Chicken Dinners: Asian Chili-Lime Chicken Soup

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Sweating is cooling. [Photograph: Yvonne Ruperti]

Hot soup probably doesn't come to mind as the first choice for a warm weather-appropriate dish. After living in a hot and humid climate for the past two years, however, I see the benefits. Light and brothy soup is hydrating, and if it's spicy enough to get your sweat on, it can be cooling as well (after you're done sweating, anyway). In Southeast Asia, hot soup is just as popular as anything else.

Leaning on the ingredients and flavors of Southeast Asia, this soup is quick to cook up, making it ideal as a weeknight meal. To create light but brisk flavor, there's no sautéing of any base ingredients. Green chilies and lemongrass go right into a simmering chicken stock to infuse their flavor. Lime juice and fish sauce are stirred in next, and then sliced mushrooms are added. Fish sauce-marinated chicken breast is sliced thin so that it cooks through super quick (under a minute) when stirred in right at the end.

The rice noodles that I had hanging around became the perfect accompaniment for bulking up the soup. Plus, they're super easy to work with. Put them in water to soak when you start, then drop them in the simmering pot just before serving. Garnished with handfuls of fresh cilantro and some thinly sliced raw onion, this soup is like a quick chicken pho. And as if the super fast preparation isn't enticing enough, there's not a speck of extra fat added in, and you won't even notice it. Now that's a perfect summer meal.