Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ Thai Coconut Soup with Mushrooms

soup

This creamy coconut milk soup, fragrant with lime, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro and galangal, pungent fish sauce and a bit of chili heat, is one of my favorite Thai foods.
I am fortunate to live within shopping distance of Monterey Market and several Asian markets that carry the authentic ingredients. If you can’t find galangal you can substitute its relative, ginger.

Serves 3 large bowlfuls

ingredients

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken broth (I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup)
2 inches galangal, sliced thin
2 stalks of lemongrass
6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 Thai bird chili (bright red), finely julienned, seeds removed (unless you want more heat)
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)

2 cups white mushrooms, sliced

1 scallion, sliced

1 tomato

2 Tb fish sauce (I use Red Boat)
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup cilantro leaves

14-oz can of coconut milk
½ raw chicken breast, thinly sliced, OR sliced leftover roasted chicken breast

OR 1/2 pound raw shrimp (fresh or frozen and defrosted under running water), chopped into bite-sized pieces

Bring broth to a boil. Dip tomato in the boiling broth for a minute, and then cool.

While broth is heating, trim ends from galangal and slice thinly.

lemongrass         smashing lemongrasss

Remove a couple of inches from the root end of the lemongrass and the dry outer leaves. Slice the main stalk diagonally into 3 inch pieces, then smash the lemongrass with the blunt side of the knife. Smash the galangal slices with a mortar and pestle, molcajete, or other heavy object to release their fragrance. Add these to the boiling stock along with torn kaffir lime leaves,  julienned chili, and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. You can make this part ahead of time and refrigerate.

Strain the broth into a bowl or another pot and discard the lemongrass, galangal. kaffir lime leaves and chili pods. Heat the strained broth again.

Peel the skin off the cooled tomato, then slice tomato thickly and stir into the broth along with the mushrooms and white parts of the scallions. Next, add the raw chicken (if using) or shrimp and boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in coconut milk and heat for 5 minutes. When meat is thoroughly cooked, stir in lime juice and fish sauce. If using cooked chicken, add it at this time.  Pour soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro and sliced green parts of scallion.

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Summer Rolls Gỏi Cuốn

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Now that summer is officially here and we finally had a nice hot summer’s day, it’s time to make Summer Rolls. They are sometimes called Spring Rolls, although the Spring Rolls are often fried. Summer rolls are made with fresh, raw vegetables, with or without boiled shrimp. Gỏi Cuốn translates literally as salad rolls, which is pretty much what they are: a shrimp salad in a roll. I’ve always loved these for their burst of flavor from the fresh herbs inside heightened by the sweet spiciness of Hoisin (WHO-zjen) sauce and sweet chili sauce.

Cindy with shrimp rollMany thanks to chefs Cindy Hay (pictured above), Wyn Ha and Jenny Inpraseuth; my Southeast Asian colleagues who cheerfully and patiently taught me to make these.

Ingredients:

Asian ingredients are available at most Asian markets and Berkeley Bowl

You can make these Vegetarian/ Vegan with just the salad ingredients (skip the shrimp and just use Hoisin Sauce with a bit of lime juice and peanuts).

Shrimp:

About 2 1/2 cups of medium shrimp. If you buy shrimp in their shells, they make a lovely broth.

3 cups water

1 slice of fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp salt

Hoisin dipping Sauce

Cindy told me that the sauce needs to have sweet, sour and salty flavors:

1 cup bottled Hoisin sauce (tương ăn phở)

1 Tb chopped peanuts

juice from 1/2 lime

Wrap:

1 package rice paper rounds

I shallow bowl or pie pan with warm water

Filling:

You can vary the salad ingredients, but always include mint and basil leaves and rice noodles.

Rice vermicelli noodles (rice sticks)  size medium Jiang Xi Bún Giang Tây.

1 large peeled carrot (or about 8 peeled baby carrots)

3 Persian cucumbers (no need to peel)

1/4 jicama

1 red bell pepper

½ cup cilantro leaves

½ cup mint leaves

¼ cup Thai basil (you can substitute regular basil if you can’t find the more aromatic Thai basil)

4- 6 green leaf leaves lettuce. Use the upper part of the leaves.

