Tom Kha Kai – Thai Coconut Soup

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Since I was ten years old, I have been traveling to Bangkok to visit my parents, who were once living there. We usually ate at home with the cooks preparing a dish that my mother taught them in Central Asian style, usually made vegetarian, because kosher meat was hard to find. Being so young, I did not venture out on my own in Bangkok and just ate what was served at home.

In my late teens, when I returned to Bangkok to visit my parents, I had more of a social circle and would go out with my father’s clients. My father operated a vast gemstone business where he would broker deals between the miners and purchasers. At that time, the Holiday Inn on Silom Road opened up, and looking to try some Thai foods, I ventured over there. There was a restaurant overlooking Silom Road on the top floor of the hotel. I caught my eye on the Thai Coconut Soup called, Tom Kha Kai. It’s a coconut broth soup with seasonal vegetables, that is spicy with lime and usually made with seafood or chicken.

I explained to the waitress that I would like this soup made vegetarian, since the menu stated “with chicken”. It’s very standard for Asians to put fish broth in almost everything they cook. So when I explained to her that I was vegetarian, (because Thai think that fish broth is vegetarian), I also told her that I am allergic to any fish and meat, and I will choke and need hospital care if there is any flesh in the soup. I had to make this point clear, even though I over dramatized it. She obliged and told me, “no problem”.

Twenty minutes later, came out this lemon scented coconut rich soup that was permeating the surrounding air. I had a sip, and it was AMAZING! I loved the juxtapositions of flavors that just worked. Spicy, sour and sweet, all at the same time. Years later, being now, I have replicated this soup. It is so easy to make and so flavorful.  It will impress all your friends. Trust me. Since I am in full fledged CSA season, I have just added the vegetables that I had available. You can add any vegtable like, even tomatoes work.

A note about the noodles and lemongrass. You may have heard of Zero Noddles, which is the same as Tofu Shiritake. It’s a traditional Japanese noodle made from the konjac plant, which contains high amount of fiber and zero carbs. It has no taste and like tofu, absorbs the flavors of the surrounding ingredients. You can find it in any Asian supermarket or health food store. Lemongrass is prevalent in Thai cooking, and is optional in this recipe, but if you have it or can get your hands on it, it makes the difference and adds more of a citrus zing to the soup, which also is great for colds and flu.

Tom Kha Kai

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces tofu shiritake
2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk

1 (14-ounce) can water (use the coconut can to measure)
1-2 stalks minced lemongrass, optional*
2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
3 large minced shallots
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt, or to taste

Lots of seasonal vegetables, for example this pot had:
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
16 ounces shiitake mushrooms
3 scallions, sliced
Garnish with squeeze of fresh lime juice and handful of fresh cilantro into each bowl

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot over medium high heat, bring the coconut milk, water, lemongrass (if using), ginger, shallots, red pepper flakes and salt to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five to ten minutes.
  2. Add the seasonal vegetables to the simmering coconut milk, and cook until just tender. Depending on the vegetables used, it can be anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles from the bag and mix into the soup. Cook an additional 7 minutes.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a generous squeeze of lime and lots of cilantro.

* You can find fresh lemongrass in most Asian food and grocery stores. It is usually located with the other fresh produce, and is often sold in bundles of 2 or 3 stalks. When buying fresh lemongrass: Look for stalks that are fragrant, tightly formed, and of a lemony-green color on the lower stalk (near the bulb). The softer, fleshier part of the lemongrass – which is what you want to use in your cooking – is located under the tough outer leaves. Peel away these layers with your fingers and discard. What you will uncover is a pale yellow stalk that is softer and easier to slice. Cut off two inches from the bulb and make thin slices up to 2/3 of the stalk. Stop slicing when the stalk is no longer yellow and “fleshy”. Because lemongrass is so firm and fibrous, it helps to process the slices a little further. Place the lemongrass in a food processor (or chopper) and process well on “high”, OR pound for a minute or two with a pestle & mortar. Now it’s ready to use in your cooking. You can store leftovers in freezer bags and store in the freeze for up to six months.

Curried Coconut Tomato Soup

As the tomatoes in the farmers market or your homegrown ones start to proliferate, this soup will make good use of those fresh tomatoes. Alternatively, you can use whole can tomatoes, preferably fire roasted. Make sure you get canned tomatoes that have the BPA-free liners. What makes this soup different from the ones you would find in a restaurant, is that it’s influence is from India – with some hot flakes of chili and a cool down of coconut milk. Simple, quick and a perfect summer soup on those hot nights. Inspired and adapted from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now.

