Thai hot and sour soup with shredded chicken and lemongrass

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This soup is both spicy and sour and is a perfect example of how Thai dishes play on contrasting flavours: sweet palm sugar, tart lime juice, salty fish sauce, and spicy chilies. The meaty texture and deep flavour of chicken thighs work well in this recipe.

2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed
4 cups chicken stock
1 pinch palm sugar
4 slices unpeeled galangal
3 shallots, peeled
7 fresh lime leaves, divided, 2 torn and 5 finely sliced
6 oz. skinless boneless chicken thighs
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp fish sauce
4 red bird's eye chilies, bruised
3 tbsp finely sliced lemongrass, for garnish
2 tbsp finely sliced shallots, for garnish
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Bruise the lemongrass by laying it on the cutting board and whacking on the surface with the dull side of a chef’s knife. Place the stock in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Season with the pinch of palm sugar along with a pinch of salt.

Add the galangal, smashed lemongrass (kept whole), shallots, and torn lime leaves, and simmer for a few minutes. Add the chicken, and simmer until cooked, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat, and transfer the chicken to a plate. Cover the stock. Let the chicken cool slightly, then coarsely tear or shred using your hands.

Strain the stock into another pot using a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the aromatics. Bring the stock to a simmer over medium heat.

Divide the lime juice, fish sauce, chilies (kept whole), and chicken meat into individual soup bowls. Pour over the hot stock. Add the sliced lemongrass, shallots, and sliced lime leaves. Check the seasoning; it should taste equally hot, sour, and salty. If necessary, adjust with more lime juice, fish sauce, and/or palm sugar. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.

4 servings