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Friday, August 06, 2010

Thai Zucchini, Bell Pepper Soup

Thai Zucchini, Bell Pepper Soup tom kha gai vegetarian healthy

When I think of "Thai Soup", I usually think of the distinctive combination of spicy, salty, tangy, sweet flavors that come from certain ingredients extensively used in Thai cuisine, like galangal & lemongrass, sambal or nam prik pow for spiciness, tamarind for sourness, and a bit of brown sugar for sweetness. Many Thai soups use coconut milk to get the rich creamy texture. Depending on my "diet", I leave out the coconut milk.

This soup is much like my vegetarian Tom Yum Goong in that it is not quite traditional as I substitute some ingredients I have handy, rather than hunt for specific ingredients which provide the authentic taste. While I try to stock up on dried galangal, Kaffir Lime Leaves seem harder to come by - sure, it is available, but the frequency of use doesn't justify the expense in my budget, so, I tend to leave it out.

Tom Kha Gai, a wonderful Thai Chicken Soup, is a favorite at home. This soup recipe can be adjusted to make Tom Kha Gai as well - simply add chicken pieces, and coconut milk if preferred.

Ingredients
½ large home-garden zucchini, diced
carrots, cauliflower, celery, onions, bell peppers - diced (use as much as needed for the quantity of soup)
6 to 8 cups water or vegetable stock
1 Tbsp sesame or peanut oil

soup base:
1 (or 2) 1-inch piece of dry galangal, reconstituted in water
1 Tbsp lime peel, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 medium lemongrass stalk, crushed/pounded a bit -OR- 1 tbsp lemongrass powder
2 Tbsp sambal oelek, if handy, else chopped Thai bird chilies or serrano or other chilies of your choice
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1 tsp tamarind paste
½ tsp turmeric powder (optional)

Preparation
  1. Combine the soup base ingredients and coarsely grind in a blender or crush it well in a mortal and pestle, keep handy
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, add the soup base ingredients and onions, sauté till aromatic, add the veggies, stock/water, cover and allow to simmer till veggies are cooked through but not mushy
  3. Taste and adjust flavors; if using coconut milk, stir it in at the end and simmer on medium-low gently for a few minutes
  4. Garnish with spring onions and cilantro

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