Curried Coconut Tomato Soup

Ingredients

4 tablespoons olive oil, or coconut oil
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste
3 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes or 20 peeled tomatoes*

          6 cups (1.5 L) of water
          1 (14-ounce can) coconut milk

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions really soften up – 10 minutes or so.
  2. Stir in the curry powder, coriander, cumin, and chile flakes, and cook just until the spices are fragrant and toasty – stirring constantly at this point. Just 30 seconds or so.
  3. Stir in the tomatoes, the juices from the cans, and water. Simmer for fifteen minutes or so, then puree with a hand blender until smooth. Pour in the coconut milk. Taste and adjust with more salt to taste.

* To peel fresh tomatoes, the easiest method is over a gas flame. Remove any stems that are still attached to your tomatoes. Rinse the tomatoes clean and pat dry. Spear the tomato with a fork at the top, where the stem core is visible. Turn the stovetop flame to medium high. Hold the tomato an inch over the flame, turning slowly, until the skin begins to split and blister. It should take about 15-25 seconds for the skin to loosen all the way around the tomato. Don’t hold it over the flame too long or it will start to cook the tomato. Place the tomato on a smooth surface and let it cool off enough for you to comfortably touch it. Begin peeling the skin where it split, making your way all around the tomato till all the skin is peeled off.

Dovgha ~ Azerbaijani Yogurt Soup with Rice, Spinach, and Mixed Herbs)

Dovgha  ~ Azerbaijani Yogurt Soup with Rice, Spinach, and Mixed Herbs
This is a yogurt cream soup has its origins from Azerbaijan- a Turkic state that is right in the middle of the Silk Road. Russia to the north, Georgia (the country, not the state) to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south.
Finely chopped Scallions and Coarsely Chopped Spinach
Azerbaijan’s climate contributes to the fertility of the land, which in its turn results in the richness of the country’s cuisine. It is famous for an abundance of vegetables and greens used seasonally in the dishes. Fresh herbs, including mint, coriander, dill, basil, parsley, tarragon, leek, chive, thyme, marjoram, green onion, and watercress are very popular and often accompany main dishes.
Yoghurt, Rice flour, olive oil and salt
The main course of Azerbaijani cuisine are over 30 kinds of soups, including those prepared from plain yoghurt. This is my favorite soup now and so fulfilling. It’s made of yogurt mixed with water, rice, and as many green herbs that you can get your hands on. It can be served hot or cold depending on the season. I love it either way.
Whisk the Yogurt into the pot so that it does not clump
DOVGHA
(Tangy Azerbaijani Yogurt Soup with Rice, Spinach, and Mixed Herbs)

 

Yields 6 servings
Ingredients
6 cups vegetable broth or water
1/4 cup brown basmati rice
2 cups plain, whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons brown rice flour
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons Sea Salt
3 loosely packed cups coarsely chopped spinach
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 (15-ounce) can cooked chickpeas* *
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley leaves
Directions
  1. Bring broth or water to a boil with the rice in a large soup pot over high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a medium heat, and gently boil, covered, for 20 minutes.
  2. Combine yogurt with flour, olive oil, and salt in a medium sized mixing bowl. Very slowly pour the yogurt mixture, a little at a time, into the pot while vigorously whisking with the other hand to prevent curdling. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce to a medium-low heat and gently boil for 10 minutes for yogurt to thicken slightly.
  3. Mix in the spinach leaves, scallions, and cooked chickpeas and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes, uncovered. Add mint, dill, and cilantro (or parsley) leaves, and cook an additional 10 minutes, uncovered.
  4. Serve hot or warm garnished with extra chopped herbs and/or scallions.
* * To Prepare chickpeas: ¾ cup dried chickpeas; soaked overnight, drained and rinsed and boil for an hour. Remove outer layer; once cooled.

Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Toasted Hazelnuts (Vegan, Gluten Free)

When I started foraging for dinner ingredients this afternoon, I found a few autumn vegetables for this soup.  Cooler weather always has me craving snuggly socks, a toasty blanket and a soup that just warms me up. The great thing about cauliflower, beside the lovely potato like taste and all the vitamins, is that the soup get a creamy thick consistence without using cream, or any other kind of thickener. By also adding lemon to the soup you get this fresh taste. Top with toasted hazelnuts and  you get that warm nutty crunch that makes this a hearty winters’ soup. Purée in a blender for the smoothest, creamiest results. Make the soup up to a day ahead, and store in the refrigerator. Reheat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.


