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Chicken soup can inspire a culinary odyssey: Recipes from around the world

Chicken Tortilla Soup is a spicy soup that is quick to make. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Foodland Ontario

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Chicken Tortilla Soup is a spicy soup that is quick to make. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Foodland Ontario

Chicken soup seems to be one of those dishes that is beloved by people around the world. Here are four versions — Thai, Greek, Mexican and Jewish — to start your culinary journey.

Coconut-Chicken Soup (Tom Khan Kai)

This Thai version of chicken soup is aromatic and exotic but easy to make. It uses many ingredients that are traditional in Thai cuisine.

Lemon grass, galangal root and lime leaves, the trio of flavours that give many Thai soups their distinctive taste, are unchewable, but form dictates that they be left in the soup. It is then up to the diners to avoid eating them.

125 g (4 oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast

1 stick lemon grass

1 piece (2.5 cm/1 inch) galangal root or ginger root, peeled

4 lime leaves or 15 ml (1 tbsp) lime juice

2 fresh hot chilies

500 ml (2 cups) unsweetened coconut milk

250 ml (1 cup) water

30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice

15 ml (1 tbsp) fish sauce

1 ml (1/4 tsp) sugar

Fresh coriander leaves, for garnish

Slice chicken into thin (5-mm/1/4-inch) strips. (If you find it difficult to cut thinly through fresh meat, leave it in the freezer for 15 to 20 minutes to harden slightly and then slice.) Set aside.

Smash lemon grass once with the flat of a chef's knife, and then cut it into 2.5-cm (1-inch) pieces. Slice galangal into thin rounds. Tear lime leaves, if using, into thirds. Cut chilies in half. Mix the 4 ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan, heat coconut milk and water for 2 to 3 minutes. Don't let it boil. Reduce heat to medium and add lemon grass mixture and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring continuously and not letting it boil.

Add chicken strips and cook for 5 minutes, stirring over medium heat, until chicken is cooked (don't overcook and reduce heat if it threatens to boil).

Add lemon juice (plus lime juice if you haven't been able to find lime leaves), fish sauce and sugar. Stir, and continue cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer to a soup tureen and serve immediately, garnished with fresh coriander leaves.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: "Simply Thai Cooking" (3rd Edition) by Wandee Young and Byron Ayanoglu (Robert Rose Inc., www.robertrose.ca).

———

Chicken Avgolemono Soup

This creamy chicken soup with a fresh citrus taste is a traditional Greek favourite, although the original recipe wouldn't have included the carrot or as much celery. It takes a while to make but is well worth the wait.

30 ml (2 tbsp) olive oil

1/2 large chopped onion

3 cloves chopped garlic

1 large boneless chicken breast

2.25 to 2.5 l (9 to 10 cups water)

125 ml (1/2 cup) diced celery

125 ml (1/2 cup) diced carrots

250 ml (1 cup) white long-grain rice

50 ml (1/4 cup) all-purpose flour

3 eggs

125 ml (1/2 cup) lemon juice

In a large soup pot, place olive oil and saute onion and garlic until soft over medium-low heat. Add whole chicken breast and saute for a few minutes, browning both sides.

Add water and bring to a boil for 30 minutes.

Remove chicken breast and set aside. Add celery and carrots to soup and boil for another 30 minutes. When chicken is cool enough to handle, cut into small pieces.

Add chicken pieces and rice and boil for 10 to 12 minutes (15 minutes maximum). After rice has been cooking for about 5 minutes, mix flour with a little cold water and add to pot, stirring to thicken. Continue stirring while rice finishes cooking, another 5 to 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat.

Meanwhile, beat eggs well and slowly stir lemon juice into beaten eggs.

When soup is removed from heat, pour egg-lemon mixture into pot, stir and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Source: Bill and Heidi Vamvalis, Mykonos Greek Restaurant, London, Ont.

