Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tom Yum - Thai Hot and Sour Soup


I'm making soups again now with the chilly Fall weather.  This is one of our favorite recipes that I learned from Kasma who teaches Thai cooking classes in her home.  It's flavorful and very satisfying, the heat from the chilies warms you through to your toes.


  •  1/2 lb. prawns, or medium- to large-size shrimps, shells removed and butterflied (save shells for soup stock)
  • 2-3 stalks fresh lemon grass
  • 3 cups water, or mild soup stock, salted with fish sauce (nahm bplah) to the desired saltiness
  • 6 thin slices fresh galanga (kah), or 2 dried pieces
  • 3 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves (bai ma-gkrood)
  • 8-10 whole Thai chillies (prik kee noo), stem removed and bruised with the back of a cleaver; or substitute with 2-3 sliced jalapeno or serrano peppers
  • 1/2 a small onion, halved again and sliced crosswise 1/4-inch thick
  • 1-2 Tbs. roasted chilli paste (nahm prik pow);
  • tomyum_chilipaste
  • 3-4 Tbs. tamarind water: a chunk of wet tamarind, about the size of 1 Tbs., with the soft parts dissolved in 1/4 cup water, pulp removed
  • 1 cup fresh brown mushrooms, sliced in 1/4-inch pieces, or 1 can whole straw mushrooms, drained
  • 1 small tomato, cut in bite-size wedges (optional)
  • 2 green onions, cut in thin rounds
  • Juice of 1-2 limes, to desired sourness
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves or short cilantro sprigs


Cut the bottom tip off the lemon grass stalks and discard the loose outer layer(s). Then cut each stalk into 1-inch sections at a slanted diagonal all the way up to the greener end, near the start of the grass blades, exposing the inner core. Smash each piece with the side of a cleaver or the end of a large knife handle to bruise, releasing the aromatic oils.

Place the cut lemon grass along with the prawn or shrimp shells and the water or stock in a soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer with a lid on for 15-20 minutes to draw out the flavors. Strain out the shrimp shells and some of the lemon grass.


Add the sliced galanga, kaffir lime leaves, bruised Thai chillies (or substitute) and sliced onion. Simmer a couple of minutes, then add the roasted chilli paste (nahm prik pow), tamarind water and fresh brown or straw mushrooms. This is the roasted chili paste below.


Heat stock to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Stir in the tomato wedges (if using), green onions and prawns or shrimps. After 20-30 seconds, turn off heat, add lime juice to the desired sourness and the cilantro. Do not let the prawns or shrimps overcook. Serve immediately.


Kasma's Notes and Pointers for Hot & Sour Soup:

Dtom yum is a light soup with practically no oil, and it contains the four main flavors – hot, sour, sweet and salty – accentuated with fresh aromatic herbs. (See Creating Harmonies with Primary Flavors.) It is the most popular soup in Thailand and can be found in the tiniest mom-and-pop village rice shop to the fanciest restaurant in Bangkok. No menu is without it, even in Thai restaurants overseas, and if there is no menu, as is the case in Thailand's rural areas, just speaking the magic words"dtom yum" is enough to procure a steaming bowl of the fragrant and stimulating soup.
Dtom yum can be made with just about any type of seafood or meat, or vegetables for vegetarians. You can have a dtom yum gkai (gkai = chicken), dtom yum bplah (fish), dtom yum talay (mixed seafood), dtom yum hed (mushrooms), and so on.There are numerous ways of blending flavors, as you will notice from eatingDtom yum in various restaurants here or in Thailand. Flavors vary from place to place, from chef to chef and from pot to pot. But basically,dtom yum is hot and sour – hot from some kind of chilli pepper and sour primarily from lime juice – and has lemon grass as the leading herb flavor.

Most dtom yum in Thailand is made, of course, with Thai people's favorite chillies, prik kee noo, known now in the western world as "Thai chillies." In this recipe, the chillies are kept whole, so you and your guests can spot them easily and not bite into one unless you choose to. Simmering the chillies in the broth will flavor the soup with its special spicy flavor. If you can find red ones, they make the soup prettier and are even easier to spot, but if you want to insure a zero chance of a fiery accident, you may wish to simmer the chillies in the soup stock a few minutes and then strain them out entirely. Remember, the longer you cook chillies, the more their heat will cook out into the surrounding broth.

Alternatively, for a stronger roasted flavor, you may wish to use dried red chilli peppers. Roast them on a dry pan directly over a burner until the pods are dark red, turning frequently so they do not burn. Cut each roasted pepper into two or three segments and add to the soup. Keep in mind, however, that the nahm prik pow in the recipe already provides some roasted flavor.

