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~ Thai Chicken Stock (Real Thai Food Starts Here) ~

PICT2120Back in 1993, over a period of about two years, I had the great pleasure of striking up a friendship with a Home Economist from Thailand.  Kanya Wacharamai was living in State College with her husband Fu, who was earning his engineering degree from Penn State. It was during this time that I also learned the art of true Thai cooking.  Kanya taught a very popular series of Thai cooking lessons in her home kitchen, and, my husband Joe and I signed up as a team and took every lesson she gave.  Because my husband Joe is an engineer, and, owns an engineering company,  Joe and Fu struck up a friendship too.  Occasionally, we'd entertain each other at our respective homes, with the gals talking food and the guys talking shop. 

One of the first things Kanya taught me to make was Thai chicken stock, which she matter-of-factly explained is a "must-learn, must-have" recipe.  It is the base for most Thai soups and many Thai dishes, and, this mild-mannered woman outwardly expressed disdain for Americanized Thai-style recipes that use traditional chicken stock.  Considering that classic chicken stock is prepared with an entirely different flavor palate in mind, she had every right to be outraged. 

PICT2158Once this true-Thai, perfectly-seasoned, highly-flavored stock is prepared, I personally freeze it in 2-quart size containers, for making soups, and 1-cup containers, for making reductions for sauces.  Feel free to portion and freeze in a container of any size, one that suits your needs the best.

Once thawed, I return the stock to a saucepan or stockpot on the stovetop and add whatever ingredients (vegetables, fish, meat, rice, noodles, etc.) my Thai recipe requires.  Voila... a fabulous real-Thai soup that I can usually serve in less than an hour!

A bit about Thai chicken stock:  Making Thai chicken stock (and preparing Thai food in general) is contingent upon having a few, inexpensive, authentic-to-Thai-cooking ingredients on hand. With one trip to your Asian market, you will easily find and have everything you need on hand in your pantry.  Here is a brief description of the ones pertinent to today's soup stock recipe:

PICT2051Fish sauce is a condiment derived from fermented fish.  It imparts an umami flavor to Thai food.  Umami (savory), is one of the five basic tastes:  sweet, sour, bitter, salty and savory.  Forget what you think you don't like about the name "fish sauce".  Buy a bottle.  Seasoning soy sauce is lighter in intensity than Chinese or Japanese brands. Similar to Maggi seasoning (another popular condiment served tableside in Thailand), if you have Maggi, feel free to substitute it for seasoning soy sauce.  Do not substitute Chinese or Japanese soy sauce. 

PICT2061Cilantro roots, and stems too, are used in and during the cooking process of many Thai dishes. The flavorful roots and stems impart flavor as they cook.  Cilantro leaves, which lose flavor as they cook, are an addition at the very end of the cooking process or reserved as a garnish.

Kaffir_limeleavesKaffir lime leaves, add unmistakable taste essential to Thai dishes. Referred to as "double leaves", they have a strong fragrance for which there is no substitute.  The combination of kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass and ginger is a blast of flavor.  Kaffir lime leaves, which are hard to digest (much like bay leaves), are usually added whole to Thai food and removed prior to serving.  Kaffir lime leaves freeze beautifully.

PICT2070Lemon grass is a stalky, Southeast-Asian herb with gray-green leaves, a scallion like base and a lemony scent.  A common ingredient in Thai cuisine, it provides a zesty sour-lemon fragrance and flavor.  Ginger, a common ingredient in Asian cuisine, and, used in this recipe with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass is a true-Thai flavor combination.  

6a0120a8551282970b0133f3203d29970b-320wiThai bird chili peppers are small, HOT, chili peppers.  They get their name because because they resemble pointed birds beaks.  They are easy to grow, even indoors, and I do so, both outdoors in the Summer and indoors in the Winter.  When they turn red, I harvest them and place them in a zip lock bag in my freezer to have hand all year long.

PICT2082White pepper and white peppercorns are used exclusively in authentic Thai dishes.  Peppercorns are the berries of an evergreen vine native to Asia. The berries are allowed to mature to a bright red state and are then fermented for a few days. The red outside is rubbed off, resulting in white pepper with black speckles.  Ivory white pepper, simply put, imparts the subtle, sophisticated peppery taste that we all love about Thai food.

