Local Chicken Soup

For three years, I’ve had a nose for it. I’d been searching for a local chicken soup recipe all that time, though I didn’t know it.

In 2004, on a trip through Kota Bharu in the Malaysian state of Kelantan, Jerry and I met a Muslim man from Ghana who showed us around. We met the mufti, visited a madrassa (where we happened to find an Islamic scholar from Idaho), and sat down to a home-cooked lunch prepared by our guide’s wife. She made the most incredibly aromatic soup, a soup that left me puzzling over flavors for years. I eventually learned it was no singular spice that caught my attention, but something in the combination of ingredients that made my mouth go, “Wow!”

Well, we had it again in Pattani at a Muslim restaurant called Arine. Chicken soup. What kind of chicken soup? Local chicken soup. “Soup gai baan.” It’s really very simple, but the flavors, oh the flavors, you’ll just have to make the soup for yourself to understand. Here’s how, courtesy of Khun Wilaiwan and the Arine Restaurant:

Ingredients
1 local chicken (a.k.a. free-range)
2 lemongrass stalks
Healthy wedge of galangal
Healthy wedge of fresh turmeric (or substitute powdered)
Garlic
Tablespoon of coriander seeds
Water
A few pinches of salt
Fish sauce
Lime juice
Sugar
Slightly pounded bird chilies
Sliced green onion
Fried sliced shallot

Method:
Slightly pound lemongrass, galangal, turmeric, garlic and coriander using mortar and pestle. Chop the local chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a pot of boiling water. When the chicken is cooked, add lemongrass, galangal, turmeric and garlic followed by salt. When all ingredients are cooked, season the soup with fish sauce, sugar and lime juice to taste. Put the soup into a bowl. Top it with slightly pounded bird chilies, sliced green onion and fried sliced shallot. Serve hot.

7 thoughts on “Local Chicken Soup

  1. This sounds so incredibly appetizing that I will have to make it this weekend. But what, may I ask, are bird chiles? I’m not familiar with those.

  2. Hey Karen, I’m glad you posted this. Yes, if you like this recipe, I hope you’ll give another Malaysian chicken soup a try. The one you posted are very popular among the malays, and perhaps you want to try the Malaysian chinese version where the “kampung ayam” – village chicken (free range) with herbs like ginseng, dong guai, goji berries, and other medicinal chinese herbs. Its slow cooked for hours until the herbs infused and the chicken broth is so sweet and yummy :)

  3. I love chicken soup and this has lots of meat. Most chicken soup is a after thought of eating the chicken only. Sad to say getting some of these Ingredients maybe hard in this small town but I will try.. Thanks

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