Pao peppers and I dry them and store them for use such as this. I used three dried Kung Pao peppers in this recipe. Crushed red pepper would be fine instead and it's certainly very easy to find. Use according to your taste.

1 large lime -- we only had some of the really small ones in the fridge for some reason, I used three.

1/2 a large, coarsely chopped onion (I prefer to cut it in short, fat strips but it's really not a big deal how you cut it)

1 TBS chopped fresh cilantro

2 TBS cornstarch (optional)

Place the thighs, frozen or not, in a small pot, cover with water, and add 1/4 of the lime (with skin), 1/2 TBS of the chili powder, about 1/4 of the onion you have chopped, a chunk of the ginger--no need to slice it for this, some of the spicy pepper--half a teaspoon if using crushed red pepper, a tablespoon of the soy sauce, the whole clove of garlic, and black pepper if you like. Bring to a boil then simmer until the meat is done and tender enough to cut it easily.

After you've got the chicken simmering, put the stock into a pot big enough to make your soup in. Add the remaining soy sauce, chili powder, peppers (spicy and/or black) according to your taste, the juice from the remaining lime, the remaining onion, the ginger, and the rice. Don't worry about the cornstarch yet. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover and cook on low for 20 minutes. The chicken will likely be done before the rice is. This is a good thing. As soon as the chicken is done remove it from the liquid it's cooking in and set it on a cutting board to cool. Dispose of the liquid you cooked the chicken in, you won't need it. When the chicken has cooled enough, chop it into bite sized pieces or shred it if you prefer.

Five minutes before the rice is done, add the chicken to the soup pot--don't stir it, replace the lid and continue cooking for the last five minutes. When the time is up, check the consistency. Would you like it thicker? To a small amount of tepid water, less than 1/8th of a cup, add your cornstarch and whisk. Once combined, add the mixture to the soup and raise the heat under the soup pot, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken. Turn off heat, stir in the tablespoon of the fresh, chopped cilantro, and serve. Drizzle with more soy sauce if you like.

If you don't have cilantro you could use some fresh chopped green onions (just the green tops), or some fresh chopped lemongrass (yeah, like I can run out and buy THAT at our local grocery store), or a very small amount of fresh, chopped spinach, or a small amount of the softer, greener bits of bok choy could also be used.

Thin sliced tofu would probably be lovely in this recipe as well, either in place of or in addition to the chicken. The recipe doesn't NEED the chicken, by the way, the stock provides plenty of flavor but without the chicken, there's not much protein in the dish.

My favorite thing about this recipe is that the next day, it will be much thicker and won't be at all unlike congee. I'll get to that recipe in the near future. Congee is one of my favorite foods.

What makes this recipe really work is the chicken stock. That's the secret.

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