About the Rambler

Welcome to my ramblings on dinner & drink, people & places, our planet’s health & the future of food. I’m a journalist, author and media trainer. My kitchen forever smells of garlic and curry. And much like my mother, I start thinking of dinner long before breakfast….

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:

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

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 comments to Local Chicken Soup

  • 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.

  • Hi Shauna – I think you’ll love the soup! Bird chilies are the little hot red or green Thai chilies used in much of Asian cooking. (The chili on my blog banner, which is greatly enlarged in the photo.) Check http://www.sonic.net/~alden/Chilefre.html#Thai%20chilies for more of a description.

  • 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 :)

  • Hi Shirley – yes, I tasted the Malaysian Chinese variety as well. Very delicious! More on that to come (but not just yet).

  • 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

  • [...] it not for the violence, I would love to spend my time and explore. And eat. Great food—lots and lots of great Melayu food—a regionally distinct mix of Malay and Thai; of pungent fish contrasted with [...]

  • I made this and it was so delicious, I couldn’t wait to make it again! Now it’s on the menu 2 or 3 times a month!

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