Laotian Khao Poon

Hands down one of my favorite soups is probably Khao Poon. It is a Norther Thai or Lao soup that is not only super easy to make, but it makes a bunch and screams comfort. It is not a spicy soup, however you can make this as spicy as you want, not only with the broth, but accompanying it with Thai chili peppers. I wanted to make this one for my wife this past weekend because it reminded me when I was laid up with cancer over the summer and my friend Matt stopped by with a batch of Khao Poon that his wife had made. Not only talk about a great friend, but a really comforting bowl of soup during a not so comforting time.

Now my wife is hooked on this awesome soup as well. It’s an easy sell, trust me.

Khao Poon Recipe
Khao Poon Recipe

The cool thing about making this batch is when I was shopping for some ingredients at a local grocery store, is the owner had asked me what I was cooking. I said ‘Khao Poon’, and he was a bit startled and said ‘You know how to make that?’. He asked me about what ingredients I was using and suggested a couple of different things, one being banana blossom. I was intrigued to say the least as it is something I have never used before. So while walking out of the Asian grocery store, I was on my way to making a great batch of Khao Poon.

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 3 whole chicken breasts, skin on, bone in
  • water to cover
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, slightly smashed, optional
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup of shallots, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp fresh galangal, skin removed, thinly sliced
  • 4 oz can red curry paste
  • 4 oz can sweet Thai Noodle paste
  • 14 oz can of coconut milk
  • 1 cup of banana blossom, very thinly sliced, optional
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 cups bamboo shoots, roughly chopped
  • 1 whole lime
  • Thai chilies, optional
  • Shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup bean sprouts, per serving
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro
  • Khao Poon rice noodles, cooked al dente

Start by adding your chicken to a stock pot and cover entirely with cold water. Bring this to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Skim off any scum that floats to the top and discard. Continue cooking for about 45 minutes. This will not only be the chicken that we let cool, shred, and pound a bit, but what is left will be the stock that we use for our soup. Win, win.

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the stock, and let it completely cool. Once cooled, remove and discard the skin, and then start shredding the chicken. Once the chicken is shredded, take about half of it and add it to your mortar. Take your pestle and begin pounding the chicken. A few good moments of pounding is all you should need.

Ok, now onto the next step.

Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add in the oil and let it come to temperature. Next toss in the shallots, garlic, and thinly sliced galangal. Let this cook for a minute or so, then add in both of the curry pastes. Give this a good stir, and don’t be alarmed if this stuff starts popping at you.

Cook the paste, stirring along the way, for about 2-3 minutes, then add in all of the chicken. Give this another good stir, incorporating all of the paste into the chicken. Next add in the coconut milk. Give another good stir, and then pour all of this into the chicken stock. Stir well, bring the stock back onto medium heat, and let it come to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat by half, and then add in the banana blossom, bamboo shoots, and fish sauce. Give another good stir and cook for about 45 minutes.

Khao Poon Ingredients
Khao Poon Ingredients

During this time, make your noodles. Cook them for about 8 minutes, then strain them and rinse them in cold water. Once the water is strained, and the noodles are cooled, take a handful and wind them up into bundles. Repeat until all noodles are in nice bundles.

Have your cabbage, limes, chilies, and herbs ready. Raise the heat on the soup and bring back to a boil. Take a couple of bundles of noodles, or just one, and place in the bottom of a large soup bowl.

Add some bean sprouts, and cabbage, and give a good squeeze of lime. Ladle in a generous amount of khao poon, and top with come bird eye chili. Get your spoon and chop sticks ready! Face down, grab some noodles, slurp, and repeat. It’s all about texture (and flavor) in this bite. You get the crunch of the cabbage and sprouts, the tenderness of the chicken, and my gosh that coconut curry flavor! If you are looking for a flavor bomb, and a comforting soup year round, then this is the one. Hope you enjoy!

