Cooking Thai food in American kitchens, 192pp.
by Malulee (kunjara) Pinsuvana
Self-published (I think), Thailand, 1981 (third edition)
Cooking on page 32
We lived in Burma (Myanmar) for several years in the mid 1980s, and I bought this cookbook on one of our many trips to Thailand. Ever since then, it has languished on a bookshelf, being totally neglected.
The author, Malulee Pinsuvana, has lived in the USA, and she and her husband have managed a busy household. I’ve had my eye on the page-32 recipe for a while because it was one of her husband’s go-to meals on an especially busy day.
Her published version is a bit more complicated than her husband’s, but not by much. He used tinned chicken, quick rice and water. Oh, and all the recipes are written in both English and Thai.
Chicken rice soup
1 cup rice
3 cups water
½ cup ground pork or sliced chicken meat
1 tablespoon chopped ginger root
2 tablespoons nampla (fish sauce)
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chopped green onion and coriander (cilantro)
bones of chicken
2 cup water
Clean the rice well. Add 3 cups of water in medium-sized pot. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour (low heat) until the rice is soft. Remove from heat. Pour into a double strainer. Press with spoon until the rice becomes small pieces. Set aside.
Boil the chicken bones with 2 cups of water. Cook them for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove bones. Add rice to chicken broth. Cook for 2 minutes; add ground pork or sliced chicken little by little. Add nampla.
Break the eggs into the serving bowl. Put the rice soup on top of the eggs. Sprinkle with ginger, green onions and chopped coriander. Makes 3–4 servings.
How it played out
Years ago, a Japanese chef taught my dear friend, Maggie, how to cook rice, so I almost always follow those instructions. Here they are:
To cook rice (any amount)
Pour rice into a saucepan and rinse well at least three times. Cover rice by enough water to reach the main joint on your thumb. Add salt if desired. Put over a high heat. Cook until the water subsides way below the rice, and craters form (this took about 13 minutes for 1 cup of rice). Put on a lid, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Perfect rice every time.
And then the rest of the recipe
I followed the rest of the recipe, using sliced fresh chicken. My change was to use 2 cups of packaged chicken stock. In the intro to the recipe, the author said this substitution was totally okay if you are in a hurry (it’s what her husband used to do). By the way, ½ cup of chicken slices weighed about 120–125 grams.
I got Poor John to chop the ginger with the mezzaluna, and I chopped the green onion and coriander (cilantro). An aside, I have many years’ worth of old USA cookery magazines. All through the 1980s, they still referred to cilantro as fresh coriander. I’m thumbing through those magazines and will let you know when the language changes to cilantro.
When I went to finish off this soup, I felt lucky to have a couple of eggs from friends who keep chickens in their backyard. Yolks don’t get much yellower than that.
Poured the soup over the cracked eggs, and let it all sit long enough to make sure the eggs were no longer raw.
This soup was completely surprising. I tasted the broth before adding the nampla (fish sauce) and thought oh boring. Then I added the fish sauce, egg, ginger, chopped onion and fresh coriander, and thought Oh wow.
We spooned the hot rice broth over the egg to make sure it was cooked.
The bottom line is, What a transformation! This is a fantastic and ever-so-simple soup. Packed with flavour and ready in minutes. Go on, try it.
Travel and dogs
We’re dog lovers and one of my enduring memories of a recent visit to Thailand was meeting the Groucho Marx of dogs.