Curried Coconut Chicken Soup: When you need a comfort

For SH, CJR, LKL, JZ, JD – thank you for being the calm when I freaked out

Daughter #1’s teacher and I had a casual conversation this past week, and she said, “Do you remember when you were younger, you had in your mind that if you just reached a certain age, life would be simple and all planned out and a straight, predictable trajectory?”

I do remember exactly feeling that way, and it definitely must have been before my body began betraying me and before the birth of Children.  That simplified and unrealistic view of a mature life happened when I was immature.

Because this last week, my life, at age 41, when it is supposed to be calm, peaceful and all figured out, was anything BUT that.  I injured my hip flexor in such a manner that I was completely debilitated and unable to function normally without screaming in wretched pain.  To compound that pain, Daughter #1, (this one who plays the piano and swims) fell off the monkey bars at school and was in excruciating pain (while I also was in the same excruciating pain) and I feared that her concert piano days and my peaceful nights were over.  Thankfully, Daughter #1’s arm turned out to be a bad sprain vs. a broken arm and my hip flexor is rapidly on the mend.  (All this paranormal activity, of course, while Husband is out of town on business.  Not blaming him, but just clarifying.)

I learned this week that life is never at all predictable, reliable, or calm.  However, there are many things that ARE – God, comfort from friends, and love from family.  As I repeatedly broke down from the pain in my body, the stress of trying to function, and the distress from seeing my own child suffer, I called upon God, my friends and my family, and many heard my cry and responded.  I read from the book of Job.  My parents offered to drive up from Southern California if only to relieve my duties.  Mother in law offered to come up and just be in the house so that she could answer the cries of children so I wouldn’t have to.  Friends offered wise and sage counsel on the phone about doctors, best methods of treatment, and in it all, somehow, peace began rising like the sun, ever present, ever dependable, ever there.

I learned a lot about myself this week.  Even though I had two kids with no pain intervention, the pain that prevents you from function and walking normally is unforgettable.  I learned that when I’m in a panic, there are a few voices that definitely calm me down and make me see straight.  (Thanks CJR and LKL and SH.)  And at the end of a hard day, sometimes a warm, rich comforting soup fills you up in a way that few things can.  I made this soup, hobbling around in my kitchen, cooking it on my single portable gas range, and when it was done, and I got to eat it.  I slurped it down and felt myself nourished and refreshed.

The soup sort of is like a tom yum or tom kha (Thai soups) but I definitely put my own twist on it as I didn’t use galangal or kaffir lime.  It’s more a Thai inspired curried soup more than anything, but it’s the soup I want to eat.  Tomorrow.

Curried Coconut Soup with Chicken and Enoki Mushrooms 
(adapted from Mai Pham’s Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking)
Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced lemon grass (from the bottom portion of the lemon grass, tough outer shell peeled off before chopping)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
1 teaspoon ground chili paste
1 teaspoon curry powder

3 ½ cups low sodium chicken stock
13 oz can coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

⅓ pound chicken breasts or thighs, skinned, boned, and cut into ½ inch cubes
7 oz enoki mushrooms, stems cut off (you may substitute a cup of whatever mushroom you like)
1 cup chopped ripe tomato (or cherry tomatoes sliced)
½ tablespoon lime juice
½ cup cilantro, roughly chopped


Heat oil in a sauce an over medium heat until hot.  Add shallot, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, red chili flakes, red chili paste, curry powder and brown slightly, about 30 seconds.

Add chicken stock, fish sauce, sugar and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil and add chicken, mushrooms, tomato.  After it comes to second boil, turn off heat, and add lime juice and cilantro.  Serve immediately.

Printable recipe

and when I want comfort, it sometimes looks like this.

Great book – so many things you want to eat in here!

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