Last Friday our friend Geraldine brought her mom over to teach me how to make some favorite Malaysian dishes from her youth. I’m pretty sure an ulterior motive was involved, in the form of me making these things for her long after her mom has gone, but that’s okay, because I will absolutely be making them again anyway.
It was so fun having someone to cook with and learn from and it was super sweet to see Geraldine and her mom together. It made me whimsical about visiting Louisa 20 years from now and reuniting over some future stovetop in some yet to be determined kitchen. Hopefully we’ll be on speaking terms.
I don’t know the official names of anything we made. Kim, Geraldine’s mom, kept saying they didn’t really translate into english and I left it at that. What slowly started to emerge, however, was incredible.
We made what basically was a Malaysian version of carnitas with pork belly, star anise, and lots of dark soy sauce. Then we made a fried chicken stew-of-sorts that gets cooked with about ten tons of fresh ginger, red onions, garlic, tomatoes, and chiles. We also fried shrimp in a tempura-like batter and sautéed romaine lettuce with boatloads of garlic, a little peanut oil, and a tiny smidgeon of brown sugar. It was all amazing and I ate. so. much. But it was sooooooo worth it.
My kitchen was also a hot mess for the rest of the weekend so I’m super happy I had this belly-warming, chile-infused soup in the works to share with you.
Have you ever had atole? Atole generally refers to a hot drink, sometimes flavored with chocolate and thickened with ground corn flour or masa harina. If you add the word chile to the front then you’re talking about a rich, thick soup made with chile puree, chicken broth, pieces of chicken and potatoes all thickened with the same masa harina as the drink. It’s an experience. A warm, delicious experience.
I use dried pasilla chiles which have just a hint of spice. This soup tingles your tongue ever so slightly, but not enough to make you sweat or even make you reach for your beer. Most of the cool comes from the generous dollop of lime sour cream you have to put on top—don’t skimp, it seals the deal.
P.S. Here’s some other soups to take you through the cold, damp first days of spring:
- Ajiaco Bogotano, its a mouthful but basically we’re talking chicken, potatoes, corn, and some avocados sliced on top, from Katie at the Kitchen Door
- Big, Fat, Spicy Korean Clam Chowder from Lady and Pups
- Creamy Asparagus and Pea Soup from Minimalist Baker
- Icelandic Vegetable and Oat Soup from Salt and Wind
- And more here
- 3 dried pasilla chiles, seeded and stemmed
- 1 whole chicken, about 4-5 pounds
- 2 large onions, 1 quartered and 1 chopped
- 7 cloves garlic, 4 peeled and left whole and 3 chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons masa harina flour
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 large potato, peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- thinly sliced jalapeños
- chopped cilantro
- toasted pumpkin seeds
- Place chiles in a heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water and let sit until soft, about 30 minutes.
- Combine chicken, quartered onion, whole garlic cloves, bay leaves, salt, and water in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook until chicken is very tender, about 1 hour.
- Remove chicken from broth and set aside to cool slightly. Strain broth through a fine mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl, wash out pot and dry thoroughly. Once chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
- Heat 3 tablespoon of oil in the pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and garlic and season with salt and pepper until just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
- Transfer vegetables to a blender and add masa, soaked chiles, oregano, and 1 1/2 cups of the reserved broth. Blend on high until smooth.
- Return pot to medium heat and add the last tablespoon of oil. When shimmering add chile mixture (careful, it will spatter) and cook, stirring constantly, until boiling and thick, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add reserved broth, chicken, potato, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potato is tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- While soup is cooking mix together the sour cream, lime zest, juice, and salt in a small bowl.
- Taste soup for salt and season as needed then serve in deep bowls with dollops of lime sour cream, jalapeño slices, cilantro, and a smattering of toasted pumpkin seeds.