Spicy-Creamy Thai Curry Soup

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Spicy, creamy, hearty.

Difficulty estimates on recipes don’t make much sense to me. Anything can seem easy once you know how it’s done; until then, it seems hard. Some recipes look easy on the outset, but take years to master (such as the perfect white rice). Others look complicated, but only because of their long ingredients list (stir fry is as straight-forward as it’s name suggests– cut, fry, and stir). Time estimates are also misleading. They don’t account for the procurement of materials, nor for the reader’s experience.

For the longest time, I was afraid of Asian soups, because they seemed very difficult. Now I have made a couple, and I have to say, not only are they are more than manageable, but the preparation was well worth it. I crafted this recipe from a few different concepts and ideas, and once it was ready, my professional taste-tester, a.k.a. the fiancé, told me it tasted like something you would get at a swanky restaurant for an exhorbant cost. Does it deserve such high praise? I will let your taste-testers decide.

Thai Curry Soup

– 5 cups chicken broth (make Fried-Egg Soup one day, use the remaining broth the next)
– 1/2 can coconut milk
– 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
– 1-2 tablespoons lime juice
– 2 teaspoons brown sugar
– 4 teaspoons red curry paste
– 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
– 1/2 stalk lemongrass, sliced
– 3 or 4 shiitake mushrooms
– 2 japanese turnips, sliced into thin rounds (substitute with a different root vegetable if needed, such as a yukon gold potato)
– 2 avocados
– 2 inch piece of ginger root, grated
– 2-3 sprigs cilantro, chopped up
– 1 green onion, sliced
– 1 teaspoon powdered  coriander, or whole coriander
– chili oil or dried chili flakes to taste (I used about 4 teaspoons)
– 2 cups shrimp (raw is better) or cooked chicken (such as the remainder from that Fried-Egg Soup broth)

As usual, your own taste will dictate exact amounts, particularly of the spices. Taste as you go!

Combine vegetable oil with lemon grass, grated ginger, and red curry paste in a large saucepan or pot, and cook for about a minute or so. Pour in chicken broth while stirring. Add coconut milk while stirring until the color is more pastel and the texture is somewhat creamy.

Now begin adding chili oil, lime juice, brown sugar, coriander and fish sauce, as you taste and mix. If it isn’t salty enough, add more fish sauce. If it isn’t sweet enough, add sugar. Too spicy– some more coconut milk and a little more lime should help. Or maybe it’s not spicy enough?  ; )

When you get the right flavor, add the mushrooms, and turnips. When the mushrooms are soft, add the raw shrimp and/or chicken and bring to a beief boil, all while stirring. The shrimp should turn red and only be a little translucent. If using pre-cooked shrimp, keep in mind, it’s very easy to overcook, so don’t boil it for too long.

Finally, slice up half an avocado for each bowl, and garnish with a bit of cilantro and green onion (I also added enoki mushrooms in the above picture, and they took on a bit of a pasta-like texture). Serve with a side of plain cooked white rice, which each person can add to their own soup bowl as they please. This recipe should fill about four bowls. Enjoy!

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Fried-Egg Soup

Today I made “Fried Egg Soup” from A Platter of Figs by David Tanis. I’ll let you in on a secret… this is probably the third soup I have ever attempted to make. I love eating soup when I go out, but somehow, homemade soup (at least homemade by me) doesn’t quite appeal to me; however, I think this recipe has completely changed my position on the matter. It was so amazing, and so easy too!

I made a few very slight alterations to the recipe. Most notably, I quartered the original recipe since I was only cooking for myself today. Even quartering it made enough broth for me to have dinner tonight, breakfast tomorrow, and to freeze some broth for later. Maybe I don’t eat very much.

Below is the recipe as I made it, although I highly recommend you take a look at Mr. Tanis’ book for both the original recipe, and for other amazing recipes and techniques!

Fried Egg Soup with a round of toasted baguette, and white ginger-pear tea from Tea Forté.

Fried Egg Soup with a round of toasted baguette, and white ginger-pear tea from Tea Forté.

This soup starts out with the light broth:

1.5 pounds raw chicken wings
1/2 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 leak, slivered
1 thyme branch
1 bay leaf
cooking oil (I used canola)

Warm up a large saucepan to medium heat. Put a little bit of cooking oil into the saucepan, and then toss in the onions. Cook uncovered until they are see-through (about 2 minutes). Put in the chicken wings and let them cook until they are no longer pink (I think it took me about 15-20 minutes). Pour in 6 cups of cold water, throw in the carrot, leek, thyme, and bay leaf. Optionally, add some peppercorns. (If all that stuff doesn’t fit into your saucepan, just transfer the onions and chicken to a big pot and use that– I don’t happen to have a big pot right at the moment, and the saucepan was big enough.) Bring to a brief boil, then turn down to simmer. Simmer for 40 minutes.

Instead of straining and skimming the broth, I decided to leave it as-is for my soup. I don’t mind avoiding chicken and leeks to ladle my broth, and I like the extra flavor from the carrots and onions directly in my soup.

The next part is adding the aromatics:

2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 inch ginger, finely chopped
1 cup of baby bok choy leaves, slivered (or use adult bok choy or spinach)
salt

Add garlic to your soup and simmer for five minutes. Then add ginger and simmer for five more minutes. Add salt to taste. Just before serving, add the slivered baby bok choy leaves. They will take a minute or two to wilt.

Next comes the fried egg:

1 fresh egg per bowl of soup
salt to taste
cayenne (or black pepper) to taste

When you put the garlic into your soup, while you’re waiting, begin frying an egg sunny-side up, leaving it mostly runny. Season it with salt and cayenne pepper to taste (or black pepper if you prefer). This is also the time to drizzle some baguette slices with olive oil and give them a good toast, as well as to start steeping some tea. A white tea will go well with this recipe.

He likes food even more than I do!

This guy likes food even more than I do!

Place the fried egg into a shallow bowl. Ladle over the soup broth, making sure to pick up some of those carrots and bok choy leaves. Garnish with sliced green onions and serve immediately!

By the way, once the food was ready, I pulled my chair out onto the balcony, and ate it in the afternoon sunlight. Here is the view from my balcony.