Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thai-Inspired Coconut Noodle Soup

This started out intending to be curry laksa, but I was missing a number of key ingredients, and had neither the time nor the inclination to go grocery shopping. I still wanted an Asian, coconut-flavored soup, however, and by the time I'd subbed onions for shallots, basil for curry leaves, red and green curry pastes for yellow, thrown in some scallions, etc., it had become Something Completely Different, and was definitely rocking more of a Thai vibe than the original version. Fortunately, it was also delicious, so while I will get to the Indian market and make that other recipe one day soon, I figured I'd type this up to ensure that it could be A. shared with you, gentle reader, and B. replicated the next time I want some Thai-style noodle soup. We had this on the sort of miserable, cold, rainy, windy March night that results in the month's frequent comparison to a lion, but the bright, just-spicy-enough flavors of basil, lemongrass, curry and lime made it seem entirely possible that the soft, wooly lamb of springtime might be waiting, just around the corner.

Thai-Inspired Coconut Noodle Soup
~ 1 cup onions, chopped
~ 1 cup fresh basil
~ 2 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
~ 1 tsp. dried lemongrass
~ 1 tsp ground coriander
~ 1 tbsp red curry paste
~ 1 tbsp green curry paste
~ 4 tbsp vegetable oil
~ 6 scallions, thinly sliced
~ 1 tbsp curry powder
~ 1 tsp salt
~ 1 tbsp sugar
~ 4 cups vegetable stock
~ 2 14 oz cans lite coconut milk
~ 8 oz. rice vermicelli noodles
~ Bean sprouts
~ 4 cups roughly chopped baby spinach
~ Juice of 1 lime
~ 1 tsp hot sauce
~ Fresh coriander, and some roasted peanuts or cashews, chopped (optional, for garnish)

~ Put the first 8 ingredients in a food processor. Add 2 tbsp. of the oil, and process to a semi-smooth paste.
~ Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. oil in a saucepan and fry the spice paste on low-medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring all the time – it should cook slowly, without burning.
~ Add the scallions, stock, curry powder, salt, sugar and coconut milk, stir to combine, and simmer gently for 30 minutes, then taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.
~ Add the spinach, stir, and cook another few minutes, until it is just wilted, and stir in the lime juice and hot sauce.
~ Once the broth is done, cook the rice noodles according to package directions and drain.
~ Immerse the bean sprouts in a pot of boiling water, drain at once and refresh with cool water.
~ Just before serving, add a handful of the bean sprouts to the hot soup and stir.
~ To serve, put the desired amount of noodles into bowls, and ladle the soup over them. Top with another handful of sprouts, and sprinkle with the coriander and nuts, if using. YUM.