Monday, August 8, 2011

Lemongrass-Coconut Soup with Shrimp and Veg

Take someone who hasn't been able to get to a Thai restaurant for a very, very long time (me) and give them a freshly discovered source of lemongrass (and a few youtube videos on preparing this stuff) and the most fragrant and delicately infused coconut broth might just emerge.

This soup is an absolutely lovely way to use up some summer veg hanging out in the crisper. The rest of the ingredients I usually have in stock (when the cupboards are full that is) - save for the trip to the Vietnamese market for the lemongrass. I am told lemongrass freezes well, like ginger, so I may soon (theoretically) be making this on a whim.

 Coconut-based soups always sound a bit cloying to me, to be perfectly honest. This one, however, is one part coconut milk and two parts vegetable broth (plus all those spice goodies.) The result is a smooth oh-so-light-as-a-feather texture and flavours that go POW. Can you handle that?

The beauty of this recipe is that the broth bit is absolutely killer. The spice mix infuses its heady aroma for half and hour, and is then strained out to get a divinely silky-smooth broth. Any seafood/tofu/veg could be included in this soup. It really is that flexible...and good!

Disclaimer: this dish is a bit time consuming, so I would double the recipe if you've got room in the fridge or freezer. It also seems to use a minimum of three pots, so be nice to your dishwasher (aka dining companions) in advance.

Continue to Recipe...
Recipe: Lemongrass-Coconut Soup with Shrimp and Veg
Serves 2 - 3
Eat with a sweet white wine
Time 1 1/2 hours

spice mix:
2 cloves garlic, quartered
1 1/2 inch (4cm) piece of peeled fresh ginger, cut in chunks
1 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed and set aside
2 kaffir lime leaves (optional, but great if you can find them)
1/2 tsp crushed red chili flakes
 2 Tb water

1 Tb sesame oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
a handful, or 25g (1 oz), dried shiitake mushrooms
1 Tb fish sauce
1/2 Tb brown sugar

1 Tb grapeseed (or canola) oil
1/2 eggplant
1 zucchini
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 oz (125g) rice noodles
12 shrimp
1/2 lime (or lemon) juice

garnish: lime, spring onion, cilantro

1) Soak the dried mushrooms in cold water while you read the recipe, and watch this lemongrass video and get everything out and organized. They need a good 30-60 minutes to soften.

2) Spice Mix: Peel the garlic and ginger. Coarsely chop. Toss in a food processor with the soft inner bits of the lemongrass (they shouldn't seem stringy or touch.) Save the outer leaves for later. Add in the kaffir lime leaves, chili flakes, and water. Pulse until minced and blended. 

3) Broth: In a big pot on med-low, heat the shallots in the sesame oil for a minute. Add in the blended spice mix and heat until fragrant, just another two minutes or so. Pour in the coconut milk and vegetable broth. Turn up to med-high and add the fish sauce, brown sugar, and the outer leaves of the lemongrass. Put a cover on reduce heat to a low simmer. 

4) Get the mushrooms out now (should be softened) and chop the stems off. Toss into the broth and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Get a bit pot of water boiling for the noodles.

5) Soup: Chop the eggplant and stick in a colander and sprinkle liberally with salt. Place a bowl on top to press it down. This extracts any bitter moisture. Chop the zucchini into half moons and get a large saute pan hot with oil. Toss in the zucchini. Let cook a few minutes, then add the eggplant and garlic. Cook until soft (about 7-9 minutes.)

6) The noodle water should be boiling now, so add them in (only takes about 2 minutes to soften, then turn off the heat.) Strain them and leave the noodles in the colander.

7) In the big noodle pot, you want to strain the broth into it (it should have finished its 30 minute simmer by now) through a fine-meshed sieve. Press the solids with the back of a big spoon to really extract the most intense flavours. 

8) Add the zucchini/eggplant. Add in the shrimp and simmer until they are pink and cooked through (5 minutes or less.) Add lime juice.

9) In each bowl, divide up the noodles and spoon the soup over. Garnish with what you like.

Dobrou Chut'/ Enjoy.

-- Jo

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