On a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia in 2017, Liz Kenyon watched her homestay host in Myanmar’s hilly Shan State prepare a warming turmeric soup over open coals in a hole in the middle of their living area. Soon after, on the streets of Mandalay, she and her husband noticed food carts set up shop as prayer got out. Cooks prepared curried chicken, dosas—and that same turmeric soup.
Kenyon remembers being struck by these savory bowls, rich with coconut milk and loaded with garnishes. “It’s not spicy, some people eat it for breakfast. A lot of kids eat it too.”
Today, she’s the executive chef of Manolin, with its Latin-meets-Northwest menu. She also runs the pandemic-derived in-house bagel shop, Old Salt. Food lessons from that backpacking trip proved unexpectedly vital when her bosses also put her in charge of Rupee Bar, a jewel-toned dining room in Ballard inspired by flavors of Sri Lanka. But that soup, she keeps for herself.
For her weekly meal prep at home, “I’ll do my sheet pan veggies, roast a chicken, and make my soup base,” says Kenyon. It can absorb just about any ingredients that linger in the refrigerator or the garden. “And it takes, no joke, like 10 minutes.”
- A splash of neutral oil, like avocado, coconut, or grapeseed
- Onion, or 6 shallots
- Garlic, 6 cloves, sliced thin
- Grated ginger, 1 tsp
- Ground cumin, 1 tsp
- Coriander, 1 tsp
- Turmeric (fresh or powder), 2 tsp
- Cayenne (any chili powder works), 1 tsp
- Chicken or vegetable stock, 1 quart
- Any spicy or garlicky sausage, 2 links, sliced in rings
- Coconut milk, 1 can
- Garnish(es), see below
Kenyon also likes to add fish, shrimp, silken tofu, shredded chicken (“thank you, Costco!”), squash, potatoes, chickpeas, or braising greens. “Really it’s whatever I have around.” Usually a cup will suffice.
Serve It With:
Rice, Kenyon usually makes a pot of medium-grain, or Noodles: egg, wheat, even fresh udon
- If you’re making rice, prepare it first (if you go the noodle route, prep happens at the end).
- Julienne the onion, or just cut into thin slivers.
- Heat the oil in a heavy pot, like a Staub or Le Creuset. Keep heat low and add the onions and a pinch of salt. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes until they are “sweaty” but not browned.
- Add sliced sausage, garlic, and ginger. Turn the heat up to medium and let them caramelize.
- Next, add all the spices. Let them toast on the pan’s surface for about 30 seconds. If you’re adding other proteins, braising greens, or produce, now’s the time to toss them in.
- Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.
- Finish with the coconut milk. Stir the pot until ingredients are warmed through.
- Turn off the heat. If you’re serving the soup with noodles, the soup base can sit while the noodles cook. When everything is ready, serve the soup over your cooked rice or noodles.
- Garnish with whatever you want.
- Something pickled
- Chopped cashews (any nuts or seeds will do the job)
- Greens, like cabbage or bibb lettuce
- Crunchy shallots (store bought)
- Chili crisp
- Fresh herbs, like cilantro, basil, parsley, or chives
- Lime wedges
Kenyon’s husband, Nathan, owns local sausage purveyor Cascadia Meats. Which means a ready supply of chicken stock and links in her freezer. She likes Cascadia’s French garlic sausage in this soup. Find them at Seattle farmers markets—or on a bun at some Seahawks home games.