Mexican Shrimp and Fish Soup

I frequent a local Mexican Taqueria probably twice a week. Please don’t judge me. There is something about the vibe, the people, and the food that completes my day. I often kick myself when I leave from these lunch spots because I typically default to tacos. I love tacos, and again, please don’t judge me. But while I wait for my tacos, which doesn’t take long at all, I gaze at what others are ordering, and then I question my order. One particular week I was just stunned by this bowl of soup that a couple of locals ordered and I had to question my waitress as to what they ordered. As I always do, I make every attempt to use the Mexican language that I took for about 10 years of my life, and found out that it was a Mexican shrimp and fish soup.

Heck, I did not even pay attention to my tacos during my lunch. I was paying attention to the soup that these locals were slurping, and eating. They were pulling out whole, cooked, shrimp while at the same time slurping on this delicious broth and taking down tender vegetables. I was all over that stuff and decided to make this Mexican shrimp and fish soup for my weekly soup.

Mexican Fish and Shrimp Soup Recipe
Mexican Fish and Shrimp Soup Recipe

This soup reminds me of comfort and simplicity, and it is loaded with this awesome seafood flavor. It’s a true delight.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 whole onion, diced
  • 6 Mexican pulla peppers, seeds and stems removed
  • 14 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes, diced
  • 6 cups of vegetable stock
  • 3 whole carrots, cleaned and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 3 yukon gold potatoes, cleaned, and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 3 tilapia fillets
  • 15 whole shrimp, deveined
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Mexican rice, cooked (optional)
  • corn tortillas, warmed (optional)

The soup itself is really simple, but pretty complex in flavors. It actually reminds me of a mix between an Italian cioppino and a Mexican chicken tortilla soup and I love everything about those two!

Start by heating the oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add in the onions and sweat those down for about 7 minutes, stirring along the way. Toss in the garlic and whole chilies. Give that another good stir, and cook for a few more minutes. Add in the fire roasted tomatoes, and about a cup of stock. Stir, then add this mixture to a blender.

Blend until smooth, and strain the mixture back into the soup pot. This will remove any of the chilies that did not blend.

Mexican Fish and Shrimp Soup Ingredients
Mexican Fish and Shrimp Soup Ingredients

Add in the carrots, potatoes, and fish fillets. Stir, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and let this cook until the potatoes are slightly tender.

During this time, make the rice if you are going that route. I always see the locals at the Taqueria eating their soup with some rice, and warm tortillas. They know what’s up so that is the route that I take.

Once the potatoes are tender, add in the whole shrimp, shells and head. Yep, the whole thing. If you are not into that then by all means just use cleaned shrimp. I like the experience and flavor so I keep them whole, but clean them of their dirty vein before throwing them in.

Let those shrimp poach for a few minutes. They don’t take long. Then get your ladle out and get that soup into a bowl. Make sure you get everything. The fish will fall apart so don’t worry. Shower some fresh cilantro and lime juice on top, and serve alongside some hot Mexican rice, and get a few tortillas ready as well.  The result is a soup so comforting on a cool day. It’s really a perfect seafood soup and one that I was glad to gaze at during my lunch last week. I hope you enjoy!

Isan Grilled Chicken

Isan, or Isaan is a northeastern region of Thailand, bordering Laos and Cambodia that has its own style of food. Not that it stems too far away from the main culture, but I find it to be a bit spicier, and commonly the food is eaten with sticky rice (known as khao neow).  This grilled chicken is common in the region and is one that you will really love, whether you grill it (preferred) or bake it until you have crispy skin. I have made variations of this style of chicken over the last 15 years or so, but this one is a bit different as I brined the chicken in advance to make it even more juicy. If you are looking for in introduction into Northern Thai cooking, and one without a ton of spice but packed with tons of flavor.

Isan Grilled Chicken Recipe
Isan Grilled Chicken Recipe

I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs on this particular recipe, but feel free to use a halved chicken, or spatchcock a chicken and go that route, especially for a crispy skin.

