So I’ve been dealing with these horrible ear,nose, and throat issues for the past month & a half. Nothing has really helped me much in terms of getting rid of these awful clogged ears (apparently I will need to have tubes in them, oh joy) or the chronic congestion. Normally, I try to deal with these systems by getting a huge bowl of Tom Kha Gai, my very favorite Thai soup. It’s a spicy, sour, salty soup with either shrimp, chicken, or tofu (sometimes all 3, sometimes) and the version I love the most is made with coconut milk. Lacking the funds or energy to head out to the nearest Thai restaurant, or at the very least to get the coconut milk and other key ingredients to make this taste authentically Thai, such as lemongrass and fish sauce, I figured I could just make my own soup inspired by this delicious dish. I was looking for the basics to help unclog my sinuses, and with my new batch of fresh Thai chilies and some juicy key limes still hanging out in the fridge, I knew I could make this happen.Now, I should probably be posting this after my post regarding the importance of spices and other staples (coming in the next couple of blogs), but I’m just ready to share a recipe. However, I want to reiterate that creativity is essential in cooking – not just in general, but for those of us who can’t always afford to get the good stuff. There is no reason why you can’t use some of your favorite restaurant dishes as inspiration to make a dish of your very own, and absolutely no reason to stick to a recipe word for word. I am the type that uses recipes as a guideline for most dishes, adding my own spin on things by taking out ingredients here, tossing in new ones there. The only time I don’t do that is for baking, as that is definitely all about precision. Hopefully I can get to the point where I can share some baked goods recipes with you in the future. For now, remember it’s okay to let your imagination lead you down different paths.
With this in mind, I also want to note here that my “using recipes as a guideline” method will probably show up in the recipes I create. I will do my very best to be as precise as possible and not use “pinches”, “handfuls”, and “smidgens” of things, but I am warning you now that it’ll probably happen! I managed to do okay this time around though, so without further ado, here’s my recipe for Sick Person Soup.
3 T canola oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 heaping teaspoon crushed garlic (or 2 cloves)
1 small handful fresh basil (Thai basil, preferrably)
3 Thai chiles, chopped
6 cups water or vegetable stock
2 medium carrots
1 large red bell pepper
6 white button mushrooms
Juice of 6 key limes (or regular limes)
1 oz. extra firm tofu, cubed
Salt & pepper to taste
Other fresh veggies (optional)
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Couple sprigs of cilantro for garnish
In a large pot saute the oil, garlic, and onion over medium high heat until the onion is clear. (I like to combine these two at the very beginning to make the most of their flavors and sometimes add salt & pepper here at the beginning to further enhance the flavor). Next, throw in two of the 3 chiles, sauteeing for a minute or so. Add the basil and saute for another minute, following with the carrots. Pour in the water or vegetable stock with the key lime juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for approximately 3 minutes, giving the carrots a chance to cook a bit before adding the rest of the vegetables. You’ll also want to check your seasoning at this time, making sure there’s a good balance between salty, sour, and spicy. Add the bell pepper, mushrooms, pea pods, and any other veggie you feel like throwing in there and let simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Check the flavors again, adding more lime juice if needed (I like my soup nice & sour), or cayenne for added spiciness without it being overwhelming. Throw in the tofu and the remaining chile pepper and simmer for about 2 more minutes. Finally, add the cherry tomatoes (no need to keep simmering, the broth will heat them up nicely). Ladle into a big mug or bowl, garnish with cilantro and & serve w/a wedge of lime. Prepare to have your sinuses unclogged!
PS – If you’re not a tofu eater or happen to have chicken or shrimp on hand you can either substitute that for the tofu. Or put them together if you like them both. I just happened to have some extra firm tofu on hand, so I used that this time around. I’m sure I’ll be making this with some chicken very soon.
PPS – pardon the crappy picture. I have been without my digital camera for awhile, so I had to use my phone. Fortunately, my mom has gotten me an amazing new camera, which means much better photography! More on THAT later…