Just Like Tom Yum Blues

True to our word, we’re back at you with the first of some Thai dishes.  The lemongrass and tamarind we found at Alfa last week were just begging to be put to good use, and we were all to happy to oblige.  Loosely based off this recipe for Tom Yum soup, we found plenty of useful suggestions for substitutions at Thai Kitchen, but were able to get our hands on a surprising number of the ingredients.  The great success of this soup, however, was the broth – spicy, sour, fragrant – and all from scratch.  We have a love-hate relationship with Maggi bouillon cubes, as of course we want our soup broth to taste like something (hopefully something delicious, and definitely like more than water), but the grimy residue left in pots and bowls after a Maggi-based soup has been devoured is…. unappealing, to say the least.  So we took a stab at making the broth ourselves, and were pleasantly surprised with the results.

Even with all the lemongrass and lemon rind and lemon juice in this recipe, we couldn’t get enough of that citrus tang, so we paired this soup with limoncello. Second good decision of the night.

Oh, and did we mention this soup is vegan?  Don’t let that let you think it’s not delicious.  It’s vegan, vegetarian, and delicious.

Recipe after the jump.

(Vegan) Tom Yum Soup

For the broth:

2 stalks lemongrass, (see our previous post on where to find fresh lemongrass) cut into 1-inch pieces, and slightly bruised with mortar and pestle.  We are aware this last partsounds like a terrible Medieval punishment, but it does bring out the flavor of the lemongrass.

3 whole kaffir lime leaves – if anyone knows where this can be found in Cairo, we would surely appreciate the tip-off.  Until then, we substituted the juice and rind of 3 lemons (small Egyptian lemons, mind you), and 2 bay leaves.

1-2 chilis, de-seeded and roughly chopped, OR 1-2 teaspoons chili sauce OR 1/2 teaspoons dried crushed chili – spice content, as always, should be to your own tastes; there’s no sense in scalding your taste buds just because a recipe suggests a certain amount of heat. We suggest adding one chili in the beginning to flavor the broth, and just before adding the vegetables, testing for spiciness and adding chili sauce or dried chili to bring the spiciness to your liking.

3 green onions / spring onions

4 cloves garlic, minced

1.5-inch piece ginger, grated or minced – galangal is also an option, but as we haven’t located any in Cairo, ginger is a fine alternative.

1 tablespoon brown sugar (for where to find brown sugar, check this previous post)

1-2 tablespoons soy sauce – soy sauce is a rather overpowering flavor compared to the more aromatic lemongrass, so we recommend adding the soy sauce slowly and tasting as you go.

1/2 cup fresh basilreehaan in Arabic (ريحان)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro/fresh coriander, roughly chopped – kozbara in Arabic (كزبرة)

More than just broth:

1-2 cups soft tofu, sliced into cubes – we have yet to locate a reliable source of tofu in Cairo, so unfortunately, this time our recipe went without.  Next time, on a reader’s suggestion, we’ll check the Alfa in Dokki.

2 cups fresh mushroom, sliced

4 cups bok choy, roughly chopped – Alfa and Metro both have been stocking bok choy lately.

* A note about the stock: though most recipes we found called for vegetable stock, we wanted to see if we could make a good-tasting broth without the help of bouillon cubes, and decided to make our own stock by simmering the herbs and spices for an hour.  If you’re pressed for time (or really hungry now), add one or two cubes of vegetable stock with the other stock ingredients, and you should only need to cook it for 5 minutes or so before adding the vegetables.

1. Make the stock: add 1 stalk of lemongrass, the rind and juice of 2 lemons, bay leaves, chili, green onions, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, half the basil and cilantro, and salt.  Let this simmer gently while preparing the rest of the soup, or ideally for at least one hour.

2. Just before adding the vegetables, add the other stalk of lemongrass.  Add the mushrooms, and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft.

3. Add the bok choy and simmer 1-2 more minutes, until bok choy is lightly cooked but still has a crunch to it.

4. Reduce heat to low and add the tofu.

5. Add the soy sauce.  As noted above, it has a rather overpowering flavor compared to the other stock ingredients, so add the soy sauce slowly and taste the broth every 1/2 tablespoon or so.  Add the juice of 1-2 more lemons, and adjusting the broth to taste – adding more chili sauce if it’s not spicy enough, more salt if needed, etc.

6. Serve the soup garnished with the basil and cilantro, and with slices of lemon to add at your diners’ discretion. Yum!

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Filed under Healthful, Recipes, Vegan

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