Cook's Illustrated Recipes»Soups»Thai»Fish Seafood»Thai Style Soup with Shrimp Recipe

Authentic Thai-style soup gains complex flavor in minutes via a handful of exotic ingredients. Could supermarket substitutes deliver comparable results?

The Problem

Thai chicken soup's complex flavor is largely derived from such exotica as galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, and

bird's eye chiles-ingredients most people would be hard-pressed to find at the market.

The Goal

We wanted a plausibly authentic version of Thai chicken soup that could be prepared with more readily available (i.e.

supermarket) substitutions.

The Solution

We started by making a classic version of the soup, then substituting one ingredient at a time. We developed an

acceptably rich and definitely chicken-flavored broth by using equal parts chicken broth and coconut milk (adding the

coconut milk in two stages: at the beginning and just before serving). We couldn't find an appropriate substitute for

lemon grass, but it proved to be easy enough to find. Our most exciting find was a "magic bullet" substitution: jarred red

curry paste includes all the exotic ingredients we were missing. Just adding a dollop at the very end of cooking and

whisking it with pungent fish sauce and tart lime juice allowed all the classic flavors to come through loud and clear.