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In the Philippines, coconut transforms chicken soup.
Milk Street Bowtie Filipino-Style Chicken Soup with Coconut and Lemon Grass

Filipino-Style Chicken Soup with Coconut and Lemon Grass

1 hour 25 minutes active

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Filipino-Style Chicken Soup with Coconut and Lemon Grass

Free

This recipe is our adaptation of Filipino chicken binakol, a brothy, chunky soup with coconut, ginger and lemon grass that’s said to come from the Western Visayas region of the country. The juice and meat of buko, or young, green coconuts, is a traditional ingredient, but we were happy to discover that two widely available substitutes—coconut water and dried wide-flaked coconut—yielded delicious results. And in lieu of a whole chicken cut into parts, we opted for boneless thighs that cook more quickly but still boast rich, meaty flavor. Some versions of the soup also contain firm, crisp-textured green papaya and/or chayote squash; for ease, we opted to add only chayote. Also known as mirliton (particularly in Louisiana), the pear-shaped, bumpy-surfaced edible gourd is much easier to source than green papaya and has a similar texture, flavor and color. If chayote is not available, chunks of zucchini or yellow summer squash offer different characteristics but also are satisfying. Binakol often is finished with dahon ng sili, or the leaves of chili plants, but we wilt in baby spinach. Serve with steamed rice.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t use coconut water that contains added sweetener. A small amount of natural sugar is normal, but check the ingredients listed on the label for added sugar. Be sure to use dried wide-flake coconut, not dried coconut in small, fine shreds. Also make sure it is unsweetened.

1 hour

25 minutes active

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 quart unsweetened coconut water
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 stalks fresh lemon grass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised
10 to 12 ounce chayote squash (see headnote), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, each half sliced lengthwise into 1-inch-thick planks, then thinly sliced crosswise, or 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup dried unsweetened wide-flake coconut
5-ounce container baby spinach
1 or 2 serrano chilies, stemmed and sliced into thin rings
Lime wedges, to serve
Ingredients
  • 2

    tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 1

    medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

  • 2

    pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved

  • ¼
  • 1

    quart unsweetened coconut water

  • 2

    cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 3

    stalks fresh lemon grass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised

  • 10 to 12

    ounce chayote squash (see headnote), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, each half sliced lengthwise into 1-inch-thick planks, then thinly sliced crosswise, or 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • ¾

    cup dried unsweetened wide-flake coconut

  • 5-ounce container baby spinach

  • 1 or 2

    serrano chilies, stemmed and sliced into thin rings

  • Lime wedges, to serve

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Reviews
Jennifer B.
August 9, 2022
Just a bit too sweet
Next time I might skip the coconut water and make it all chicken broth. Was just a bit too sweet for me. Don't forget the Serrano peppers and the lime at the end. It tames the sweetness. But a great variation on chicken soup. Served four? More like 14. It makes a ton.
Kenneth V.

I made this last night and it was excellent. I used my instant pot for the chicken cook, 15 minutes on high with quick release. My only regret was not putting the thick coconut in before the pressure because it remained quite chewy when I put it in with the chayote. Next time I might sub in bok choy for some or all of the chayote and spinach.

Veronica B.

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Filipino-Style Chicken Soup with Coconut and Lemon Grass

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

1 hour

25 minutes active

Tip

Don’t use coconut water that contains added sweetener. A small amount of natural sugar is normal, but check the ingredients listed on the label for added sugar. Be sure to use dried wide-flake coconut, not dried coconut in small, fine shreds. Also make sure it is unsweetened.

Ingredients
  • 2

    tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil

  • 1

    medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced

  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks

  • 2

    pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved

  • ¼
  • 1

    quart unsweetened coconut water

  • 2

    cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 3

    stalks fresh lemon grass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised

  • 10 to 12

    ounce chayote squash (see headnote), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, each half sliced lengthwise into 1-inch-thick planks, then thinly sliced crosswise, or 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • ¾

    cup dried unsweetened wide-flake coconut

  • 5-ounce container baby spinach

  • 1 or 2

    serrano chilies, stemmed and sliced into thin rings

  • Lime wedges, to serve

Step 1 of 3

Boil The Ingredients

1
medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
2
pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved
¼
cup fish sauce
¼
teaspoon black ground pepper
3
stalks fresh lemon grass, trimmed to the bottom 6 inches, dry outer layers discarded, bruised

In a large pot over medium, heat the oil until shimmering.


Add the onion and ginger; cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chicken and fish sauce, turning the thighs to coat, then stir in the coconut water, broth and ¼ teaspoon pepper.


Bring to a boil over medium-high. Add the lemon grass, then cover, reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until a skewer inserted into the chicken meets just a little resistance, 18 to 22 minutes.

Step 2 of 3

Stir In The Chayote

10 to 12
ounce chayote squash (see headnote), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, each half sliced lengthwise into 1-inch-thick planks, then thinly sliced crosswise, or 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1
quart unsweetened coconut water

Stir in the chayote and coconut. Cover, increase to medium and return to a simmer. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, until the chayote is tender-crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 3 of 3

Add The Spinach

5-ounce container baby spinach
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 or 2
serrano chilies, stemmed and sliced into thin rings
Lime wedges, to serve

Remove and discard the lemon grass. Add the spinach and stir until just wilted. Remove the pot from the heat, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with the sliced chilies and with lime wedges on the side.

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