Make It Hot, Baby
Late in 2010 I decided to take a working vacation and check out the Asian Cuisine course at the CIA. Nope, the guys at the Central Intelligence Agency have not lost their intelligence and taken up cooking. The CIA I am referring to is the excellent Culinary Institute of America culinary arts school in the northern wine country in California. It was definitely a working vacation as we started cooking around 1:00 pm and served at about 8:30 when the day-students arrived for a huge dinner. Each day offered a different cuisine such as Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Indian, Chinese or Japanese.
Learning about the different flavor profiles in different cuisines is always exciting for me. During the course, I had the opportunity to make two different styles of Hot and Sour Soup, one Chinese and the other Thai. Both are delicious and uniquely different. The Chinese gets its heat from toasted fresh ground black pepper while the Thai gets is heat from Thai Bird’s Eye chilies. The Thai sour component comes from fresh lime juice while the Chinese sour comes from rice wine vinegar.
Both styles are bold in flavor, and because the base for both soups is from homemade chicken stock, they are lean and healthy soups. While I am still trying to decide which tastes best, I offer up my adaptation of this gluten-free Thai version, with some introductory comments.
· Ingredients such as lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and straw mushrooms can be purchased at a local Asian market if your grocer does not carry them.
· Don’t judge the fish sauce by its smell. Once cooked in a dish, it is very tasty and brings richness to the dish. There are different grades and levels of quality. If you don’t like one, try another.
· Use stock instead of broth if possible; it will be richer in body and flavor
· Thai Bird’s Eye chilies are very hot, consider wearing gloves when slicing.
· Drain the tofu by placing it on a towel and placing a weighty plate on it for about 20 minutes.
Thai Hot-and-Sour Soup
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 to 1½ pounds shrimp, U25
3 lemongrass stalks
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2½ tablespoons red curry paste
4 teaspoons galangal, finely minced
6 kaffir lime leaves
2 quarts chicken stock
7 Thai bird chilies, VERY thinly sliced (add more if you like it hotter)
1 pound firm tofu, drained, pressed, ½” dice
4 plum Roma tomatoes cut into eighths
1 16 oz. can straw mushrooms, cut in half
1/3 cups fish sauce
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 cup lime juice
½ cup cilantro, coarsely cut for garnish.
1. Place the serving bowls in an oven to warm.
2. Peel and devein the shrimp. Rinse and reserve the shells
3. Slice the shrimp sashimi style (very thin). Set aside (refrigerated).
4. Using the back of a heavy chef’s knife, bruise the lemongrass to help release the essential oils. Trim the lemongrass at its root end. Trim the top ½ inch, then slice in half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch lengths. Set aside.
5. Heat the oil in a saucepot over medium heat. Toast the curry paste until it is aromatic but not browned, about 1 minute.
6. Add the reserved shrimp shells and lemongrass, along with the galangal, kaffir lime leaves and chicken stock.
7. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes to infuse the flavors. Strain soup into a new pot.
8. Add chilies, mushrooms, fish sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
9. Add the tomatoes, tofu, and then stir in the lime juice.
10. Taste and adjust seasoning with fish sauce and additional lime juice, if needed.
1. Place some shrimp in the bottom of a serving bowl and ladle the hot soup over the shrimp to cook it.
2. Stir for a couple seconds to cook the shrimp.
3. Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.
We have some slots left in our Adult Culinary Boot Camp. Classes meet once a month on a Saturday for five months. Detailed class notes, groceries and recipes are provided. For more details, check us out on the web at www.thymeforachef.com. Come join us for a memorable learning experience you will use for the rest of your life. Contact us to enroll for a very fun and very filling experience.
Chef David Hall
Thyme for a Chef, LLC