Spinach Avocado Soup with Shrimp Chips

Spinach Avocado Soup with Shrimp Chips Recipe

The idea for this little first course came from an attempt to introduce avocado to my 10-month old baby Aria. The cream soup consists of barley and toor lentils, avocado and spinach. It was so delicious, I thought I'd share the same dish with our dinner guests, with a few alterations, of course. I fancied up the recipe with fresh sautéed spicy crab and Vietnamese shrimp chips called bánh phồng tôm. The velvety texture of the soup against the tasty, cracker-like chips was heavenly.

I love the idea of sharing meals with my daughter, and I’ll share more of our personal favorites. I think I have a little foodie in the making!


Yields: 6 servings

1 whole fresh crab
2 red Thai chiles, seeded and puréed
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 small ripe avocados
2 cups baby spinach leaves, blanched then transferred to an ice bath
2 tablespoons barley
1 tablespoon toor lentils (see tips)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 dozen shrimp chips, deep-fried
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper, freshly ground


For the ginger: Clean the ginger and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife (or the edge of a spoon). Grate about 1 inch of ginger with a fine mesh microplane. Gather about 2 teaspoons of grated ginger root. Set aside.

Cooking lentil and barley porridge:

Wash the lentils; discard any that are floating or odd-shaped. Wash and rinse thoroughly in several water baths (about three times). Drain the lentils, removing as much of the water as possible. No soaking is required.

In a small saucepan, place the barley and lentils. Add about 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Cook for about 20-30 minutes; stir occasionally until the grains of grains of barley burst and the broth thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Prepping the crab:

Clean the crab, brush and rinse thoroughly. Place in a pot, add about 1-½ to 2 cups of water and boil for about 10 minutes (see tips). Transfer to an ice water bath for about 3 minutes to stop the cooking process. Drain and discard all the liquid.

Remove and discard the abdominal flaps (the triangle-shaped tail). Lift and separate the back fin with the rest of the claws by placing a large tablespoon at the bottom of the crab. Remove and discard the "lungs" (also known as Devil's fingers; they have a spongy texture and are inedible).

Gently remove the crab meat from the back fins (the inner chambers are filled with meat). Gently crack the claws using a meat tenderizer mallet and gather all the crab meat in a large mixing bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a wok. Add the ginger, garlic and red onions and fry until golden. Add the crab and stir until fragrant. Add 2 teaspoons red chili powder and the red chiles. Turn off the heat and let cool for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cracked pepper.

Assembly time:

Peel the avocados and chop them into cubes. 

In a blender, combine the spinach, avocados and ½ cup of barley porridge. Mix until the machine flows smoothly. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Spoon the soup into cups. 

Top with a "quenelle" of spicy crab: using 2 teaspoons, gather one portion of the crab mixture in one spoon. Scrape the loose mixture from the sides using the other spoon. Repeat between the 2 spoons until the mound is tightly packed. Slide the mound onto the green soup and decorate with pieces of shrimp chips.

Serve at room temperature with more shrimp chips and crab on the side.

Bon appétit!


The combination a starch (such as barley) and a legume (mung beans) is essential to maintaining a well-balanced vegetarian diet. This isn't too surprising; almost every culture has a combination like this, be it rice and beans, rice and tofu or bread and chickpeas. 

Bánh phồng tôm (usually found in 1-pound packages, ready to be deep-fried) can be found in any Asian specialty market. The shrimp chips are made of wheat flour, shrimp, salt and pepper. They're very easy to prepare; deep-fry them on medium-high heat and they will unfold and puff into a large chip. The ones I asbolutely love are square-shaped with cracked black peppercorns.

Pearl barley is a grain that has been processed and had its tough, inedible outer shell removed.

Toor dal (also known as "split pigeon peas") can be found in any Asian or Indian stores.

toor dal picture

For the crab cooking time, count approximately 8 minutes per pound.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on September 11, 2012.


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