Recipe courtesy of Chef Peter Berley, author of The Flexitarian Table

SERVINGS 8-10

INGREDIENTS

Sea salt
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1-2 head of cauliflower (3 pounds in total), separated into florets
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium or 3 large leeks — tough green parts discarded, the remainder thinly sliced and thoroughly rinsed
1-2 quarts vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup peeled hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Finely chopped fresh parsley


Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the lemon juice. Add the cauliflower and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a heavy soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks and stir to coat, season with salt and cook until very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent browning. Add the cauliflower and stock and bring to a simmer. With a slotted spoon transfer the leeks and cauliflower to a blender or food processor and puree with some of the stock until smooth. Return the puree to the pot.

3. In a toaster oven, bake at 350F the hazelnuts for about 8 minutes or until fragrant.

4. Bring the soup to a simmer, season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Serve the soup garnished with the hazelnuts and parsley.

Curried Celery Soup (Vegan, Gluten Free)

How annoying is it when you are cooking up a dish from a recipe that calls for one or two celery stalks and you are still left with a bunch of celery?  How many times has celery just sat in your fridge begging to be used to no avail?? A celery here… a celery there…. still it just does not get used up and this is because, most of the time celery is used as a root in a recipe and does not really enhance the flavor to the dish.

Finally a soup that uses 1 1/2 pounds of celery!! That’s right…. now you get to use up that glut sitting in the fridge for an Indian spiced soup that will beckon you to make this soup over and over again.

While I agree that celery may not have a lot of taste, when combined with potatoes, onions and curry, celery morphs into an exotic blend that is perfect for a winter warmup.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 teaspoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, washed and sliced
1 1/2 pounds celery, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 potatoes, washed, peeled and diced
3 3/4 cups vegetable stock
1 bouquet garni (parsley, thyme and bay leaf tied together)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, leek and celery. Cover and cook gently for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the curry powder and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring the vegetables occasionally.
  3. Add the potatoes, stock and bouquet garni and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Remove and discard the bouquet garni and set the soup aside to cool lightly.
  5. Use a hand blender and process in pot until smooth.
  6. Add the fresh parsley, season to taste and ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with some celery leaves.

Tuscan White Bean Soup (Vegan, Gluten Free)



Old fashioned comfort foods are back in style with this modest pot of beans in a creamy tomato base soup. Of course, some of us never stopped cooking with dried beans, for we know that they are handy (they store nearly indefinitely), reliable, inexpensive, practical, and extremely good for you. In short, they’re indispensable.


Dried beans need to be soaked in water for several hours before cooking, so on a bleary day when there are gray cloud outside saying “stay in”, head to the kitchen, fill up a pot water, and toss in some beans. Hours later when the beans are ready to be cooked, this hearty soup will feed 6 people or you’re lucky enough to be serving only two or three people, you’ll be able to store nicely for a few days in the fridge. You will have a ready made hearty meal when you come home from work starved.

Dried cannellini beans or other white beans, garlic, onions, carrots and celery create a thick white puree at the heart of this country style Tuscan soup.



Serves 6


Ingredients


1 1/2 cups dried cannellini or other white beans
1 bay leaf
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups boiling water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil to serve


Directions

  1. Pick over the beans carefully, discarding any stones or other particles. Rinse thoroughly in cold water. Then soak in large bowl of cold water for several hours or overnight.
  2. Drain the beans and place them in a large saucepan of water. Bring to boil and cook for 20 minutes. Drain and return the beans to the pan, cover with cold water and bring to boil again. Add the bay leaf and cook for 1-2 hours until the beans are tender, Drain again. Remove the bay leaf.
  3. Puree about three-quarters of the beans in a food processor to create a smooth paste.
  4. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Stir in the onion and cook until it softens. Add the carrot and celery and cook for 5 minutes more, until they are soft but not mushy.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic and thyme. Cook for 6-8 minutes more, stirring often.
  6. Pour in the boiling water. Stir in the beans and the bean puree. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Serve the soup in individual bowls sprinkled with a little olive oil.