Thai Mushroom & Coconut Soup

Thai Mushroom and Coconut Soup

This rich and satisfying soup starts with a mixture of dried mushrooms typical of Asian cooking – shiitakes, with their deep and distinctive woodsy flavor; oyster mushrooms, with a light buttery taste that goes well with everything; lastly, woodear mushrooms, which have very little flavor at all, but which contribute a wonderfully crunchy texture.

Like all dried mushrooms, this blend requires rehydration before use. A good soak in a hot bath for 20 – 30 minutes is all that’s needed to plump them up sufficiently for cooking. Please don’t discard that soaking liquid! It’s full of dried mushroom flavor and will add an intense mushroominess (is that a word?) to soups & sauces. Think of it as “essence of mushroom” and you’ll begin to see the many possibilities for its use.

Like the classic Thai soup Tom Kha Hed on which it is based, our version is full of rich, complex flavor. While we’ve changed the ingredients slightly to make it easy for American cooks who may not have access to some ingredients, the result is faithful to the spirit of the original.  Sweet, creamy coconut milk, savory-spicy Thai red curry paste and aromatic herbs & spices give it plenty of robust flavor to start with. The freshly squeezed lime juice and fish sauce that are stirred in just before serving add balance with their bright, umami-rich notes.

Thai Mushroom and coconut soup makes a hearty & satisfying meal in itself, but it also makes an excellent starting point for improvisation.  Add leftover shredded chicken or sliced pork, cubes of tofu, peeled shrimp or steamed vegetables – or any combination thereof – to add interest & variety. It all depends on the contents of your pantry, refrigerator or garden and your own personal inspiration.

 

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Thai Mushroom & Coconut Soup

As mentioned above, we’ve substituted readily available ingredients for some of the more hard to find traditional Asian ingredients.  We have included fresh lemongrass because we have a large pot full growing in our garden.  Our friendly Asian grocer gave us a shriveled stalk of lemongrass that was about to be thrown out.  After putting it into a glass with a little water and coaxing it to sprout rootlets, we planted it.  Once established, lemongrass grows and multiplies quickly.  Now, two years later, we have fresh lemongrass whenever we need it.

If you don’t have access to fresh lemongrass, a 4 – 5 inch long strip of lemon peel makes a good substitute.

Ingredients:
Preparation:

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and add sufficient very hot water to cover them completely. Soak for 20 – 30 minutes or until soft and pliable. Drain, reserving the flavorful soaking liquid. Rinse the mushrooms under cool running water to remove any traces of grit. Drain again, squeezing gently, then pat dry. Trim the stems from the shiitake mushrooms with a pair of scissors.  Thinly slice all of the mushrooms and set aside.

Fresh lemon grass in a pot

Fresh lemongrass in a pot

Spoon off 3 – 4 tablespoons of the thick coconut cream from the top of the opened cans into a large heavy-bottomed pot. Heat the coconut cream over medium heat until it begins to bubble. Stir in the Thai red curry paste and cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add the shallots, ginger and sliced carrot to the pot. Bash the lemongrass with the back of a heavy cleaver or knife to break it up a bit and release the flavor.  Toss it into the pot with the other vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add the sliced reconstituted mushrooms, 2 cups of the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, the coconut milk and 2 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat slightly so it continues to gently simmer.

Stir in the soy sauce and sugar and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the soup begins to reduce and thicken slightly, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and take out the piece of lemongrass. Stir in the lime zest, lime juice and fish sauce and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with sliced scallions and fresh Thai basil leaves.  Serve with sriracha chile sauce on the side for those who like it extra spicy.

Thai Mushroom and Coconut Soup

Thai Mushroom and Coconut Soup

 

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Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.

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