I made my first foray into a Little Serow-inspired odyssey for new and exciting flavors in my own cooking. As promised, I started with good ol’ chicken soup. My technique has long been to simmer chicken parts in stock and water along with all my herbs and spices before pouring it through a sieve. I pick the meat and add it along with a few vegetables and maybe a starch to the broth. I enjoy the complexity (read: heat) of the broth alongside the simplicity of the ingredients in the final product. I decided to use this familiar approach and just mix up my flavors. No more French; now Thai!
The other decision I made was to eschew much research on this first go around. I wanted to see what I could do on my own with a few Thai ingredients. I browned some chicken thighs in coconut oil and then added lemongrass, fish sauce, garlic, a scotch bonnet pepper, some chicken stock made from hearts, necks, and livers, and water. After about 40 minutes I removed the chicken, but allowed the soup to keep simmering. I picked the meat when it cooled and mixed it in a bowl with chopped scallions and the juice of several limes.
After straining the soup, leaving just the clear, supremely spicy broth, glistening a bit from the coconut fat. I added a quarter of a cabbage cut small, then the chicken and onion mixture, and finally some udon noodles for a short cook at the end. All of these ingredients were meant to help cut the heat, which they did. Each bowl went out with a handful of cilantro and a squirt of lime.
I was very happy with the results, though compared to what Little Serow puts out, it had all the nuance of a Skinnygirl Margarita. When I spoke to Anne Marler, co-owner of Little Serow, she recommended playing around with the trifecta of chilies, fish sauce, and limes. She also said that chef Johnny Monis’ number one piece of advice for homecooks is to replace regular sugar with palm sugar. But I didn’t use any sugar at all! For my next adventure I’ll investigate some of the recipes for Thai chicken soup out there. More fish sauce, some coconut milk instead of just the oil, which imparted some scent, but not much flavor, palm sugar, maybe some fried shallots on top. This was just the beginning and we still all went back for seconds.