Despite it’s imprecise measurements (what precisely is a good knob of ginger and a small job of vegetable stock?), I hold the BBC recipe for Simple Thai Noodle Soup, near and dear to my heart. My friend Tracy gave me a genuine Thai soup recipe that she learned in Thailand — she lived there for two years — and I prefer my Anglicized version. I just don’t have Tracy’s magic touch!
I have made a few changes to the recipe over the years. You can read more about it here, but the chief difference is that I pinned down some of the measurements and I strain out the herbs and spices before the addition of the protein, vegetables, and coconut milk.
This week I tried to make a healthier version chockful of veggies and sans noodles with lots of inspiration from my friend Tracy’s recipe. We would eat her Thai fish soup spooned over fresh rice, and it’s like a lighter, milder curry. I also substituted a large shallot for the four garlic cloves, because the friend I was feeding the soup to is allergic to garlic. I also added two cups of cabbage, and that really soaks up the soup-y goodness!
Healthy Thai Soup
NOTES: I have used frozen shrimp in the past, and am now using Trader Joe’s seafood mix, which has shrimp, scallops, and squid. But you can also use fish or chicken. This recipe is also easily vegetarian or vegan, by omitting the fish sauce and meat, swapping chicken stock for vegetable stock. Tracy used to put mushrooms in her soup, and it was divine.
ADAPTED from the BBC and Tralliot’s Thai soup recipe which I previously pooh-poohed.
- 1 2-inch section of fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 red chilies, seeds removed (optional), roughly chopped
- 2 stalks lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, roughly chopped
- 1 large shallot, peeled
- 1 handful fresh coriander, a few sprigs reserved and chopped
- a glug or two vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed or given a whirl in the food processor or coffee grinder. Just be sure to really clean the coffee grinder before and after.
- 1-2 pinches ground turmeric
- 2 14 oz cans of chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 handful of basil
- 1 x 400ml/14fl oz can coconut milk
- 1/3 of a bag of Trader Joe’s seafood mix, or 1/2 a pound of frozen shrimp or a pound of fish, broken into large chunks.
- 1 bell pepper, with seeds removed, cut into bite size pieces
- 1 carrot, cut into medallions
- 1/2 a head of broccoli, cut into florets
- two cups of thinly sliced cabbage
- 1 scallion or green onion, cut into small rounds
- a few splashes Thai fish sauce, to taste
The first order of business is to create the spice paste. Please put the ginger, red chilies, lemongrass, shallot, and fresh coriander into your food processor. Grind into a fragrant, bright green paste. Pan fry in a medium saucepan that you have a lid for (it needs to be large enough to hold the soup) until fragrant. About a few minutes.
Add the crushed coriander and pinch of turmeric. I don’t think turmeric adds much in the flavor department, but it does give it that beautiful yellow color. Cook the spices for another minute or so, before added the chicken stock and the handful of torn up basil. Simmer the soup for 10 or 20 minutes, depending on how strong you want the soup to taste. The coconut milk will soften the heat, so I usually wait until it is just past the spicy comfort zone for me.
When you’re satisfied with the spice level of your soup, pour it through a strainer into another a large heat proof bowl. Discard the herbs and spices, rinse out the sauce pan, pour the soup back into the pot, and return it to heat. Now add all the veggies, with the exception of the green onion. Cook for another five minutes to cook through the seafood.
Add the coconut milk and green onions, bring it to a simmer. You do not want to boil coconut milk.
Divide it into bowls and serve. If you’re eating with friends who are chili pepper masochists, you can chop up another pepper or two and let them add it to their soup.