panang curry soup

It was just sitting there, taunting me. “You can’t drink me, silly lady. I’m a sauce! Not a soup.” I don’t like to be told what to do. So I took one look at the remnants of the panang curry from our favorite thai place, told it to shut it’s stupid panang curry mouth, and drank it.

It was right. It was too rich to be drunk. But it’s flavors—oh, it’s flavors!—creamy coconut, salty chicken broth, spicy red curry; they were destined to be in sippable form. So I set out to make this classic thai dish into a soup that can be both eaten and slurped, both without judgment.

I began with the classic panang curry ingredients: carrots, scallions, lime, shallot, ginger, garlic, and mushroom. For body I added yam, two types of potato, and boneless, skinless chicken thighs to start the broth.

You’ll also need thai red curry paste (available in most grocery stores), chicken broth, and coconut milk. Not pictured but also needed: olive oil, butter, water and flour.

Begin by rinsing the chicken and patting it dry. Trim off any excess fat, check for stray bones, and then cut into 1″ pieces.

Brown the chicken in a bit of oil until no longer pink. It’s best to do this in a big pot so you can make the soup in it, too.

While the chicken is cooking, you can mince the garlic and shallot…

…peel and chop the carrot…

…and dice the potatoes (peel the yam first).

Remove the chicken from the pot, add a bit more oil, and brown the garlic and shallot.

Add the potatoes and carrot and cook until tender.

Meanwhile, chop the shallots…

…and quarter the mushrooms (I like to lop off the very end of the stems first, but it’s not completely necessary).

Remove the potatoes and carrots from the pot. Melt the butter and quickly stir in the flour to make a roux.

Whisk in the broth, coconut milk and red curry paste, scraping the bottom of the pan to release all of the browned bits.

Add the chicken, vegetables, mushrooms, and scallions. Zest and juice half of the lime into the soup.

Grate in the ginger (I like to use the microplane for this, but if you don’t have one, the thin side of a cheese grater works just fine). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, or until it reaches the thickness you desire.

Serve with more chopped scallions and a slice of lime if desired, and a crusty bread, pita or naan on the side for dipping. Breathe it in. Savor. And slurp away.

Panang Curry Soup        printable recipe

Serve with a crusty bread, toasted pita or warmed naan for sopping up the fragrant, spicy broth.

Active time: 30 minutes Total time: 1 hour. 

Serves 8

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small shallot
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 small yam
  • 1 large yukon gold potato
  • 1 large red potato
  • 1 small bunch scallions
  • 1/2 lb crimini or white mushrooms
  • 1 piece ginger root, roughly the size of your finger
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth or chicken stock
  • 2 cans coconut milk (not light)
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste (more if your like more spice)
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 lime
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan (preferably one you can create the whole pot of soup in) over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown the chicken with the salt until no longer pink, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot.
2. Mince the garlic and shallot. Peel the carrots and cut into 1/2″ coins. Peel the yam and dice (I find a 3/4″ dice works well for soups) along with the potatoes.  Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot and add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Add the shallot and saute for 1 minute more. Add the carrots, yam and potatoes; reduce heat to medium and cook for 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Remove from pot.
3. While the vegetables are cooking, chop the scallions and quarter the mushrooms. Peel the ginger root. Set aside.
4. In the same pot, melt the butter and quickly stir in the flour, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, coconut milk, red curry paste and water, scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir to release the browned bits. Add the chicken, carrot and potato mixture, mushrooms, and scallions (reserving a few tablespoons of scallions for serving, if desired). Zest and juice half of the lime into the soup, reserving the other half of the lime for serving. Grate the ginger into the soup. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, curry paste or lime if needed. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, or until soup reaches the thickness you desire. Taste once again for seasoning and serve.




sweet pepper chowder with parsnips

Chowders are, in my humble opinion, God’s gift to winter. Creamier than a soup, thicker than a stew, and one of the most simple suppers you can enjoy on a cold and frosty night.

I’ve been a mad chowder scientist this season, studying everything from cream content to stock variety to starch types. I’ve pureed, measured the perfect dice, and perfected sauté times. I’ve re-written old chowder recipes and come up with new ones. I even hosted a chowder party, in which three varieties went head to head in a heated battle to the chowder death.

I’ll tell you about the other two in a later post, but first let’s talk about this sweet pepper chowder with parsnips. It came out punching. Swinging. Ready to brawl with any inferior chowder that stood in its way and beat that sucker down to Chinatown.

Not only was it my favorite of the bunch, it was also a bit of a fluke. I began cooking it a mere two hours before guests were arriving with no recipe, a handful of ingredients, and only a vague idea what I was doing (this, by the way, I wouldn’t recommend for entertaining. Had the recipe gone awry I would have been terribly embarrassed). I needed a strictly vegetarian chowder to feed my veg-head sister-in-law, and when I am forbidden to use meat I tend to get a little twitchy.

I reluctantly cracked open the container of vegetable stock, terrified it would have no flavor and I would need to overcompensate with spices. Luckily, I couldn’t have been more mistaken. The flavors of the chowder all came together in some kissed-by-the-stars kismet: sweet roasted peppers snuggled right up to tender parsnips, all swathed in a creamy broth with subtle sweet heat.

It was a quick one-two punch, an instant knockout. And after all of my tedious chowder research using bacon, chicken stock, and various other carnivorous delights, it was this simple vegetarian version that took the cake. Sometimes that happens in cooking; try something new and you just might blow yourself away.



Sweet Pepper Chowder with Parsnips

Serves 10 as a first course or 6 as a main course.

  • 3-4 bell peppers or 12-16 small sweet peppers (use only yellow, red or orange bell peppers)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ c flour
  • 4 c vegetable stock
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and chopped into ½” pieces
  • 2 c corn (frozen is fine)
  • 1 c half and half
  • 1 1/2 c grated pepper jack cheese, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to broil with the rack in highest position. Place peppers on a baking sheet lined with foil and broil 5-10 minutes on each side, until blackened. Remove from oven and fold foil around peppers.

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes until tender and translucent. Carefully peel peppers and remove seeds. Finely chop and add to onions, sautéing 2 minutes more. Stir in flour to coat then pour in vegetable stock, stirring well to release browned bits from bottom of pot. Add parsnips and corn, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until parsnips are tender and mixture has thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in half and half and cheese. Simmer for two minutes more before serving. Garnish with cheese if desired.