Lemongrass Soup with Rhubarb and Radishes

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Serves 6 | start to finish: 25 minutes

Spring ingredients liven up this traditional Thai soup. Chopped pieces of local rhubarb soften and melt into the broth, providing an additional pop of sour among the already bright flavors, and the radishes add a satisfying crunch and contrast to the tender chicken and mushrooms. When served over rice, this soup could stand on its own as a solid lunch or simple dinner.

Best of all, this light and bold soup is a snap to make. After prepping the ingredients, simply bring everything to a boil, cover the pan, and steep it for 10 minutes like a pot of tea. You now have soup. The key is to cube the chicken small enough, and pound, bruise, and tear the aromatics so they release their essence quickly.

If you want a richer main course, add a can of coconut milk and another tablespoon of fish sauce. You also can make a delicious vegetarian version using equivalent amounts of tofu, vegetable broth, and soy sauce. And note that leftover lemongrass or lime leaves can be kept in the freezer for future Thai meals.

1 quart chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium commercially prepared
3/4 pound skinless and boneless chicken meat, breast or thigh
8 ounces white mushrooms
2 stalks rhubarb (about 1 1/2 cups chopped)
1 cup radishes (8-10 small radishes or 6 medium)
3 stalks lemongrass
5 kaffir lime leaves, fresh or frozen
3 Thai chilies or 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes
2-inch piece of ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste
1/4 cup fish sauce, plus more to taste
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
Hot chili sauce, for serving

Pour the unheated chicken stock into a medium saucepan. Cube the chicken into small pieces, 3/4 inch or smaller. Slice the mushrooms lengthwise into quarters. Dice the rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces. Cut the radishes into small wedges. Add all of these to the cold stock.

With the side of a meat tenderizer mallet or rolling pin, firmly pound the stalks of lemongrass on a cutting board, then slice into large, 2-inch pieces. Bruise the lime leaves by tapping them with the mallet, then carefully tear the leaves from the outer edge towards the center, parallel to the veins of the leaf, stopping just before the stem so the leaf remains intact. Repeat this several times on each side of the leaf. Smash the chilies well. Peel the ginger and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices before also pounding gently to release the juice. Stir all these aromatics into the pot, along with the brown sugar and fish sauce.

Place the saucepan on the stovetop over high heat, stirring occasionally and pressing the floating mushrooms down. Once the soup reaches a boil, cover tightly with a lid and turn the stove off. The soup will be ready after steeping, covered, for 10 minutes.

Before serving, remove the lemongrass, lime leaves, whole chili (if using), and ginger. To be more traditional, you can leave them in. Just make sure to provide a saucer—and a warning—for your guests to remove as they go.

Right before serving, stir in the lime juice and most of the cilantro leaves, reserving a few for garnish. Offer cilantro leaves, fish sauce, lime wedges, and hot chili sauce at the table.

gluten-free ● dairy free ● vegan (if made with vegetable stock, tofu, and soy)

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