Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup

This is a soup that I order often at Surin of Thailand, one of my favorite restaurants. It has a unique flavor which is achieved by the infusion of the basic Thai ingredients. It was really not hard to make, but I had a very traumatic experience with the fish sauce. A sauce made of fish has always sounded disgusting to me, and it proved to be much worse than I had suspected. It was very dark in color and full of sediment, so I shook it and it began to spew a very offensive-smelling liquid all over my counter and all over me. It was so bad that I had to take a bath. I later found out that fish sauce is supposed to be a light brown color, have no sediment, and have a light fish smell. If I ever use fish sauce again, I will use only the Golden Boy brand, which is available at Needless to say, the inferior fish sauce never made it into my soup, and it was still really good.

I used lemon grass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. The galangal is similar to ginger. I tore the lime leaves and sliced the galangal. Lemon grass can be purchased in fresh stalks, but it is much easier to buy it already minced and keep it in the freezer. The lime leaves and galangal can be kept frozen also.
These are straw mushrooms. I am not a big fan of mushrooms, and I thought fresh might be better, but Gil and Zac really liked them. They are actually very cute and look like something out of a fairy tale.

This is the tamarind paste. It is made from the fruit of the tamarind tree. Hmmmm... I'm being very trusting with some of these ingredients.

I combined several recipes and this is what I came up with:

Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup
1 quart chicken broth
2 tbsp dried lemon grass
3 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
1-2 inch piece fresh galangal
dash red pepper flakes
2 small Thai chilis, halved lengthwise (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup lime juice
2 cans coconut milk
1 tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp fish sauce - Golden Boy brand recommended (optional!)
1-15 ounce can straw mushrooms (or your choice of fresh)
1 lb raw shrimp, unpeeled

Cook shrimp in boiling water until done, about 5 minutes. Peel.
Bring the chicken broth to a boil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, sliced galangal, chilies, pepper flakes, and garlic. Cover and simmer gently for about 15 minutes to let the flavors infuse. Strain and pour broth back into the soup pot. Add coconut milk, optional fish sauce, mushrooms, tamarind paste, lime juice, and cooked shrimp. Heat through for about 5 minutes.
Yield: About 6 servings

I bought these great black bowls, spoons, and napkin rings at World Market. They have a nice selection of Asian dishes and serving pieces. The placemat came from Pier One.

I know this soup may sound like a daunting task, but it was actually really interesting to cook with unfamiliar ingredients. And I'm always looking for a reason to buy new dishes.


Amby said...

You're fish sauce.

Finelly said...

Yum, yum and double yum! You have been very busy since I've been out of pocket! Looking forward to that smoked salman salad in particular.
Did I tell you I made your buttermints? They came out pretty good, although it took some practice to get the consistency just right. My 3 year old seemed to love them as well. He managed to get his hands on about 4 of them before school one morning. I'm sure his teachers loved that!
I hope your holiday season was fabulous!

Vickie said...

I'm glad you liked the mints. The consistency is tricky sometimes. Sounds like you had fun on your trip. I'm happy you are back!

Vickie said...

Evil spawn of fish sauce.

CeeJay said...

Not being a fan of fish anything you have me laughing out loud. :-)