I had met Rachel a handful of times before in social gatherings, but this is the first clear memory of her that stands out to me. It was spring 2010, which meant a lot of things for me. I was freshly out of a relationship, recently fired, and was just generally out of sorts. I spent a lot of time talking about getting the hell out of Canada. Then Rachel came along. Rachel came to meet a mutual friend and I for a pint one of these blue evenings. Talking to anyone that would listen, I mentioned I was probably going to get on a Greyhound bus and go to Boston. I’m not sure why I chose Boston, but it sounded like the right idea.
She told me she was probably going to buy a car and probably going to drive to America. “You should come with me.”, she said. I laughed, nodded in agreement and told her that I’d absolutely go. I thought she couldn’t be very serious, since we barely knew each other. Now I know that Rachel is always serious when it comes to America. We drove the span of America, east to west, that summer. Twice.
We’re only taking a week this time, but we’re going back to America this month.
Last weekend, the soupy stovetop kitchen had a special guest. Thank goodness Rachel lives a block away from me.
We came up with an idea for a soup and mostly used ingredients we had on hand. Just one quick trip to the produce market across the street and 4 dollars later we had everything we needed to make this Thai twist on a Southern chicken and dumpling recipe.
These ingredients were going to go well together because we said so. Basically when the two of us are together, we become an unstoppable force that can make anything happen. Or maybe I’ve been watching too much Buffy The Vampire Slayer lately. Not entirely sure.
Either way, Rachel is my strong female lead. She brings out an adventurous spirit in me and I feel like I have superpowers when we’re together. The night we made this soup, I also decided I could cut my own bangs in the bathroom sink. Both turned out well.
Outside of a slight mishap of breathing while toasting the chili flakes that left us coughing and wheezing for a good 15 minutes, maybe longer, we mostly mastered this soup. I urge you to keep a nearby window open and refrain from inhaling too closely to the pot. Lesson learned.
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1 white onion, quartered
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 2 inch piece ginger, roughly chopped
- 3 stalks lemongrass, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp red chili flakes
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 12-15 cremini mushrooms
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 2 russet potatoes, chopped
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- *Optional: chicken bones, cracked or chopped and 1 cup water
- Thai basil
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- 1 lime for juice
- 1 fistful fresh Thai basil, chopped
- Salt and pepper
Heat a large soup pot on medium heat and add the chili flakes. Toast the flakes for 1-2 minutes, but be careful not to inhale the fumes and trigger a coughing fit. Add the oil to the pot and stir in onions and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until onion softens.
Add the stock, lemongrass, coriander, fish sauce, and ginger. If you are using chicken bones, add them to the stock with an extra cup of water as well. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium low, covered, for one hour.
Salt and pepper the chicken and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Turn the chicken, cook for 10 more minutes. Chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Mix all of the ingredients for the dumplings together in a bowl until it forms a dough. Knead the dough a few times, cover the bowl and refrigerate until use.
Strain the broth and pour the liquid back into the pot. Bring to a boil and add the potatoes. Gently boil for 10 minutes until potatoes soften. Add the chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, and drop tablespoon-sized balls of the dough into the soup. Cover the pot and simmer on medium for 20 minutes.
Garnish with Thai basil leaves