Vegetarian Tom Kha Soup

img_0030This recipe has gone through a lot of edits and trials before finally converging on a flavorful and well balanced result. It’s always a challenge to adapt recipes that depend heavily on meat because the vegetarian versions end up tasting flat and sad. But I think this recipe for Tom Kha soup is up to par with its meaty counterpart. The base is the most important part, and you can mix and match the veggies as you please.

You can remove the chunky and tough spices from the soup before serving, or leave it in (and caution your guests to eat around it). But don’t slice lemon grass or ginger or kaffir lime leaves too thinly because these are really tough to eat, and the thinner you cut them, the harder it is to pick it out of the soup.

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

Soup Base

  • 1 large bay leaf or 2 small ones
  • 1 tsp capers (replaces fish sauce)
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1-2 inch piece of ginger, sliced into chunks that you can fish out later
  • 10-12 kaffir lime leaves (fresh is best, but dried will do; in either case, leave them whole so you can remove them later)
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, pounded and sliced into halves (or thirds, if they are really long)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 liter of vegetable broth
  • 3-4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind (adds depth to the stock)

To add after the base has cooked for some time:

  • chili oil to taste
  • 1 can of coconut milk (400 ml)
  • juice of 1/4 of a lemon
  • soy sauce to taste

Optional Add-ons

  • 8 dried tofu skin knots
  • 1 cup fresh oyster mushrooms
  • 3 vine tomatoes
  • 1 cup of spinach, sliced into ribbons
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced

Directions

  1. Combine the soup base ingredients into a large stock pot. Simmer for 30-40 minutes. If you are using the dried tofu skin knots, add them after 20 minutes of simmering.
  2. Fish out the inedible chunks from the soup base (everything but the capers and mushrooms). Or you can leave them in, and caution your guests to fish them out later.
  3. Add whatever vegetables you like, some suggestions are listed above.
  4. Simmer the soup for about 10 more minutes.
  5. Add coconut milk.
  6. Add chili oil, lemon juice, and soy sauce to taste.
  7. Serve with some bread or rice to the side.
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Vegetarian Panang Curry

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The best part of this curry is the kaffir lime leaves. They are quite tough, so either remove them from the curry before serving, or push them aside while eating. Treat them like bay leaves. In my opinion, these leaves make the dish. Completely necessary. Thai food will simply not turn out right unless you have them. I’m serious. I tried…

I used this recipe to start, and then adjusted the ingredients to make it vegetarian. This will make about 4 servings.

Ingredients

Panang Curry Paste

  • 1/4 of a jalapeno pepper (the more authentic way is to use dried red chilis, but I didn’t have those on hand)
  • 1 tsp galangal (use ginger to substitute if you don’t have this)
  • 1 tsp lemongrass (use a few leaves of lemon balm if you don’t have this)
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove of garlic (use 2 if you like garlic)
  • 1/2 of a red onion
  • 1/3 cup of peanut butter
  • 12 kaffir lime leaves, sliced

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  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Panang Curry

  • 2 cans of coconut milk (16 oz cans)
  • 1 block of sauteed tofu or tempeh
  • 2 cups of cooked brown rice

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  • half of the curry paste from above (or more, up to you!)

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  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetarian fish sauce (there is such a thing!)

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  • 1-2 cups of long Asian green beans, sliced into 1 inch pieces

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  • 6 kaffir lime leaves (whole)
  • fresh basil leaves for garnish

Directions

  1. Mix the coconut milk, curry paste, sugar, and “fish” sauce in a pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 min.
  2. Add tofu, beans, and kaffir lime leaves. Simmer for 10 min.
  3. Adjust salt and pepper.
  4. Serve with basil as a garnish on top.

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