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As a gen­eral rule, I won’t com­plain about the weather.

Snow hap­pens. As does rain. As do those chi­nooks which bring a brief and wel­come re­prieve from the short days of win­ter.

But this year, for the first time, I’ve ac­tu­ally found my­self day­dream­ing about a trop­i­cal hol­i­day: aqua­ma­rine waters, warm beach, cold drink.

My bank bal­ance, how­ever, won’t al­low it.

The next best thing is to eat like I’m some­where ex­otic.

A spicy kick to warm the belly was the aim, a meal evoca­tive of south­west Asia to cut through the grey af­ter­noon with wind­whipped snow swirling out­side.

A lit­tle search­ing led me to Khao Soi, a Thai soup thickly spiced with red curry, but bal­anced with creamy coconut and spikes of lime. Chicken shred­ded af­ter cooking in the broth and egg noo­dles add hearti­ness to this dish, which re­quires both fork and spoon to eat.

Pick­led mus­tard greens or cab­bage, crispy shal­lots and deep­fried noo­dles are tra­di­tion­ally added, but I craved a sim­pler soup that could be whipped up in less than hour with­out the need for all the pots in the cup­board. If I was go­ing to pre­tend to be on a hol­i­day, then com­ing up with some­thing eas­ily put to­gether made sense.

As such, de­spite my re­cent vo­cal op­po­si­tion to “recipes” that use cake mixes or jarred sauces — which I’m not against them as a gen­eral rule; I just ex­pect when I click over to a food blog for a recipe that it will be how to make some­thing, not just as­sem­ble it from pre-made parts — I ad­mit­tedly came up with a ver­sion of Khao Soi that uses Thai red curry paste. I’d ar­gue this falls more to­ward the prac­ti­cal end of the jarred sauce con­tin­uum since it’s com­prised of nu­mer­ous, and some­times ob­scure, in­gre­di­ents. But, since I could have tech­ni­cally made my own curry paste (recipes abound on the In­ter­net), I’ll sim­ply say there are times when short­cuts are war­ranted; this is one of those times.

I did en­hance the curry paste with more gar­lic and gin­ger and a sprin­kling of spices sautéed to en­hance their flavour. The broth is rounded out with salty fish sauce and a bit of brown sugar then poured over bowls of chewy noo­dles and chicken cooked in the creamy, hot and spicy soup.

A bit of cilantro, lime wedges and bean sprouts added just be­fore serv­ing adds to the com­plex­ity.

The soup was all I had hoped for, hot and spicy enough — def­i­nitely at the up­per end of my al­beit low tol­er­ance for heat — with the req­ui­site sour, salty and sweet com­po­nents that com­prise a lot of south­west Asian cooking.

It wasn’t quite like sit­ting on a beach as aqua waters lap at the sandy shore, but it was at least a culi­nary es­cape from the dreary win­ter.

Khao Soi

I adapted this from a num­ber of sources. I used chicken thighs which have more flavour, but bone­less, skin­less chicken breasts will work just as well in a pinch or if pre­ferred. It can eas­ily be made vegetarian by skip­ping out on the chicken and us­ing veg­etable broth. In that case, I’d add some fried tofu to round out the dish.

In a large pot set over medium heat, warm the oil un­til it’s shim­mer­ing slightly. Add the gar­lic

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