I’ve been fighting off a cold of late, but I’m feeling a bit better. Well enough to want to cook and also to want something warm. My favorite Thai soup is Tom Yum. It comes in many different incarnations with kai (chicken), with noodles, with various or few veggies, but it always has these wonderful ingredients: lemongrass, lime leaf and chilli. These are the flavors that draw me to it, the taste so bright and lively. And also somehow comforting.
So, on a cool misty day I gathered my ingredients, some from the greenmarket, some from the supermarket, and set about to make this warming soup. The recipe I based my soup on comes from a wonderful Thai cookbook that my ever-thoughtful stepmother gave me titled, Simply Thai Cooking by Wandee Young & Byron Ayanoglu. I have had pretty good success with it so far, though I do have to cut down on chilis and fish sauce sometimes. As a side, I decided upon coconut rice, simple and soothing to the heat and complexity of the soup. I was happy with the result and Luis seemed to be, too.
Veggie-Tofu Tom Yum Soup – 6 servings
- 6 c. water
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 8 lime leaves
- 1 1/2″ galangal (or ginger)
- 3 1/2 Tbs. fish sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp. roasted chilli paste (bottled)
- 1 large tomato (8 – 12 oz.)
- 1 tsp. peanut oil
- 1/4 tsp. sesame oil
- 4 oz. mushrooms
- 8 oz. tofu
- 2 medium carrots
- 4 oz. snow peas
- 3 baby bok choy
- 1/4 c. + 2 Tbs. lime juice
- 1 jalapeno
1. Juice 2 limes, separating 1/4 c. and 2 Tbs. Cut tofu into small cubes and marinate in the 2 Tbs. lime juice plus a few shakes of salt (and some ginger and lemongrass if you feel ambitious).
2. Smash lemongrass and cut into 1 ” pieces. Slice galangal/ginger into paper thin rounds and add to lemongrass. Add lime leaves to lemongrass and galangal and put aside. Measure 3-4 Tbs. fish sauce (the recipe calls for a little more, but 4 Tbs. was near my upper limit for salt). Measure chilli paste.
3. Dice tomato, reserve. Slice mushrooms in half. Slice carrots into thick matchsticks or thin coins, reserve. Trim snow peas and cut them into halves, then add to carrots. Cut bok choy stems into 1/4″ crescents and add to carrots/peas. Reserve the bok choy leaves separtely. Cut jalapeno into quarters and reserve.
4. Heat peanut and sesame oils in a soup pot, add mushrooms, cut side down, and cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes. Stir and cook for another minute, then remove to a bowl.
5. Add water to soup pot over high heat and arrange ingredients while water comes to a boil. (I find it useful to put my thai ingredients in the order they go into the pot as the cooking is often very quick and I don’t have time to check my recipe while stirring. This is not as important for soups as for stir-fries or curries, but I try to keep the habit up.)
In order: lemongrass etc., fish sauce, chilli paste, tomatoes, mushrooms, tofu, carrots etc., bok choy leaves, lime juice, jalapeno.
6. When water boils add lemongrass etc. and cook for 1 minute.
7. Add fish sauce and cook for 1 minute.
8. Add chilli paste, stir and reduce heat to medium.
9. Add tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the broth bubbles again.
10. Add mushrooms, stir and return heat to high.
11. Add tofu and cook for 3 minutes.
12. Add carrots etc. and cook for 2 minutes.
13. Add bok choy leaves, stir and remove from heat.
14. Add lime juice, stir, add jalapeno.
You could garnish with cilantro and or ground peanuts if you felt the inclination.
All those instructions make the soup look terribly complicated, but it’s not nearly that bad. Once all the chopping and lining up is done, it’s a simple and very quick soup. The hard part is timing your rice correctly!
For the coconut rice, I simply mixed 1/2 c. coconut milk with 1 c. water, 1/4 salt and 3/4 c. brown long grain rice. It is not the most exciting rice ever, but I found it a pleasant foil for the soup, with a sticky consistency that lends itself well to molding (and hence pictures).