What beats the combination of sweet and savory in a comforting stew prepared and served by someone who loves you. I cannot think of a thing. It was by chance that I stumbled across this recipe that offers up all of the above. Traditionally made with leftover fried pork, it is said to be a dish Thai mothers often make for their little children. When I was little, and feeling out of sorts, my mother used to give me chicken noodle soup. Even though it was often from a red and white can, it was still very comforting and presented as a gesture of love and nurturing. I loved it! The other comfort food mom made when we were ill was soft-boiled eggs. She would tear soft bread into a bowl and then mix the runny egg until it was absorbed. I still make this for my grandchildren sometimes. My eight year old recently declared it to be the best egg he ever tasted. Whatever represents comfort to you, it most likely stems from your childhood and the memories that are conjured up while eating it.
That said, I love this recipe as it has all the elements of comfort for me. Perfect for a cold day, it is light and hearty at the same time. It is very flavorful but the absence of the chillies, we are used to in Thai cuisine, keeps the heat down. If you desire a bit more spice, chilies could easily be added. It depends on your palate and what appeals to you. This also applies to the egg. A runny egg on practically anything speaks volumes to me but I have had readers say they cannot stomach the idea. If this is you and you generally enjoy eggs I suggest substituting a hard-boiled egg or skipping the whole egg thing all together. I love the creaminess of a soft yolk so that is how I made it at my house. Typically pork based, I chose to make it with chicken thighs which I love and find so much more flavorful than the favored breast which is easily over cooked and often dry.
Here is how it went down in my kitchen.
KAI PA LO Serves 6
Thai Chicken Stew
1 ½ lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ t garlic powder
½ t sea salt
¼ t fresh ground black pepper
1T neutral cooking oil, such as, grape seed
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2T tamari or soy sauce
6c chicken stock
1T palm sugar or light brown sugar
6 soft-boiled eggs, peeled (immersed into boiling water and cooked for 6 minutes)
1/2 – 1T Chinese five spice ( to taste)
3c Jasmine Rice, steamed (enough for about ½ c per serving)
Scallions, sliced or cilantro for garnish
Lime wedges for serving
- Combine the garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the chicken thighs with this mixture.
- Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot and brown the chicken thighs. Remove and set aside.
- Add the onion to the pot and cook until translucent. Add the garlic cloves and continue cooking for a minute or two. Add the chicken back to the pan along with any juices.
- Add the tamari and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for about 45 minutes.
- Remove the chicken. When cool enough to handle, shred it into bite sized pieces.
- Put the chicken back into the broth and add the sugar and Chinese five spice. Stir to incorporate and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Ladle into bowls, add a scoop (I use a large ice cream scoop) of rice, top with the soft cooked egg cut in half and garnish with scallions or cilantro. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing over the top.
The real depth of flavor comes from the Chinese Five Spice. The blend I use is made up of China cassia cinnamon, star anise, anise seed, ginger and cloves. The exact combination may vary by manufacturer. The blend provides warmth from the cinnamon, a little zip from the ginger and then the strong taste added by the star anise and cloves. I tell you this as a warning to use sparingly until you reach the taste you like. You can always add more but you can’t take it away once it is in there. One recipe I saw called for 2T which I feel would over power to the point of ruin. Just saying, I toned it down a bit.
Side note: For those who may have taken my New Orleans Cuisine class last Thursday (2/5/15), I finally remembered the name brand of the Andouille Sausage we used for the jambalaya. It is called Delta Dream. Sorry for the brain lapse.
Here’s hoping you will sample this bowl of comfort soon. Freezing drizzle is predicted for my neighborhood tomorrow so it may just make an appearance on my dinner table. Regardless of what you decide to serve, I encourage you to keep spreading the love, one soothing dish at a time. Take care and be safe. Sending warming love from my kitchen to yours. Jeanne