A little more than two years ago on our honeymoon, we had some of the best meals at an Asian-fusion restaurant called Amasia at the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui. One of our favorite dishes was something we would not normally order; we called an audible when the waitress took our order: Chicken meatballs in a coconut lemongrass ginger broth. It was so good that we went back at another night to have it again.
A few months after our honeymoon, I tried to recreate this amazing soup. I started with a simple Google search to find existing recipes with the ingredients and soon found our favorite soup was also known as Tom Kha Gai, a Thai Coconut Ginger Soup. I’ve played around with it a few times since that inaugural test and have landed on the current version below. I now call it Honeymoon Soup!
*Sidenote, I just learned that Amasia has since closed its doors at the Grand Wailea. Alan Wong’s famous restaurant was only open four months before our honeymoon and closed one month after our two-year anniversary. Sad. At least now, one of the restaurant’s dishes can live on in my own adaptation. Enjoy!
3 lemongrass stalks, chopped, OR 1 Tbsp lemongrass paste found in refrigerated produce section with the herbs
2 Tbsp Ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
Peppers: either 5 Serrano peppers (they are about 3 inches long and look like jalapeños), 2 Basque Fryer Green Chiles (these are about 6 inches long and are not as spicy as Serranos) or 2-3 Thai Chile Peppers (these are skinny and less than 2 inches long). Most importantly, the peppers you use should be deveined with no seeds, and coarsely chopped. Refer to this visual guide of peppers because you have a lot of options using what your grocery store has on hand.
4 cups of chicken broth (recommend organic and range free)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 medium limes)
2 Tbsp of fish sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) regular coconut milk (strain before adding to the pot and discard solids)
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 tspn of Sriracha (optional)
1 pound of ground chicken
tspn kosher salt
1/2 tspn black pepper
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 egg, whisked
1/2 C panko bread crumbs
2 green onions, finely chopped1/2 C panko bread crumbs
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Tie the lemongrass, ginger and peppers in a small piece of cheesecloth to make a small sachet bag. (If using the lemongrass paste vs. the chopped lemongrass, you will add the paste directly to the broth mixture and it will dissolve with the heat.) Combine the chicken stock, fish sauce and lime juice in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the sachet and/or the paste. Bring to a boil.
Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat to to low and add strained coconut milk. Simmer on lowest setting for 45 mins – 1 hour. Taste when about 15 minutes left. If it’s not spicy enough, add Sriracha one drop at a time. If it is too spicy, add more chicken broth (or water if you don’t have any more broth on hand.) The salt/acid balance should be spot on and not change drastically if adding more liquid to balance the heat, but be cognizant of how much liquid you add so you don’t throw off the balance. Stir in the cilantro during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
While the soup cooks, make the meatballs (waiting until the last 15 minutes to actually cook the meatballs) and accompanying sides (see recommendations below).
Finely chop two green onions. Use the chives/green tops for the soup garnish and use the rest of the onion for the meatballs. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, garlic, egg, bread crumbs and green onions in a large bowl.
When you have about 15 minutes left on the soup, heat the oil in a large skillet. Drop the meatballs in and fry until golden brown on all sides, turning frequently.
Place 4-6 meatballs in low bowl and top with soup. Garnish with a few green onions and more siracha if desired.
Cilantro lime rice
Lettuce wraps (using the extra chicken meatballs) and quick pickled vegetables
For the rice, I recommend white or brown rice. Stir in a Tbsp of lime juice, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro once it’s finished cooking.
Quick pickled vegetables: julienne radishes and shred carrots so you have approximately 1 C of each vegetable. Whisk together 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar, 3 Tbsp olive oil, and 1 tspn kosher salt in a bowl. Stir in vegetables and refrigerate for 30 mins – 1 hour. You can also use jicama, onion and bell peppers.
To make the lettuce wraps, put a meatball and a spoonful of the vegetables on a leaf of Bibb lettuce, wrap up and enjoy.