Vegetarian Tom Yum Thai Soup
Today was a very cold and rainy day in Northern California. The Asian New Year is coming but I don't think the family is going to attend any of the festivities because of the weather. A couple of the girls are sick and I thought a warm broth would do them good.
Thai soup is a very good first course if you want to do an Asian-themed dinner. It's light and very tasty. The soup is an amazing contrast of spicy, sweet, savory and sour flavors. Enjoy!
Yields: 12 servings3 cups water
5 cups vegetable broth
1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, charred, rinsed and crushed
1 (3-inch) piece galangal
3 (2-inch) pieces rock sugar, to taste
1 teaspoon black peppercorn
2 tablespoons sea salt
4 stalks lemongrass
4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, torn in thirds
1 (12-ounce) package soft tofu
1 tablespoon canola oil, or any neutral oil
4 shiitake mushrooms, quartered
1 bunch enoki mushrooms
2 dozen straw mushrooms
2 small green Thai chiles, cut in thirds
8 tablespoons dark soy sauce, to taste
1 clove fresh garlic, crushed and finely minced
2 tablespoons spicy Tom-Yum paste
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
4 sprigs fresh Thai basil, for garnish
1 dash sesame oil, for garnish
2 limes, cut in wedges
Wash the lemongrass, cut each stalk into 2-inch pieces and bruise the pieces with a hammer.
Using a paring knife, peel the galangal and slice the root.
Strain the tofu, then cut into 1 1/2 inch cube pieces. Set aside in a plate.
In a stock pot, mix the vegetable broth, water, lemongrass, peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves, ginger and galangal. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes. Strain through in a sieve. Discard the aromatics but keep one stalk of lemongrass, a few galangal slices and a few kaffir lime leaves for presentation in your soup tureen at the end. Pour the strained broth back into the stock pot and add the rocks of sugar (sugar should dissolve), then the soy sauce. The secret is to balance the sweetness and the saltiness. Don't over salt! Bring to a boil again and boil for 5 minutes, then add the coconut milk and lime juice. Lower the heat.
In a small pan, heat 2 teaspoons of oil and add the shiitake mushrooms. Cook for about 3-4 minutes then add the enoki mushrooms. Transfer to a plate and set aside. In the same pan, add the rest of the oil, add the chopped garlic and the chili pieces. Cook until slightly golden. Add the tom yum paste and a ladleful of the broth. Pour all the contents of the saucepan into the big stock pot. The broth should be fragrant and properly seasoned.
Bring the soup back to a boil, then add all the mushrooms and cubed tofu. After adding the ingredients, the broth may cool down a bit. Let it come back to a boil for a last time; remove the pot from the stove. Add sesame oil and cilantro. It's ready! Serve immediately. Garnish with lime wedges and cilantro on the side.
To get a nice sweet, spicy ginger fragance, I place a grill on the stove and char the piece of ginger. Rinse and wash the piece under running water, then bruise/crush the ginger using a hammer.
You can add oyster or/and king mushrooms to the broth. I didn't because my husband's not so keen on these varieties.
If you can't find fresh straw mushrooms, you can use the canned version. They're sold in 8-ounce cans. Drain and rinse the mushrooms.
To make it non-vegetarian, substitute chicken broth for the vegetable broth. Lightly sauté small pieces of chicken breast in garlic, along with 1 dozen shelled and de-veined shrimp. Transfer the chicken-shrimp combination to the broth at the last minute. Cover for 5 minutes and it's ready.
The only soy sauce I like for making broth is the Da Bo De brand. It has a very nice flavor and is not too salty. Make sure the bottle says chay, which means "vegetarian" in Vietnamese if you want to make your soup "veggie".
I like making my own Tom Yum paste. The store-bought one usually contains shrimp paste or bonito flakes and is often not suitable for vegetarians. And besides, fresh ingredients taste better!
I use the Golden Gate Tofu brand, the texture is not grainy and is excellent for the broth.
I'm very lucky to get the kaffir lime leaves from our orchard. They're very useful and smell so nice. If you have the space to plant a kaffir lime tree, go for it. It's a good investment if you're into Asian cooking.
Check out my sweet and sour pineapple soup that contains kaffir lime leaves as well.Published By: on January 24, 2009.