Thai Red Curry Chicken Soup

The temperature, oh man.  I just said to my little sister, “It’s so hot out and it’s not even hot yet!”  She replied, “Naw, it ain’t hot yet and it’s SO hot out!’  Here in south Florida you can already see little heat ripples shimmying up from the scorching asphalt.  If I don’t move my orchids soon they’re going to burn and then they’ll be rurrnt.  So many of them were given to me by my mom and dad so, in my eyes, they’re quite precious.  My parents had an outstanding collection of orchids and I’m pretty sure a good number of them were smuggled back from distant lands although some were obtained legally.  It seems my both my parents gravitated towards the sun and heat.  My father was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio.  He hated the cold, (if he was here right now he would say, “Even as a baby I hated the cold.”, and when he had the opportunity to leave, he left and never looked back.  Mama, on the other hand, was born and raised in Puerto Rico, enjoying and thriving in the sunshine her entire life.  She left long enough to look around, fall in love, marry my father and share her life back on the island with him.  My father was crazy about the tropics.  He spent days diving and snorkeling and always made sure he speared plenty of lobsters to share with my grandparents.  Mama spent her days adjusting to her new life with her newborn baby.  My older sister, Cynthia, was born in Puerto Rico.  Several years later they moved stateside, I was born and we finally settled in Fort Lauderdale.  We loved the endless, ubiquitous sunny days.  All we knew was heat and it wasn’t an issue.  Often Dad drove Cynthia and me down to the Keys where we would spend the day diving.  Those were the days when you didn’t have to be certified to dive.  All you needed was a weight belt and an oxygen tank, We knew to spit into our masks and rub the spit all over the rubber of the mask to create a waterproof seal.  It was blistering hot on the beaches but, once in the water, we swam deep into pockets of cool water silently pointing to one another a school of gorgeous blue tangs, the occasional, lone parrotfish or angelfish.  We saw tarpons and barracudas and every now and then we’d spy the shadow of a solitary manta ray glide above us.  We were two little girls, nut-brown from the sun, ecstatic to be spending time with our daddy.  My father had passionately begun his work with tropical fish so, in our house,  we had an enormous salt water tank in the Florida room.  Every Sunday, Dad put the top down of his Austin-Healy, loaded 2 pristine, plastic garbage cans in the back seat and stuffed Cynthia and me in the front, passenger seat.  Off we went to the beach… but NOT for sun and fun.  No.  In order to maintain our fish tank at home, Daddy filled each enormous garbage can with clean salt water to replace the tank water as saltwater filtration systems had not been invented yet.  Talk about manual labor.  Ugh. Somehow, my father lifted the filled containers into the car where Cynthia and I were responsible for making certain no water spilled out and onto his precious, exotic race car. I recall being six or seven years old, sitting in the back of the Healy, my little white-knuckled hands desperately holding on to the bouncing plastic barrel unable to wipe away the stream of perspiration making its way down my back and into backside.  Cynthia and I hated those trips, terrified of the trouble we’d be in as we watched the water slosh out of the big, plastic drums and onto the, custom fire-engine red paint job of Daddy’s beloved car.  The worst was if we caught the bridge and had to wait until yachts or sailboats had made their way down the Intracoastal.  Sitting in the blazing sun, the heat bouncing off the scorching asphalt was sheer torture but we didn’t dare complain as we watched the boats slowly mosey through the waterway.  Lord, that took forever.  The days were hot, whether in Fort Lauderdale or Puerto Rico, and we learned in Puerto Rico that often one could cool off by eating something hot, perspiring being the body’s cooling system.  Lunch at my Latin grandparent’s house was a full, sit down, real food meal.  Always heavy and always hot.  Sitting at the dinner table the perspiration poured off us and that was when we felt the slightest of breezes… soft as a feather under our ponytails and across the back of our necks or as a caressing wisp of air gliding gently across our foreheads and temples.  After scarfing down plates of steaming rice and red beans and stewed chicken, Cynthia and I splashed water on our wrists and faces.  We lay down for our naps under cooling ceiling fans and looked forward to the steaming hot, sugary cups of cafe con leche we would be served upon rising, continuing the cycle of hot-cool-hot-cool.  Life was good for those two little girls.

This soup makes for a fabulous dinner year round.  Chock full of flavor, it’s both sweet and savory, satisfying the senses and filling your tummy.  The soup can be made vegan by using vegetable broth in place of chicken broth and changing out the chicken for extra firm tofu.  Feel free to use the vegetables you love like carrots or broccoli, whatever floats your boat.  The recipe calls for sambal oelek, a chili paste or sauce, and is optional but try to get your hands on some if it’s not available at your grocery store.  It gives the soup so much more flavor as it’s loaded with garlic, shallot, ginger, lime juice and other tasty ingredients.  It also adds some heat so taste and test as you add.  Both the rice noodles and the fish sauce can be found on the international aisle in the Asian section of your supermarket.  I know this sounds weird but this soup tastes really good cold!  Enjoy this Thai red curry chicken soup  with both chop sticks for the noodles and a soup spoon for every drop slurpy goodness.

Thai Red Curry Chicken Soup

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, more if needed
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch pieces or extra firm tofu for vegan
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups red, orange or yellow bell, cut in 1-inch strips
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons sambal oelek, optional but I hope you try it!
  • 8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth for vegan
  • 2 13.5-ounce cans coconut milk
  • 1 8-ounce package rice noodles
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 teaspoons cane syrup or brown sugar
  • 3 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1 cup or more cilantro leaves
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced to the pale green part
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • thinly sliced red onion to garnish, optional
  • lime wedges, optional
  1. In a Dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the chicken to the pot, season with salt and pepper and give it one stir to break up the chicken pieces.  Do not stir again for 3-4 minutes allowing the chicken to brown until golden.
  3. Transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside.
  4. If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the pot.  Add onion and bell pepper, cook for 2-3 minutes stirring all the while.  Add garlic and stir.
  5. Add curry paste and sambal oelek, if using, and stir until completely incorporated.
  6. Pour in both broth and coconut milk, again, stirring well.
  7. Bring pot up to a gentle simmer and add rice noodles, pressing them down into the broth with the back of your spoon.
  8. To the pot add the chicken, fish sauce and cane syrup or brown sugar.
  9. Add zucchini and any other vegetables you are using and stir gently.
  10. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro, scallions and lime juice.
  12. Garnish each serving with red onion and lime wedges then serve.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.