“I should make clear at once that this probably has very little to do with authentic chao xa ga, a kind of Vietnamese lemongrass rice porridge (this sounds terrible in English, which is why it isn’t the title of this recipe), but it does share most of the same flavours, and some of the same techniques,” explains writer of new cookbook Midnight Chicken, Ella Risbridger.
“Of course, it is really a kind of hearty chicken soup, and an actual doctor once told me that chicken soup has real benefits. That’s why I make this: Infinitely adaptable and infinitely delicious, it seethes and bubbles and fills the house with soft steam. It’s more than the sum of its parts, it’s absurdly comforting and clean-tasting, and you feel better and more lively for having eaten it.”
Chao xa ga
- 400 ml coconut milk
- 200 ml chicken stock (or 1 chicken stock pot/cube dissolved in 200ml boiling water)
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp grated ginger (about 6cm)
- 1 tbsp grated garlic (about 4 cloves)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp white pepper
- 2 lemongrass stalks (fresh is better, dried is fine)
- 2 limes
- 200 g kale
- bunch of coriander
- bunch of spring onions
- 2 red bird’s eye chillies
- 200 g jasmine rice
- 200 g cooked and peeled prawns
- Combine your coconut milk, chicken stock and fish sauce in a saucepan, and stir to dissolve any lumps. Add the ginger, garlic, sugar and pepper. Stir again. If using fresh lemongrass, chop it into the pan with scissors; if using dried, add the stalks whole. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer over the lowest possible heat while you zest and juice your limes. Reserve a pinch of lime zest, then add the rest to the broth, along with the juice. Inhale deeply. Feel better.
- Tip the kale and coriander into a colander, and rinse them vigorously (both are horribly good at hiding grit). Use scissors to chop them as finely as you can manage, then set to one side.v
- Rinse and slice the spring onions, then add most to the broth, reserving a few green shreds for garnish. Rinse, slice and de-seed the chillies, and do the same.
- This should all take about 10 minutes, and by this time the house will smell beautiful and bright and green. Rinse the rice, then tip it directly into the broth. Cover the pan and cook for 18 minutes, stirring a couple of times to break up any clumps of rice.
- Taste the soup. The rice should be soft and sticky, with broth bubbling all around and over it. Stir through the kale and coriander and cook for two minutes more. Finally, add the prawns and cook for another two minutes.
- Decant into bowls: A mound of tender rice, studded with pink prawns and flecks of vivid green, with a moat of richly scented broth. Scatter with the reserved lime zest, loops of red chilli and hoops of green onion. Serve straight away.
Midnight Chicken by Ella Risbridger is published by Bloomsbury.
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