Ok, so it's not made 100 percent from pantry staples, but if you've got a jar of Thai curry paste in your fridge (and you should—the stuff lasts forever!), some chicken or vegetable stock on the shelves, and a box of noodles, then a hearty, fresh, filling, and tasty dinner is just a chicken breast and a few herbs away.
The soup is not traditional by any means, but jarred Thai red curry paste shares many flavors in common with traditional tom yum soup—the lemongrass, chilies, and galangal, for instance—so it makes a pretty good substitute for the real deal. I start by frying the paste in a bit of oil to help bloom and deepen its flavors, then whisk in some canned broth, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice, along with a couple small pieces of chicken breast. In the time the chicken takes to cook through, you can cook noodles in a separate pot.
Noodles in a bowl, broth poured on top, chicken shredded and added to the soup, a handful of cilantro, mint, and/or basil, some scallions or onion, and an extra lime wedge to serve. It's not quite as fast as instant ramen, but with its balanced flavors of hot, sour, salty, and sweet, it's a heck of a lot tastier.
- Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 2 quarts low-sodium store-bought or homemade chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce (plus more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons sugar (plus more to taste)
- 2 tablespoons fresh juice from about 2 limes (plus more to taste)
- 2 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 10 ounces total)
- 8 ounces Thai-style rice noodles or thin spaghetti
- Handful basil, cilantro, and/or mint leaves
- Handful sliced scallions
Set a large stock pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add curry paste and cook, pressing it into the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon until fragrant and sizzling, about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken broth, fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice. Add chicken breast halves.
Allow mixture to come to a simmer and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl and, wearing gloves or working under cold running water, tear chicken into bite-sized strips.
Cook noodles in boiling water according to package instructions.
To serve, divide noodles and chicken between four large bowls. Season broth to taste with more lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and salt as desired, then pour over chicken and noodles. Divide herbs and scallions between bowl, and serve immediately with extra lime wedges.