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Thai chicken and coconut milk soup

12-ounce can coconut milk
1/4 pound chicken breast, cut into small chunks
juice and grated peel of 1 lime
4" piece lemongrass, cut into very thin (1/16") slices on the diagonal
3 or 4 slices galanga (fresh ginger may be substituted)
hot chile peppers, preferably Thai birds, or serranos, cut into thin circles
Cilantro for garnish

Pour the lime juice on the chicken and let stand while you prepare
the rest of the soup. In a medium saucepan, place the coconut
milk, lemon grass, grated lime peel, galanga or ginger, and chiles.
If you don't want the whole dish to taste spicy, add the chiles
later, the earlier you add them, the hotter the resulting dish.
Bring the coconut milk to a simmer.

When the soup is simmering, add the lime-soaked chicken pieces and
stir to distribute them. Reduce the heat so the soup stays just
below a boil and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or till the chicken
pieces are finished cooking. Remove from heat and serve immediately
with fresh cilantro leaves for garnish.

Now, the *best* way I ever had this soup was with pieces of fresh
grouper instead of chicken. I also added slices of kumquats instead
of the ginger, and used the sweet Fresno chiles instead of Thai
birds. We also served it over Vietnamese rice noodles. If you
can't find grouper, it'd be good with any tender, delicate white
fish -- sole, maybe, or a very fresh sea bass, or maybe little
chunks of monkfish. I believe I've had this with shrimp as well.


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