Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thai Coconut Curry Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu

During the holiday season there is a lot of roasted, braised, baked and stewed food available. Rich, sumptuous decadence is the theme of the season. In fact, it was while making a sausage dressing and marinating a bird on Thanksgiving Eve that I made this light, yet satisfying soup for dinner.

I think subconsciously I wanted something fresh and light, and while this soup still packs plenty of flavor because of the spiciness of the Thai red curry paste, it didn’t leave us feeling weighed down. It is made of several of the same ingredients as the popular Thai soup Tom Ka Gai, or Coconut Chicken Soup, but it doesn’t require ingredients you may not typically stock, like fish sauce. Actually, instead of fish sauce, one of those condiments I always mean to purchase but always forget when I’m at the market, I used a generous splash of another fermented product, good old soy sauce. We all have about 20 packets of this stuff (and duck sauce) stashed in a drawer somewhere from all that Chinese take-out, right? Well here’s your chance to use it!

I have an organic miso tamari sauce would work really well here too, as would any similar fermented and salty flavoring sauce. Just a few splashes will do because the point isn’t to taste the condiment as much as to experience the depth of flavor just a dab will provide to the soup.

A note about the tofu: I used firm tofu and cut it into 1-inch strips, then added it in the last 5 minutes of cooking so that it wouldn't fall apart and crumble into the soup essentially making a mess of something that was supposed to be clean tasting. Also note that once the tofu was added I didn't boil the soup or do too much stirring. It can sit, warm, like this for a while if you need to do other things before serving your soup, but know that the longer it sits the higher the risk of the tofu breaking up. Even more so if you use silken tofu.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu

1 can coconut milk
½ cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
½ pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 pound firm tofu, cut into 1 inch strips
salt to taste
soy sauce to taste

In a medium sauce pan, combine coconut milk, water, garlic and ginger. Bring up to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Stir in curry paste and mushrooms, season with salt and soy sauce to taste, and simmer for 5 minutes. Gently add tofu and continue cooking on a med-low heat for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls, top with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

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