© 1995 Kasma Loha-unchit.       

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Greek inspired feast: kebab burger platter with a some very fine accompaniments

I've been remiss. To make up, I have prepared a mediterranean feast that is perfect for warm weather! Mr. K is a big fan of the delectable chickpea dip hummus and tabbouleh, in fact he is always pestering me to whip up a batch. Whip up a batch? Finally I got motivated and found a recipe for kebab burgers stuffed with a savory mixture of feta and spinach, which are delicious tucked into pita bread, slathered with with hummus and some tzatziki sauce along with a good scoop of tabbouleh! Yes, well sometimes us foodhoes just have to jump in take charge of things.

For the burgers:

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or 1 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 pounds lean ground turkey breast
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 whole-wheat burger buns
1/4 English cucumber, thinly sliced
4 small leaves romaine lettuce, hard ribs removed


In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, garlic, dill, and salt and pepper.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the feta cheese, dill and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and stir to combine.

Divide the turkey into 4 equal sized rounds. Make 2 equal sized patties out of each round so you have 8 patties total. Put 2 tablespoons of the spinach-feta mixture onto half of the patties. Top with remaining patties working the turkey around the edges to seal burgers closed. Season the burgers on both sides with the salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Spray a nonstick grill pan with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat, or prepare the grill. Grill the patties until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.

To serve, place a burger on the bottom half of each bun, top with about 2 tablespoons of yogurt Tzatziki sauce, then 2 or 3 cucumber slices and a lettuce leaf. Top with the other half of the bun and serve.

Tzatziki sauce

This is excellent as a dip or included as an essential component of a mediterranean feast.


16 ounces plain Greek style yogurt  (I use lowfat, don't like the texture of nonfat)

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

Pinch kosher salt

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

If you don't have Greek style yogurt, place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups


Another essential dish from a mediterranean feast


1 cup bulghur wheat
1.5 cups boiling water
.25 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
.25 cup good olive oil
3.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper; mix well. Season, to taste, and serve or cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours.


This is very good as part of a mediterranean feast.

4 garlic cloves
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons water or liquid from the chickpeas, more if you need it
8 dashes hot sauce
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp. Smoked paprika


Turn on the food processor fitted with the steel blade and drop the garlic down the feed tube; process until it's minced. Add the rest of the ingredients to the food processor and process until the hummus is coarsely pureed. Taste, for seasoning, and serve chilled or at room temperature.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Vietnamese Inspired Chicken Noodle Soup

I love Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. It's so fragrant and flavorful, especially good for this time of the year when it's chilly out and you're feeling run down. This is a quick recipe, something you can make at home that doesn't require boiling an entire chicken for the day...

2 quart cartons of Organic Chicken Broth
4 chicken thighs
1 boneless skiness chicken breast (if desired to add to finished bowl, I used meat from the thighs)
1 white onion quartered and peeled
2 3-inch chunks of peeled ginger, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tbl whole coriander seeds
1 tbl fennel seeds
1 whole clove
3 whole star anise
1 tbl sugar
2 tbl fish sauce or to taste
Cilantro stems

Cheesecloth or you can use a big tea strainer ball for the bouquet garni.

To Serve

1 lb dried rice noodles (I used fresh egg noodles from the chinese market, Mr. K's preferred noodles)
Bean sprouts (it's a nice touch to blanch the bean sprouts in the water you use to cook the noodles in so that they are lightly cooked and warmed)
Cilantro tops
Thinly sliced red onions or shallots, panfried slowly until they caramelize
Lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sliced jalapeno
Sriracha hot sauce
Hoisin sauce


Preheat oven to 450

Place the cut onion, ginger and chicken in a 19 x 13 baking pan. Bake in oven 30 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally, to get an even carmelization. Set aside to cool.Put chicken broth in a large stockpot and set over a low flame. Prepare a Bouquet Garni by placing the coriander, cloves, star anise and cilantro stems in a cheesecloth sachet, tie with twine and place in the broth (I used a metal tea strainer) Add roasted chicken thighs (if using meat from the thighs, remove meat at this point to put into the soup for later, or reserve breast meat if using for later) onion and ginger to the pot and cover partially. Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Simmer for 20-30 minutes and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and/or sugar.

Prepare noodles as per directions on package. Usually this requires cooking for 8-12 minutes in boiling water. Place cooked noodles in a bowl and ladle with broth, shredded chicken meat. Serve with the following at the table: bean sprouts, fresh herbs (cilantro tops, basil or mint leaves), caramelized red onions or shallots, lime, sliced jalapeno, Sriracha hot sauce and Hoisin sauce. I say that the caramelized onions are mandatory, because it's just not the same without them.