Ingredients for the brine:

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 1/2 cup of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into pieces, or 6 boneless and skinless chicken thighs

Ingredients for the Marinade: (if you have a mortar and pestle use it, otherwise your food processor)

  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup of thinly sliced lemongrass
  • 1/2 cup of cilantro, leaves and stems
  • 1/4 tsp MSG, optional
  • 3 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp curry powder, or turmeric
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp canola oil

Start by bringing the salt, sugar and water to a boil. Once the sugar and salts dissolve into the water, remove from the stove and let it cool.

Once the brine is cool, add in the chicken pieces, cover, and let this brine for 4 hours, and up to 24.

Isan Grilled Chicken Ingredients
Isan Grilled Chicken Ingredients

Make the marinade, either by using your food processor which many of you probably have, or go the authentic route and use the mortar and pestle. Make the mixture into a wet paste. Scrape into a sealable jar until the chicken is ready.

When the chicken is ready, remove it from the pot, and rinse and pat dry. Add the chicken pieces to a large sealable plastic bag, and pour in the marinade. Massage the marinade into the chicken and marinate for another 4-24 hours. The longer the better in my opinion.

Before you are wanting to grill, set the chicken out to get some of the chill off of it. I grill over charcoal, but again you can grill over wood, gas, or cook at 400 degrees until you get your internal temperature. My preference is grilling over coal for a more authentic taste.

When you have your grill going, I like to heat one side of the grill with coals and keep a warmer side with no coals. This way I can adjust the heat if things get too hot.

Place the chicken on the grill, near the coals, cover, and adjust the vents. You kind of want to go low and slow with this, slowly cooking the chicken, while any skin will get nice and crisp.

Isan Grilled Chicken Recipe
Isan Grilled Chicken Recipe

As this is cooking, feel free to whip up some dipping sauce that includes fish sauce, lime juice, chili, and a bit of sugar. Also feel free to serve this with jasmine rice, or better yet sticky rice (this is take a bit more planning, but recommended). When the chicken comes to your desired temperature, remove, and serve. Again, I used thighs, so I ended up chopping mine up as my kids love to eat stove like this in the style of larb.

Dig in and enjoy. The flavors are out of this world. A bit smoky from the charcoal, juicy from the brine, and just packed full of awesome flavor from the marinade. This is a great introduction to Northern Thai food, so give this one a try. Hope you enjoy!

Pan Bagnat Sandwich

Pan what? Pan bagnat. Say it with a French accent and follow along. If you have never heard of a pan bagnat, it is essentially a French sandwich, loaded with all kinds of crazy goodness, and one that you will want to keep in your sandwich arsenal. The pan bagnat takes some time to prepare, but it is worth every big (or little) bite. It is almost like a salad nicoise but in sandwich form, and trust me it is to die for.

Pan Bagnat Sandwich Recipe
Pan Bagnat Sandwich Recipe

Let’s get started.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of red onion, sliced into thin rings

I am not sure if it takes more time to slice and dice and cook the eggs as it is to assemble this bad boy of a sandwich, but again it is worth every minute.

Start by making your dressing. To a small bowl add the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper. Whisk or use a fork to create a nice thick dressing. Set aside and have everything ready to go.

Time to assemble. I don’t think order is very necessary so do as you please.

Pan Bagnat Ingredients
Pan Bagnat Ingredients

Start by laying down the tuna onto the bread. Crust to crust. Feel free to use the olive oil that it was packed in as well. Layer on the red onion, tomatoes, olives, eggs, and green bell peppers. Pour over the dressing, and fold.

Get some plastic wrap out and tear off a long enough piece to completely seal in all of this goodness. If you want, go right in and go for it, otherwise plastic wrap it really tight, and let all of that settle and rest for about 30 minutes.

When ready, remove the plastic wrap and dig in. This is one of those ‘guilty’ sandwiches that I had to make sure no one was around or looking because it is one I could not put down and one that I totally devoured. My wife and kids don’t like canned tuna (I have no idea why) so I knew I was all in, and trust me I was prepared.

This could be one of my top 10 favorite sandwiches and one that I am sure you will love. Hope you enjoy!