We’re big fans of chicken noodle soup around here. I’m not talking about the canned kind (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I prefer my noodles to be al dente (i.e., cooked to the point where there’s just a little bit of firmness), and there’s just no way a canned or jarred chicken noodle soup can keep those noodles firm enough for my liking.
Instead, I make a really easy chicken noodle soup from “scratch” every once in awhile. I think of chicken soup as the ultimate comfort food — it lifts the grayest days and is just a warm hug in a bowl. Today’s version is a green curry chicken noodle soup is a variation that I started making not too long ago, and it’s proved to be a family favorite.
I stock both red and green curry paste in my pantry along with cans of coconut milk. I love the Thai Kitchen brand because there’s no added sugar or thickener to their curry pastes and coconut milk, and I’ve found that their quality is most consistent compared to other brands I’ve used in the past (and no, they’re not paying me to say this at all). If you’ve never made a curry before, Thai Kitchen is a great place to start. There are instructions on the jar, but honestly, it’s just a matter of stir-frying about two tablespoons of paste in a teaspoon or so of olive oil, then adding cubed meat (I usually use chicken breast) and vegetables before pouring a can of coconut milk over the whole thing.
For this green curry chicken noodle soup, I start by searing four seasoned (i.e., salt and pepper) chicken breasts over high heat in my trusty Le Creuset large Dutch oven. Then, I set the chicken aside on a plate while I saute some veggies (celery, carrots and onion) in olive oil and green curry paste. When the veggies are soft and the onion is translucent, the chicken breasts go back into the pot to simmer with some chicken stock and coconut milk.
Here’s the key to really, really good chicken noodle soup: always boil the noodles separately. I’ve seen lots of recipes that call for adding the noodles and actually cooking them in the soup. Here’s the problem with that: first of all, the veggies that you’ve so tenderly sautéed and simmered get obliterated when subjected to the high boil required for cooking noodle. Secondly, noodles release starch into their cooking water. When the cooking water is the soup itself, you end up with a starchy mess of a soup. It’s not good. Trust me, I’ve tried it so that you don’t have to.
For my green curry chicken noodle soup, I use Chinese lo mein egg noodles, but you could just as easily use the traditional curly egg noodles that are found in just about any grocery store. The Chinese egg noodles are sturdy and don’t fall apart in soup, so they’re a good choice if you can find them.
As with any good soup, my green curry chicken noodle soup is only as good as its toppings (or “fixins”, if you’re from where I am). Whenever I make this soup, I serve it with chopped spicy birds’ eye chilies, cilantro (coriander if you’re in England), lime wedges, and fish sauce. These toppings add zing and freshness to the broth, which is a bowl full of subtle spice and rich flavor.
The last time I made this green curry chicken noodle soup, my kids went kind of overboard with the toppings. Ge Ge gleefully plucked leaf after leaf off a stalk of cilantro, and both kids squuueeeeezed and squeezed wedge after wedge of limes until I stopped them. What is that impulse we have as kids that makes us go totally over the top? For example, this morning I had to stop the kids from adding way too much ice to their water. I spent my morning mopping up the kitchen floor from melted ice cubes and had to teach my kids the proper way to drink with ice in their cup.
“No picking up the ice with your fingers!”
“If you drop an ice cube on the floor, it does NOT go back in your glass!”
“Please don’t crunch the ice — you’ll damage the enamel on your teeth!
“Enamel is the protective coating on your teeth!”
“Protective means that it keeps your teeth from crumbling out of your mouth!
“If your teeth crumble out of your mouth, how will you eat steak?”
“You do too like steak!”
Sigh. Parenting is exhausting.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 package (16 ounces) of Chinese lo mein egg noodles
- 2 stalks celery, finely diced
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 3 tablespoons green curry paste
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 2 cans coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- salt and pepper, for seasoning
- toppings: fresh cilantro, small red birds eye chililes, lime wedges, fish sauce
- Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until the olive oil is shimmering but not smoking. Turn the heat up on high, then add the chicken breasts. Cook on one side, pressing down gently on each chicken breast to make sure to get a golden-brown sear. Continue cooking for about 2-3 minutes on one side before flipping over and searing on the other side. Remove the chicken breasts and set on a plate.
- Add a cup or two of cold water to the pan. While the water boils, scrape up all the browned bits. Tip the pot over back into a heatproof jug or bowl. (Note: taste this water; if it tastes like meaty goodness, add it to the chicken stock you're using, but if it's super bitter and gross, just discard it).
- Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch oven and turn the heat down to medium. Add the onion, celery, carrot and saute until translucent. Add the green curry paste and cook for another 1-2 minutes until the vegetables are well-blended with the curry paste.
- Return the chicken breasts to the pot and add the chicken broth, coconut milk and fish sauce (if you're using it). Bring the soup to a boil, then lower it down to a simmer and cook for 25-30 minutes until the chicken breasts are cooked through. Note: you can do everything up to this step ahead of time and then cool the soup to room temperature, then finish the soup later in under 10 minutes (see below).
- When you're almost ready to serve (or while your soup is simmering), boil the egg noodles in a separate pot according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and divide between 4 large bowls.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the soup back onto the plate you were using and let them cool slightly before shredding the chicken with two forks.
- Return the shredded chicken to the soup pot and stir the chicken through to combine it. Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the soup over the noodles and serve with lime wedges, cilantro and chopped chilies.