Saturday, February 7, 2009

On a Cold Winter's Eve...

Nothing beats a good soup when the mercury drops! The hubs and I have been craving good Thai food for months, but haven't been able to find the proper ingredients for even a good spring roll- until we recently stumbled upon a Thai market about 45 minutes from our house. Sadly, I didn't have my camera with me, but just trust me when I say that the market was surrounded by a host of angels singing the most beautiful rendition of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus as we entered... ok, so maybe that was only in my head, but it was still very exciting. The market was massive and had a melange of products from all over Southeast Asia- they even had durian. DURIAN! IN KANSAS! I'm not under the illusion that it would taste even remotely fresh, but it warmed my heart to see that strange green hedgehog of a fruit sitting haplessly on its little table.

We picked up several items with which we could prepare Tom Kha Goong, a wonderful Thai soup that fully orchestrates several staple items of Thai cuisine into a wonderful symphony of flavor. Mildly sweet coconut; subtly spicy curry; salty fish sauce; and the clean bite of lime and galangal interplay with each other and create a wonderfully creamy yet light soup that has earned a coveted slot on my list of things to make more than once.


Ingredients:

1 stalk lemongrass, outer sheath and hard ends removed, cut into large pieces.
1 TBS canola oil
1 medium onion finely minced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tsp. red curry paste
6 1/8"slices of unpeeled fresh galangal
3 Kaffir lime leaves
3 cups of chicken stock plus 1 jar clam juice (about 3/4 c)
1 lb raw tiger prawns, heads and legs removed
2 cups of shiitake or oyster mushrooms, sliced
1 can of unsweetened coconut milk
Juice from 2 limes
2 TBS nam pla

Garnish:
3 scallions trimmed and sliced on a bias
1/4 cup minced cilantro

First, heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Add lemongrass, galangal, curry paste, and lime zest. This, incidentally, is my favorite step- to just stop and realize how GOOD this smells!

Next, add the chicken stock and clam juice and boil for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add mushrooms, then let stand for at least an hour to allow flavor development.

Bring soup to a simmer and add coconut milk. Add tiger prawns and simmer until they are cooked through (just a few minutes), then add nam pla and lime juice. Remove galangal and lemongrass. Serve garnished with scallions and cilantro.



*Cook's notes:

1. I adapted this recipe from Jo at Amuse Bouche (http://countingsheep.typepad.com/amuse_bouche/).

2. I would prefer to use 4 cups of seafood stock instead of the chicken stock/clam juice mixture, but due to locale, seafood stock isn't available. If you can find seafood stock, use it! Also, I had to substitute lime zest for 3 Kaffir lime leaves because my local market was sold out :(.

3. To make the chicken version of this dish, use 4 cups of chicken stock and substitute chicken for the shrimp. I've made it both ways, and personally, I like the shrimp version much better :).

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