Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Monday, January 28, 2008

Soup For Your Soul(mate)

Tom Yum Goong is spelled many ways, too many to keep track of (Dtom yum Gkoong is Kasma Loha-unchit's variation on the spelling - I assume it is the most phonetically correct). But that doesn't matter because it is one my favorite soups on the planet.

To me soup is a nearly perfect food; nourishing, warming, comforting, and great for almost any occasion. The origin of the word restaurant is found in restaurer, to restore, originally a hearty, flavorful soup to restore ones vigor.

My favorite soups are usually those which are identified with a certain place on the map, and which in a way identify a culture – at least in my mind. They are simple peasant blends that are wonderful, though many can be gussied up like a tart for the big city folks. Minestrone for Italy; Barley Broth symbolizes Scotland; Avgolémono evokes Greece; Onion Soup Gratinée – France, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Oh, and don’t forget the special soup of my own ranks of chosen people: Good Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls! I haven’t yet tried Czernina, the Polish Duck Blood Soup, but I’d bet a well made one would do the same.

Tom Yum Goong is the perfect evocation of Thailand. I don’t think I can be accused of hyperbole to describe this national soup of Thailand as the perfect balance of hot, sour salty and sweet, just hot and intense enough to make one giggle with a pleasure.

That’s why I am married.

During the beginning of our official courtship (the unofficial part lasted 14 years) we ate a meal at a great local spot called Saigon Bangkok. We were there for the lunch specials, which include Tom Yum Gai - the variation with chicken instead of shrimp. The soup made us giggle so bad we could hardly talk. We were married not long after.

So, I make it a point to make Tom Yum Goong at least once a year. It warms our hearts and our souls. While I have made a pseudo Tom Yum with other, more readily available ingredients, the best results come from getting as close as you can to traditional. Being a whack job, what you see in the first photo is a pot of lemongrass that stays inside in winter and outside in summer. It started from a stalk I bought at Wegmans. I stuck the leftover one in water and it rooted. You can get Kaffir Lime Leaves fresh there at times, but I used dried, and bumped it up with some fresh lime zest.

I tend to start off treating this unusually, as more of a tisane than a soup - steeping the lemongrass and lime leaves to extract the flavors, then removing them ( yes, I know, educated eaters know not to eat them, but it's just easier).

So, then I float in the rest of the flavors, and at the last minute I add just enough shrimp for dinner a (reheated shrimp taste like erasers - I prefer to add more shrimp when reheating).

The result - delightful!!!

1 comment:

redman said...

I'm so with you on this one- I love this soup! got to be up there with one of the best soups on the planet

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -