Martha Stewart’s Friend’s Thai Chicken Soup

One day at the gym last year, I forgot my headphones and got stuck on the elliptical machine with nothing but the YMCA’s slim collection of discarded magazines to entertain me. I had two hundred parenting magazines and a Martha Stewart Living to choose from. So.

First, Martha taught me about tomato gardening. It’s not a particular interest of mine — I’m a terrible gardener and I don’t love tomatoes — but for the next week, I knew a whole lot more about tomatoes than I usually do. (I kept most of it to myself. I hate to come off as a tomato snob.) Shortly thereafter, I forgot it. All of it.

Then I read an appallingly pretentious article about this appallingly pretentious person who likes to invite her pretentious friends over for appalling wine-tasting “parties” where they play little wine-tasting party games (e.g. covering the bottles in a paper bag and guessing which wine is inside just by the taste!) for a big, pretentious laugh. It was apparent that the author had never heard of fun before. Also, I must have a pretty lowbrow definition of entertainment.

The third thing I read in Living was a recipe for some very, very complicated soup. It involved day-ahead preparation, making your own stock, and all sorts of crazy things that only Martha Stewart or some destitute-but-haughty pioneer family would do, if they had had access to soba noodles and kombu.

But it sounded tasty.

So I followed the recipe, adjusting here and there to accommodate, you know, reality. I made it again later, and switched the napa cabbage out for Swiss rainbow chard, because chard is in season and is crazy nutritious. I made some other adjustments, too, to make it quicker and less fussy—because at one point, the original recipe had me counting mushrooms as I served the soup. I felt like Martha had gently brainwashed me.

And the soup? Good, quite. Different for me (I don’t know Thai so I don’t cook it) but good. Here’s the original recipe, and below, the same recipe with the small adjustments I mentioned. It still teeters on the edge of too time-intensive for me, but it’s definitely doable, and since I can make enough for leftovers during the week, I get to see a return on that initial time investment. What do I do with all those extra weekday minutes? Drink wine out of paper bags, of course! For fancy!

That is not true.

Ingredients

Serves 4

  • 4 chicken legs or 2 breasts
  • 2 sheets kombu, trimmed into 1-inch squares
  • 1 small package fresh shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 scallions, stems trimmed, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 piece (3 inches) ginger, grated
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned… or a handful of baby carrots
  • 4–5 units (…?) of Swiss chard
  • 8 ounces soba
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 12 large shell-on shrimp (optional)
  • 1 package (14 ounces) firm tofu, drained, patted dry, and cut into 1-inch cubes (optional)
  • Chile sauce for serving

Directions

  1. Buy all the ingredients. Might have to go to Whole Foods for that, might not.
  2. Start with the chicken. Place chicken in pot with onions, ginger, jalapeno and garlic, fill up with water enough to cover the chicken, and bring to a boil.
  3. Prepare the chard by trimming the leaves off the stems, setting aside the leaves, and chopping the stems into 3/4″ pieces. Toss the stem bits into the pot.
  4. Add any additional (optional) seasoning to the pot, then keep at a light boil until the chicken appears to be cooked through.
  5. Add kombu, shiitakes, onion, scallions, and carrot to the pot. If necessary, add enough water to cover. Reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
  6. If you like clear soup, strain broth into a second pot. Reserve mushrooms, chicken, chard stems, and any other solid pieces you like the look of; discard the rest.
  7. Slice the mushrooms. Pull the chicken from the chicken bones and shred it. Return the meat to the pot and discard the bones.
  8. Cook soba according to package directions and toss it in a large bowl with oil or a ladleful of broth to keep it from sticking.
  9. Add soy sauce and sake to broth, and return to a boil. Tear up the chard leaves into reasonable (about 1–2″) pieces and toss them into the pot to wilt.
  10. Add shrimp and/or tofu (if using), and boil until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Catch and peel shrimp, leaving tails intact.
  11. Serve with individual ramekins of chili sauce so that everyone can add as much heat to their bowl as they like.