Mel's Recipe for Thai Chicken Stock

4-5 pounds chicken thighs, on bones with skin, about 8-10 large thighs 

6  quarts water

4  tablespoons Squid Brand fish sauce

5  tablespoons Golden Mountain seasoning soy sauce

8  ounces peeled yellow or sweet onion

4  ounces peeled fresh ginger

1  bunch fresh cilantro with about 18-24 roots (roots and stems to be added to stock and leaves reserved for garnish)

6  ounces fresh lemon grass, bulbs and about 6" of stalks

6  kaffir limes leaves, or 3 "double" kaffir lime leaves

6-8  red, Thai bird chile peppers, split open

1  tablespoon sea salt

1  tablespoon white pepper

PICT2061~ Step 1.  Thoroughly rinse the cilantro and the roots then pat thoroughly dry in paper towels. Trim the roots and stems from the upper leaves, into 3"-4" lengths.  Reserve the cilantro leaves, refrigerating them for later use in, or garnishing the specific Thai soup or dish you are preparing. 



~ Step 2.  Prep and place all of the remaining ingredients, as directed, in  a wide-bottomed, 12-quart stockpot to which 6 quarts of water has been added.






~ Step 3.  Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, and, using a skimmer, remove and discard all of the white foam as it collects on top of the liquid.  This process will take about 10 minutes.

~ Step 4.  Partially cover and reduce heat to simmer gently, 2-2 1/2 hours.  Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 2-2 1/2 hours.

PICT2144~ Step 5.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove and transfer the chicken thighs to a large plate.

PICT2139Next, remove and discard all of the large vegetables.



~ Step 6.  Ladle the stock into a fat/lean separator.  Pour the stock from the separator, through a mesh strainer, into the desired sized food storage containers, leaving about 1/2" of headspace at the top of each container to allow for expansion if you are freezing the stock.  Discard fat from separator.  Repeat this process until all the stock has been separated and strained.


PICT2157Thai Chicken Stock (Real Thai Food Starts Here):  Recipe yields 5 quarts of stock and 4 cups of shredded chicken.

Special Equipment List:  paper towels, cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 12-quart stockpot w/lid; skimmer; large slotted spoon; soup ladle; fat/lean separator; fine mesh strainer; desired-sized food storage containers, preferably glass

Cook's Note:  Stock can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for up to one year. Refrigerate the perfectly flavored chicken for use in specific Thai soup, salad or entree recipes. I really do hope you'll give this recipe a try, and, the next time you see a Thai recipe calling for ordinary chicken stock, you'll think of me and this easy-to-make, must-have recipe!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


Mary -- Well said and thank-you for the kind comment (plus you made me chuckle). ~ Mel.

Anyone who knows to use only squid fish sauce has my vote!!!!

You are very welcome Ethan!

Thank you

You're very welcome Rob -- and, thank-you for the nice comment. Enjoy your soup(s)!!!

This looks very authentic- and I live in Thailand. I was just looking for a stock recipe as I must lose weight. All the packaged soup flavours here taste fairly good but are loaded with sugar(sone up to 24% ! So off to the local store and this is going in the pot this afternoon!
Thanks for your posting!

Chieko -- that's a great tip. Thanks for sharing it with everyone!

I can't always get cilantro root so what I do is cut above the band that wraps a bunch of cilantro and freeze what's left below...mostly stems. I keep those in a bag in the freezer and just keep adding to it. Then when I need some for stock, I just take what I need. Handy and ready to go!

Chieko -- thanks for the nice comment. I could see the bonito flakes working great in place of fish sauce. I think I'll add a piece of galangal to mine the next time I make it too!

Almost like my recipe! I usually use both galangal and ginger. I ran out of fish sauce once and used dried bonito flakes as a substitute. Worked great! I'm half Asian and love all Asian cuisines. I'm making some right now! Come on over!!! :)

I'm glad you agree Maria!


Stock Pots! As I always say, "a good soup is only as good as the stock used to make it"!

My husband and I are very fond of Thai food. We share our pleasures in cooking it together and love shopping in the Asian markets. I am glad to get your recipe for the Thai Chicken Stock. Some years ago we were fortunate to receive a kaffir lime tree and lemon grass for our garden from a little lady that was from Thailand.

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