When I was pregnant, I didn’t have cravings – I had aversions. I envied those women who craved cheeseburgers and ice cream and got a free pass to eat them in stretchy pants at their leisure. For me, the smell – or even thought – of most food, and particularly meat, was nausea-inducing. I finally understood how those people who could go through a day and forget to eat felt. I didn’t want much of anything, except perhaps the occasional slurpee and sour things, like lemonade. A friend who had gone through the same sent a list of foods that weren’t as bad coming back up.
Among the worst: roasted chicken and chicken soup. Totally not fair. One day while grocery shopping in Vancouver, a lady passed me with her cart, slumped over the bar, pulling apart and eating a deli chicken with her fingers. I had to run, not walk, to the loo.
Not surprisingly, anything fishy prompted a similar reaction. On another very pregnant day I made the unwise decision to make pad Thai on a (now off the air) cooking show called City Cooks, and when I poured the fish sauce into the hot pan, the host and entire crew watched as the colour drained out of my face and I struggled to not throw up on live TV. Good times.
Since then my appetite for chicken soup in any form has waned. But last week at a Thai restaurant in Red Deer I had a taste of Tom Ka Gai – I had forgotten how much I loved Thai coconut soup. It’s easy to make – and the lemon, garlic, ginger and chiles send those Thanksgiving flavours running. This bowl tastes nothing like turkey leftovers.
Turkey Tom Ka Gai
Adapted from Self
4 oz. thin rice or bean vermicelli noodles (or enough for 4)
1 L chicken or turkey stock
1–2 red Thai or jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced into rings
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1-inch piece fresh lemongrass, cut in half lengthwise (optional)
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
3 Tbsp. Thai fish sauce
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms – I used oyster mushrooms
1-2 cups chopped or sliced roasted turkey, or 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 14 oz (398 mL) can coconut milk
1-2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and/or Thai basil, for garnish
Soak the noodles in warm water according to the package directions until soft. Meanwhile, heat up the stock and add the chiles, garlic, ginger, lemon zest and juice and fish sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the noodles and mushrooms and cook for a few minutes, until the noodles are tender. Remove them from the stock with tongs, divvying them up between 4 shallow bowls.
Add turkey or chicken and coconut milk and bring to a simmer (if you’re using raw chicken, simmer for 3 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt. Add the spinach and cook just until it wilts. If you like, fish out the slices of chili and/or lemongrass. Stir in some of the cilantro, saving some for the top.
Ladle the soup over the noodles and serve hot. Serves 4.