Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Tom Kha Gai: Good for What Ails You!
In these days of burgeoning swine-flu mania, I confess to being one of those recalcitrant skeptics. I'm not opposed to vaccinations or anything, but I do object to the media's ongoing campaign to manipulate the public, and am not about to drink that particular variety of Kool-Aid. One recent, blustery afternoon, I was running around, cruelly squeezed between various obligations, and felt as if I "might be coming down with something" - a feeling which often manifests as a craving for soup. That being the case, rather than run to the barber surgeon demanding to be bled like the guy in the picture, I headed to the Buddha Hut, one of the growing number of vegan restaurants in our fair city. I settled into a table by the window, fished out my book, gratefully accepted the proffered pot of tea and ordered a bowl of "Thai spicy coconut soup." For $3.95 I received a portion I could barely finish, and was quickly restored to a sense of health, well-being, and the ability to get on with my day.
Anyway, as I was slurping it up, I decided to ignore Mr. Wizard's warning to kids like us and try this at home. Which I did, with (I must say) rather spectacular results. I make no claims to any type of authenticity, but was just bashing around in the kitchen trying to recreate the flavors, textures, etc., associated with those rich, complex soups that make you go "mmm" in ways you don't fully understand beyond wanting another spoonful. I used soy curls to replace the Buddha Hut's faux "chicken," but if you don't have soy curls, just marinate some pressed, cubed tofu instead. I also omitted the traditional baby corn because it's one of the only foods my partner actively hates (along with parsnips, which he insists have "an aura of evil"), and the finished product was received with great enthusiasm. I'll definitely make this soup again, especially with flu season coming on; thus far there's not so much as a curly tail or snout in sight, and I plan to keep it that way!
TOM KHA GAI
~ 1 cup lite coconut milk
~ 1 cup "no chicken" broth
~ 1 tbsp. each: minced garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce
~ 1 tbsp. each: dried basil, Thai green curry paste
~ 1-2 tbsp. hot sauce, or to taste (I used Sriracha)
~ 1 tsp. dried lemongrass
~ 1 cup Butler soy curls (or 1/2 lb. pressed, cubed extra-firm tofu)
~ In a large beaker or bowl, mix all marinade ingredients thoroughly.
~ Add the soy curls or tofu, cover, and allow to marinate for 1-2 hours (the longer the better).
~ Drain, reserve marinade, and set aside.
~ 1 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 cup thinly sliced onion
~ 1 tbsp. garlic
~ 1 red bell pepper, sliced into matchsticks
~ 2 cups mushrooms, very thinly sliced
~ Marinated soy curls
~ 2 cups "no chicken" broth
~ 3 cups lite coconut milk
~ 1 cup scallions, thinly sliced (seeing a pattern here?)
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh basil leaves
~In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, combine the coconut and sesame oils and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.
~Add the peppers and mushrooms; cook another 5 minutes.
~Add the soy curls, broth and coconut milk. Cover, raise the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
~Taste for seasoning (you might want more salt, a shot of hot sauce, etc.), then add the scallions and chopped basil. Cover and cook another 5 minutes.
~Serve hot and feel any incipient snout, tail, etc. symptoms settle themselves down with contented grunts.