1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and cut in half

chunks of 1 avocado

You can make the shrimp and Hoisin dipping sauce ahead of time.

Defrost shrimp in a colander under cold running water for 7 minutes. While shrimp is defrosting, fill a medium pot with 3 cups water and add 1 tsp of salt, ginger and garlic, and bring to a boil. Bring shrimp to boil over high heat, then boil for 3 minutes. Drain shrimp into a salad spinner or over a sieve into a bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Pour the liquid back into the pot. Cool shrimp until you are able to handle them. Peel the shrimp and cut in half lengthwise. Return the shells into the reserved liquid. Boil the shrimp shells, garlic and ginger uncovered for 10 minutes until reduced. Pour over a sieve and set aside to cool.

Making the Hoisin dipping sauce:

DSC00591Combine ¼ cup reserved shrimp broth with Hoisin sauce. Top with crushed peanuts.

Prepare the noodles:

Boil 12 cups water in a a saucepan. Break off about 4 oz  rice vermicelli noodles, also called rice sticks – Jiang Xi Bún Giang Tây (about 1/4 of a 14 oz package). Be sure they are size medium, not the very thin vermicelli.

rice sticks bun giang tay

Cook the noodles for 6 -8 minutes in boiling water, stirring occasionally.

DSC00596Cool them by rinsing them in a sieve under cold water for one minute. Stir and separate the noodles with a fork or chopstick so that they don’t clump up. Let them drain over a bowl.

Salad Filling:

DSC00894Cut the vegetables very thin and small, especially hard veggies like carrots and jicama.

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I use a special Asian vegetable shaver to shave thin slices of carrots, cucumber and jicama. Halve the bean sprouts so they don’t poke through the rice paper. Tear herbs into small leaves.

Assembly:

Summer rolls are not too hard to make, but the trick is in rolling the sticky rice paper. It comes in a hard, almost plastic-like wafer.

3 ladies rice paperI couldn’t believe it was the same thing as the soft wrapper. Magically it transforms when dipped in warm water. It softens and becomes thinner and pliable. If you dip it flat, it wants to curl up.

The trick is to hold it by the edges and rotate it through the water, then give it a quick dip in the water to wet the middle.  The whole process should take about 5 seconds. If it stays too long in the water it will become too thin and tear easily, and stick to itself.

dipping rice paper

Place the rice paper on a dry plate. It will soften within seconds.

DSC00601Put a lettuce leaf and a tablespoon of noodles first to add a cushion for the vegetables.

DSC00625Then add a few vegetables, and a few mint, basil and cilantro leaves. Avoid over-stuffing the roll. I got excited by all the wonderful ingredients and wanted to add it all in as much as possible. My rolls became bulky and torn. Moderation in all things I remind myself.

rollingRoll wrapper halfway, and then fold left and right sides over the filling. Lay 3 shrimp halves, cut side down, with several cilantro and mint leaves along the edge of the cylinder.  Finish rolling up the summer roll.

shirmp on roll

Dip your summer roll in Hoisin Sauce or sweet chili sauce.

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Camarones al Mojo de Ajo – Garlic Shrimp

On our first date, my husband and I cooked Camarones al mojo de ajo. We’ve been in love ever since.

I love the Spanish word for garlic clove: diente, which also means tooth. And there is some resemblance, come to think about it.

serves 4

1 ½ lbs large raw shrimp
1 head of garlic
¼ cup dry white wine  such as Chardonnay
2 Tb olive oil
sea salt to taste

Defrost shrimp in a colander under cold running water for 7 minutes.

Smash the garlic head in a molcajete (mortar and pestle made of volcanic rock). This will loosen the peel, separate the dientes, and smash the garlic to release the flavor. Discard the garlic peel and finely mince the garlic.

Heat olive oil in a wok or large heavy frying pan.  Add garlic and the shrimp. Squeeze in a large lime and add wine. Stir until the shrimp turn completely pink. Salt to taste. I used a few grinds of smoked sea salt.

Serve with Rainbow Roasted Vegetables, tortillas and .