This soup is a great beginning to a Thai meal. It's also the perfect foil for a bowl of jasmine or basmati rice as a light but very satisfying dinner. It's very hot, so if you want something a little tamer, use half the number of chili peppers called for here and then adjust the hotness upward to suit by adding cayenne pepper a little at a time.
You can make this soup 20 minutes in advance, or up to 3 days ahead if you keep it refrigerated.
Asian ingredients are available at specialty markets and, increasingly, at most supermarkets.
- 6 cups chicken or pork broth
- 3 small red Thai chilies (or 4 jalapeño chilies), seeded and chopped, or fewer to taste
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 shallots, chopped
- 1/4-inch slice galangal or ginger root
- 4 kaffir lime leaves, cut into very thin shreds
- 6-inch length of lemon grass, finely sliced
- 3 tablespoons tamarind paste , dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water, strained (or substitute juice of 2 limes)
- 1/4 cup Thai fish sauce, or more to taste
- 10 grind white pepper
- Cayenne pepper, if needed
- 1 scallion, finely chopped, both green and white parts
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup coconut milk (optional)
In a 4-quart pot, simmer the broth with the chili peppers, garlic, shallots, galangal, lime leaves and lemon grass for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer for 2 minutes more.
Suggestion and variations: Although this broth is great to drink alone, it also makes a perfect backdrop for fish, shellfish and meats. Just toss in cubes or strips of fish, chicken or pork, or pieces of whole shellfish such as shrimp or scallops, 5 to 10 minutes before serving. I sometimes cook basmati or jasmine rice directly in the soup to make it substantial enough for a light meal.
From "Splendid Soups," by James Peterson (Bantam Books, 1993).
Tested by The Washington Post.
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