In terms of authenticity and taste, the best Thai soups require a lot of ingredients to build complex layers of flavor. But when considering the best soup for a cold, complexity is nowhere near as important as a no-frills, easy recipe with minimal ingredients that still tastes great.
With that in mind, I present this easy hot and sour Thai soup that tastes amazing and provides great relief for that horrible bunged up feeling you get when those pesky cold viruses decide they want to attack your poor immune system.
Food snobs often get worked up when people skip over the “core ingredients” that define a cuisine. This recipe is not for food snobs. Despite my love of Thai food, I don’t want to come across as a purist in every recipe I publish.
Sometimes, just borrowing the essential flavors of a cuisine results in a dish of convenience, simplicity, and flavor. This is not Tom Yum. This is not Tom Kha Gai. This is simply a hot and sour broth that tastes like Thailand at its core, and makes your nose run like a train. This is a dish for when you’re too sick to think much.
Hot and Sour Thai Soup Recipe:
- 500 ml chicken stock
- A nest of egg noodles cooked in water
- 3 Limes
- Fish Sauce (6 tablespoons or a large glug). Here is the fish sauce I recommend.
- 2 red chilis
- A few spring onions
- Teaspoon of sugar
- One chicken breast thinly sliced (or a handful of uncooked shrimp)
- A selection of mushrooms (anything but button)
- At least a handful of chopped coriander (or cilantro for you Americans)
- Combine two chicken stock cubes with 500 ml of water for an intense “chickeny” flavor. Chicken works as an adjective in my mind, so deal with it!
- Add the zest of one lime to your stock, the teaspoon of sugar, and put in a saucepan over a medium heat.
- Squeeze good quality fish sauce (nam pla) into the broth (or measure it precisely, I don’t mind). Six tablespoons sounds like a lot, but you’re aiming for bold flavors here. I recommend Red Boat fish sauce because it’s awesome, and it doesn’t have any nasty MSG or allergy-provoking shellfish.
- Add your chilis and chicken breast to the broth and simmer for a few minutes.
- For a final two minutes, add the noodles and your selection of mushrooms to the broth. Oyster mushrooms and chestnut mushrooms work great, but use whatever you can find. Or simply avoid mushrooms if you’re that kinda person. 🙂
- Arguably the most important part. Take the broth off the heat and add the chopped spring onions, coriander, and the juice of the three limes. Adding these ingredients off the heat preserves their wonderful freshness and aroma.
- Smell the glorious aromas, feel proud that you’re about to wipe out your cold with a few delicious swoops of a spoon towards your mouth, and serve in your favorite bowl. White bowls are preferable.
I’ve had many colds over the years, and this is definitely the best soup for a cold. This hot and sour Thai soup respects your fragility. It knows you just want relief. It comforts you, while hitting you with the lip-smackingly good tastes of Thailand.
Expect to taste intense sourness and a spiciness that warms the cockles. Brace yourself for a a wonderful freshness that invigorates you with every spoonful. But most of all, expect a lot of snot. And have plenty of tissues on standby. You do want to get rid of that cold, right?
Try this recipe and let me know your thoughts, I’d love to hear them! If you have any feedback or would simply like to express anger over the lack of lemongrass or kaffir lime or <insert quintessential Thai ingredient of choice>, feel free to leave a comment. Thank you!