If there's one thing that White People Like, it's got to be Thai food. Portland is not unlike most cities of any size in that there are roughly three Thai restaurants every four blocks.
With decent-to-delicious Thai food available so cheaply and so locally, maybe it's not much of a mystery why I haven't experimented much with cooking it myself. But last night I gave a very non-authentic spin to tom kha gai, or coconut milk soup with chicken.
We had guests for an impromptu dinner, so there really should have been twice as much chicken and twice as much coconut milk--but I think it was pretty good anyway. It came together in just a few minutes, and I was actually pretty happy with the decision to simmer the aromatics in the broth and then strain them rather than chop them fine and leave them in. I'll try it the other way another time.
Thanks to my willing guinea pigs (Eliese, Matt, Melissa and Vernie) who ate up soup & rice at 10 pm on a Sunday night when there were lots of other things they probably should have been doing!
Portland White Girl Tom Kha Gai
Serves eight, barely
1 6" piece of fresh lemongrass, split lengthwise, cut crosswise into a couple of pieces, lightly crushed with the flat side of a knife
5 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
2, 3, 4 or more small hot red chilies, seeded if you like
A 2" piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled, sliced
One lime, quartered
6 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup Thai fish sauce
1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into thin pieces
1 or 2 (15-ounce) cans coconut milk, well shaken
[Optional, and I didn't have any, but it would have been a great addition: 1 package Thai rice stick noodles, soaked in warm water for an hour and drained]
1/2 to 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Steamed basmati rice, for serving
Lime wedges and sliced scallions, for serving
Combine lemongrass, garlic, chilies, lime and chicken broth in a soup pot; bring just to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Stir in fish sauce. Simmer, covered, for 10 to 20 minutes. Strain into a large bowl; return hot strained broth to pot.
Add chicken and coconut milk (and noodles, if using). Return to a simmer; cook gently until chicken (and noodles) is (are) just done. Stir in cilantro. To serve, scoop some rice into each bowl and ladle soup over; garnish with lime and scallions.