———

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This Mexican take on chicken soup, using leftover or a rotisserie chicken, has some heat with the addition of jalapeno peppers. The tomatoes also differentiate it from strictly cream- or broth-based chicken soups.

30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

1 sweet red pepper, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

5 ml (1 tsp) each ground cumin, dried oregano and chili powder

3 plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped

1.5 l (6 cups) sodium-reduced chicken broth

500 ml (2 cups) diced or shredded cooked chicken

250 ml (1 cup) corn kernels

30 ml (2 tbsp) fresh lime juice

Pinch granulated sugar

Salt and pepper, to taste

30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh coriander

Small corn chips

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat; add onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add red and jalapeno peppers; cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in garlic, cumin, oregano and chili powder; cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.

Stir in tomatoes and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Stir in chicken and corn; simmer, covered, until corn is tender, about 2 minutes.

Just before serving, stir in lime juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with coriander and corn chips.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: Foodland Ontario.

———

The Best Chicken Soup (Jewish Penicillin)

This traditional Jewish soup can be served with noodles, rice, orzo, kasha (hulled buckwheat kernels), kreplach (triangular noodles filled with chopped meat or cheese), mandlen (soup nuts, a kind of baked cracker), matzo farfel (pasta) or matzo balls. A recipe for herbed Passover noodles follows.

The boiled chicken can be used for other purposes or pieces can be added to the soup. This soup freezes well.

1.5 kg (3 lb) chicken, cut up

2 l (8 cups) water (approx)

Salt, to taste

2 ml (1/2 tsp) pepper

7 or 8 carrots

4 stalks celery

2 onions (or 1 onion and 1 leek)

1 red pepper, cored, seeded and diced

2 cloves garlic

125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh dill sprigs (do not chop), plus extra for garnish

Trim excess fat from chicken. To remove excess salt from kosher chicken, soak it in cold water for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain well.

Place chicken in a narrow, deep soup pot. Add water. (It should cover the chicken completely.) Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Skim off scum completely.

Add carrots, celery, onions and red pepper. Cover partially and simmer gently for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add garlic and dill. Simmer soup for 10 to 15 minutes longer. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Let cool completely. Strain soup. Discard skin and fat from chicken. Discard all veggies except carrots. Refrigerate soup overnight, then discard hardened fat from surface of soup.

When ready to serve, heat soup on stovetop or in microwave. Just before serving, add cooked noodles (or rice or pasta) to hot soup. Add a piece of cooked carrot to each bowl. Garnish with fresh dill.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Source: "Healthy Helpings: 800 Fast and Fabulous Recipes" by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap Books).

———

Herbed Passover Noodles

125 ml (1/2 cup) potato starch

0.5 ml (1/8 tsp) salt

1 egg plus 2 egg whites (or 2 eggs)

250 ml (1 cup) water

15 ml (1 tbsp) oil

1 ml (1/4 tsp) dried basil (or 5 ml/1 tsp freshly minced dill or basil)

In a bowl, combine potato starch, salt, egg and egg whites. Whisk together until no lumps remain. Gradually whisk in water, oil and basil; mix until smooth. (This can be done in a food processor.) Let batter stand for 15 minutes. Batter can be refrigerated up to 24 hours.

Grease a crepe pan or small non-stick skillet lightly or spray pan with non-stick spray. Stir batter well. Pour about 45 ml (3 tbsp) of the batter (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) into the skillet. Cook for about 1 minute, until edges are brown and top surface is dry. Flip crepe over and cook for 10 seconds longer. Turn out onto a clean tea towel.

Repeat with remaining batter, stirring occasionally to prevent potato starch from settling to the bottom. If crepes begin to stick to pan, grease pan with a little oil on a paper towel.

Roll each crepe up like a jelly roll and cut into 5-mm (1/4-inch) strips. At serving time, add to hot chicken soup. These noodles reheat and freeze well.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Source: "Healthy Helpings: 800 Fast and Fabulous Recipes" by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap Books).

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