Fresh ingredients, vibrant color, exotic flavors, and uberous creamy coconut, come together in one bowl to float across your palette like a tropical trade wind. Whenever I have this soup— and I have it often; even during summer— I’m immediately transported to Bali in the aromatics it renders. What I love most about Thai and Indonesian cuisine is the freshness that comes from a cultural philosophy of retaining life-force-energy in food. Rather than denaturing the raw ingredients by stewing them, steamy flavorful broths are poured directly over the vegetables, waiting to surrender their flavors. This style of preparation preserves the vegetables’ color, texture, and nutrients. Naturally low in complex carbs and high in plant based nutrients. Served as an entrée or starter, it sets the tone for a satisfying meal your taste buds will applaud, and your body will thank you for.
Recipe notes: What you’ll need: 4-qt saucepan for soup, 4-quart saucepan for shrimp, spiral slicer for zucchini, 4-6 soup bowls, colander, fine mesh strainer, and kitchen mallet. Active prep time: 20-minutes. Yields 4-6 servings. Difficulty level: Fairly easy. Nutrient value per serving inclusive of shrimp.
- 2-cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup Indonesian curry paste
- 15-20-ounces coconut milk
- 3-4 kaffir lime leaves ( available in the frozen section of most Asian markets. If unavailable use zest from 2-limes.)
- 1-stalk lemongrass bruised and cut into thirds
- 1/2-tsp chili lime salt fusion or 1/4-tsp sea salt Note: Salt fusion contains the same ratio of salt, but delivers a more complex flavor than regular salt does on its own.
- 1-lb large 16/20 frozen shrimp (optional) peeled and deveined
Veggie Soup Bowl
- 2-3 oz dry vermicelli Asian rice noodles
- 4-scallions thinly sliced
- 1-lrg carrot peeled into ribbons
- 1-lrg zucchini spiral sliced into noodles
- 1/2 sweet red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed, thinly sliced
- 1/3-cup fresh or frozen corn
- 1/3 cup fresh or frozen edamame or peas
- 1/2 cup sliced cooked mushrooms
- 1-head of cauliflower cut into florets, curry roasted in the oven or lightly steamed
- 1-bunch cilantro for garnish
- 1/4-cup fresh Thai or regular basil Julienne sliced
- 4-limes cut into wheels and wedges for garnish
- Prepare cooking station with cookware, utensils, stock, curry paste, seasoning, and coconut milk.
- Prepare cutting board with spiral slicer, zester/grater (if zesting limes), mallet, paring knife, and another for cutting and slicing
- Saute mushrooms and set aside.
- Bruise lemongrass with kitchen mallet. If you don’t have one, score across the stalk. Not enough to slice all the way through, just enough to bend the lemongrass to release the oils, and break into thirds.
- If using Kaffir lime leaves, tear them to release their oils, otherwise, use zest from limes. Transfer leaves/zest and lemongrass to cooking station.
- Bring stock to a boil, add curry paste and stir till dissolved.
- Add coconut milk, lime leaves/zest, and lemon grass to broth and simmer on low heat for fifteen minutes.
- Add salt fusion or sea salt and taste test for seasoning and spiciness. If you prefer it spicier, add more paste, and or adjust with more coconut milk.
- Strain soup through fine mesh strainer to remove sediment.
- Return clarified broth to saucepan and set aside.
- Fill 4-qt saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil.
- Place frozen shrimp in boiling water. Tip: To avoid overcooked, rubbery shrimp, as soon as water resumes a full roaring boil, strain shrimp and immediately rinse under cold water. Even if the shrimp is slightly under done, when it’s returned to the broth before serving, it will finish cooking.
- If shrimp wasn’t previously peeled and deveined, remove shells and tails.
- Using a paring knife, cut a slit down the back of the shrimp and rinse away vein.
- Set shrimp aside.
For soup bowls:
- Soften rice noodles in hot water and drain.
- Roast or steam cauliflower.
- Spiral slice zucchini and prepare the other vegetables.
- Julienne slice basil: Stack 3-4 basil leaves at a time and cigar roll. Using a paring knife, begin at tip and slice basil into ribbons.
- Tear tops of cilantro, slice scallions and lime wheels for garnish, and cut lime wedges to be added later for flavoring.
- Arrange noodles, vegetables, and garnishes separately and have guests build their own bowls.
- Bring soup to a gentle boil and add par-cooked shrimp right before serving.
- Ladle broth over layered vegetable/noodle bowls and garnish with sliced scallions, cilantro, lime wheels, and wedges.