Wheatless Wednesday – Vegetarian Tom Kha Soup

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Time for soup… It’s raining!  Our parched flowers and trees are enjoying a much-needed drink of water but for those of us indoors, the weather is gray and gloomy.  Throw in with last night’s storm which was quite a doozy, complete with lightning and thunder, also known as nature’s fireworks, and just like that, winter is here.  I think the only remedy for this wet weather is a hot and spicy bowl of soup to warm us up from the inside out.  Over the last couple of weeks I have travelled from warm and sunny California to unseasonably cold and rainy Virginia, on to warm and balmy Exuma and Florida, then crisp and snowy Maine before coming back to a wet and gray California. Perhaps my laptop dislikes airports and so many changes of venue because it died.  I first lost my mouse but not the touch screen (thankfully) but then, in complete protest, my laptop went on strike, refusing to go on.  So my last three posts (including this one) have been on borrowed computers, which means I’m back to the dark ages of figuring out how to upload photos and use my widgets so be forgiving.  I’m staying put for a while and hopefully, after a visit with a computer technician, my  laptop will forgive me so we can get back to work.

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Last night, at the beginning of the storm, I decided to make a vegetarian Tom Kha soup, which is one of my son, Eric’s specialties.  Tom Kha Gai, the most traditional of Thai soups, is made of chicken (Gai) cooked (Tom) in coconut milk which has been infused with galangal (Kha), lemongrass, and often, kaffir lime leaves. There are other versions of tom kha but these seem to be the most common; made with seafood (tom kha thale), mushrooms (tom kha het), pork (tom kha mu) and tofu (tom kha taohu).  Now you’ll think of me next time you’re looking at a Thai menu.  I wanted to make a vegetarian version, so I substituted mushrooms for the chicken which technically makes this soup Tom Kha Het, however, if you want a boost of protein, you can also add cubes of extra firm tofu and then you will be eating Tom Kha Taohu.  This particular recipe, as are most of Eric’s recipes, is not written down anywhere and resides as memories of past soups in his head (like mother like son).  So, knowing the basic ingredients, we went to work and came up with a delicious and fairly easy Tom Kha Het which is easy to adapt to what you have on hand.

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TIP:  I used the last of the cayenne peppers which I collected from my drenched and bedraggled garden.  They were pretty waterlogged and not as spicy as I would have liked, so I added two dried bird’s eye peppers (which can be found in supermarkets in the Asian food aisle) which I crushed with my wooden spoon before adding to give it the proper kick. The galangal root, lemon grass and hot peppers are added to infuse the broth with flavor so make sure you let it simmer long enough for the flavors to develop.  In slicing the galangal root and lemon grass, slice them in large pieces to make it easier for the diner to pick out, as they are very woody and not really eaten. You can also strain them out before serving but I think they add character. Only the truly fearless eat the hot peppers (unless you slice them into thin circles).  If you want them  hotter, slice each one down the middle but still leave intact. If you can’t find galangal substitute fresh ginger root.  There is no good substitute for lemongrass but sometimes it’s available as a paste or spice. For a vegan version, omit the fish sauce. I added baby corn to add fullness to the soup but it can be omitted or substituted with any vegetable that sounds good to you. Serve with cilantro, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and Sriracha for additional kick.

VEGETARIAN TOM KHA

2 16 oz cans coconut milk
3-4 cups vegetable broth (depending on desired thickness)
1 stalk lemongrass Use only the bottom white part (about 6 inches of the stalk part) and discard the woody grass part. With a flat edge, pound and mash the lemongrass so it releases the flavor. Cut into 2 inch segments.
4-5 slices of fresh galangal or gingerroot (about a 1 inch piece)
1 yellow onion
1 red serrano or jalapeno pepper (thinly sliced) or5-6 tiny whole cayenne or other small red pepper (or dried bird’s eye peppers)
1-2 cups mushrooms (button, baby bella or cremini)
1 cup whole baby corn(optional)
1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)
1-2 fresh limes (1 – 2 Tbsn to taste)
1 Tbsn sugar
1/2 tsp salt (more or less depending on the saltiness of the broth)
Cilantro and Sriracha (optional)

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  • Chop the onion into large pieces and slice the galangal into thin rounds.  Lightly pound the stalk of lemongrass and slice into 1 or  2 inch pieces, slicing on the diagonal to release the most flavor.

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  • In a large soup pot, saute the onion in 1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil until softened. Add the galangal, lemon grass and hot peppers and saute a few more minutes.

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  • Pour in vegetable broth and coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, salt and fish sauce, if using and let simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to absorb into the broth.
  • Adjust seasonings, if necessary. If it’s not spicy enough, slice open the peppers and/or add a couple of crushed dried birds eye chilis.  If it’s too spicy, remove some of the peppers from the soup. You can either strain all the solids out of the soup or leave them in for added interest.  Add corn and mushroom and cook another 10 minutes.

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  • Serve with a squeeze of lime juice, chopped cilantro and sriracha sauce, if desired.

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Vegetarian Tom Kha

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2 16 oz cans coconut milk
3-4 cups vegetable broth (depending on desired thickness)
1 stalk lemongrass Use only the bottom white part (about 6 inches of the stalk part) and discard the woody grass part. With a flat edge, pound and mash the lemongrass so it releases the flavor. Cut into 2 inch segments.
4-5 slices of fresh galangal or gingerroot (about a 1 inch piece)
1 yellow onion
1 red serrano or jalapeno pepper (thinly sliced) or5-6 tiny whole cayenne or other small red pepper (or dried bird’s eye peppers)
1-2 cups mushrooms (button, baby bella or cremini)
1 cup whole baby corn(optional)
1 Tbsp fish sauce (optional)
1-2 fresh limes (1 – 2 Tbsn to taste)
1 Tbsn sugar
1/2 tsp salt (more or less depending on the saltiness of the broth)
Cilantro and Sriracha (optional)

  • Chop the onion into large pieces and slice the galangal into thin rounds.  Lightly pound the stalk of lemongrass and slice into 1 or  2 inch pieces, slicing on the diagonal to release the most flavor.
  • In a large soup pot, saute the onion in 1 Tablespoon olive or vegetable oil until softened.
  • Add the galangal, lemon grass and hot peppers and saute a few more minutes.
  • Pour in vegetable broth and coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, salt and fish sauce, if using and let simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to absorb into the broth.
  • Adjust seasonings, if necessary. If it’s not spicy enough, slice open the peppers and/or add a couple of crushed dried birds eye chilis.  If it’s too spicy, remove some of the peppers from the soup. You can either strain all the solids out of the soup or leave them in for added interest.  Add corn and mushroom and cook another 10 minutes.
  • Serve with a squeeze of lime juice, chopped cilantro and sriracha sauce, if desired.

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4 thoughts on “Wheatless Wednesday – Vegetarian Tom Kha Soup

  1. I can’t even buy tofu in Zillah. You know you have stuff most of us don’t have access. Seattle sure, Yakima if you are lucky

    Regards, Paul

    Barbara Sherman – Paul Vandenberg Paradisos del Sol Winery – The Farmery paradisosdelsol.com – 509.829.9000 Come Taste Paradise!

    Like

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