Three Musketeers and Bastardized Soup (Coconut-Curry)

January 30, 2020

I do not make friends easily. It’s always been that way. Growing up, my sister was like the pied piper; she always had a gaggle of girls following her around. If I had one friend, I counted myself lucky. If anything, I tend to repel people. There are a million reasons–I’m shy; I’m awkward; when I do speak, the words don’t come out right and I end up with my foot in my mouth or outright insulting somebody. I’m overly sensitive; I take everything personally; I hate to leave my house; blahblahblah.  Over the years, I’ve learned that examining the reasons really doesn’t matter. I’m just a woman of few friends. That’s the way it is.

The good news is, the friends I do have are fucking aces. They are generous, kind, loyal and brave enough to stick around, which is no small thing.

This past weekend, I had two of my oldest and most stalwart of friends over for lunch. These women have known me since junior high school, seen me in all my awkward and spazzy glory, through break-ups and giddy crushes and broken engagements and career changes and high-lows and Fuck You Linda’s and Cracker Barrels and they love me anyways. We are the Three Musketeers of Oddness and Shenanigans.

I cherish that we’ve remained friends this long, because we really had no business becoming friends in the first place. I’d be hard-pressed to find more different teenagers: my friend C. was ferocious. A rebel, with spiky hair and boots that could kick your ass and dangerous older boyfriends. My friend J. was the confident, bubbly, loved-by-everyone girl. And then there was me. Miss goody-two-shoes-dorkus-maximus. I walked down the school hallways with my books stacked in front of me, almost like a safety barrier. Eye contact? Forget it. All skinny legs and zero game.

Looking back on things, it would be hard to find a more unlikely trio, but we connected through music and theatre (like many adolescent misanthropes) and we’ve stood the test of time. We embrace the weird because let’s face it, this world is jacked.

Now, our lives are more similar than they are different, revolving around kids and school schedules and responsibilities. We still have our quirks–C. is still the devil-may-care artistic type, J. remains confident and grounded and well, I’m still a dork.

Because I’m a relative hermit, when we get together, the Musketeers come to me. They’re so generous about it, you guys. They pack up and make the trek over and in return, I make lunch. This is the best freaking deal in America, because they’re a joy to cook for. They’ll dig into whatever I come up with curiosity and appetite and that’s exciting for me, because it’s so different from what I get when I cook for my children. Cooking for children is drop-dead boring. Gaaa. I’ll cook for these tremendous women any day.

Last weekend, I got my grubby hands on some fresh Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass at the market, and I was so thrilled that I sent the following message: “Guess which bitch got her hands on some fresh lime leaves? This bitch, that’s who! Woot! I hope you like Tom Yum soup?”

They said they did, which was happy news.

And then because I cannot leave anything well enough alone, I totally bastardized the recipe. I ended up with some kind of weirdo amalgam of Thai, Vietnamese and Indian flavors but guess what? It worked. It was pungent and salty and sweet and puckery and deeply rich with coconut milk and spice. C., who arrived with a crashing headache and zero sleep the night before dug into her bowl and closed her eyes. “I honestly feel like this soup is going to heal me,” she said.

I’m not sure if it was the soup or the conversation or the honesty or the laughter, but by the end of those few hours, we all felt healed. That’s what good and forgiving company does for a girl. It reminds you that everything’s kinda sorta okay. That it’s worth it. WE are worth it.

Bastardized Coconut-Curry Soup

serves 6


1 tablespoon canola or coconut oil

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots or onion

1 tablespoon red curry paste, such as Thai Kitchen (if you are scared of spice, start with 2 teaspoons and then adjust to your taste)

1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder (get yourself a fresh container; it matters)

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 stalk lemongrass, bashed up with the side of a knife

4 fresh Kaffir lime leaves (if you can’t find these, substitute 1 teaspoon fresh lime zest. But dang, if you can find ’em, get ’em. The flavor is like nothing else.)

2 minced garlic cloves

2 teaspoons freshly minced ginger or galangal

6 cups rich chicken stock, preferable low sodium or homemade

1 1/2 cans coconut milk, shaken (do not use low fat, okay? Pretty please? You will be sad if you do.)

2 star anise pods

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper

3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken

2 cups sliced mushrooms, preferably a mix of shiitake and button

1 head baby bok choy, sliced thin

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup sliced scallion

1/2 cup sliced bamboo shoots (optional)

Lime wedges, to serve


Heat the canola oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add next 9 ingredients (through ginger/galangal) to hot oil and cook, stirring, until fragrant and spices begin to bloom, about 2 minutes. Add next six ingredients (through fish sauce) and bring to a boil. Cover pot, lower heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Take pot off heat and let steep for another 15 minutes. Remove lemongrass, lime leaves, star anise and cinnamon stick from pot. Bring soup back to a simmer and add jalapeno, chicken, mushrooms, bok choy. Cook for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and bok choy has wilted. Stir in cilantro, scallion and bamboo shoots, if using. Serve with lime wedges.


If you are so inclined, feel free to add rice noodles to this soup to give it more heft. Are noodles ever a bad thing?



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie January 30, 2020 at 6:45 am

Ride or Die friends are the very best. This soup looks amazing! Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!!!


Dana Talusani January 30, 2020 at 8:37 am

Annie, I can’t believe I get you ALL weekend! So excited!


Matt the Butcher January 30, 2020 at 9:00 am

Awesome story, and a killer soup recipe!


elizabeth January 30, 2020 at 10:23 am

I’m SO jelly that we can’t do this as this soup looks amazing!


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