I have always found that there is something incredibly magical and intimidating about food ingrained cultures other than my own. Certain ingredients, I have noticed, feel so foreign to me, no matter how many times I may eat them at a restaurant or out of a takeout container... until I try to cook with them myself. Then I feel like I want to use these ingredients more and more: lemongrass! kaffir lime leaves! coconut cream! There are so many amazing ingredients out there that, while they may take a little more time to locate, provide so much flavor and add another dimension to cooking at home.
Thai dishes have been at the top of my "I want to try this at home" list (evidenced first by this quick red curry sauce with pineapple). While it is so easy to pick up the phone and order whatever dish I may be craving, which will be ready to pick up within 10 minutes, there is nothing more satisfying than trying to recreate these favorite dishes and flavors at home successfully.
This soup is actually a fusion between the tangy/spicy Thai soup, Tom Yum, and the comforting and delicious Vietnamese noodle soup, Pho. My favorite local Thai restaurant has been serving this as a special, and I set out to find the ingredients to try it on my own. I used this recipe for Tom Yum soup as a base, and added rice noodles along with all of my favorite Pho garnishes. The result was so good, did not take long to make, and gave us enough soup to enjoy for 2-3 dinners. A success, indeed.
Thanks to a friend in Charlotte, I knew where to go to find all of the "exotic" ingredients I had never purchased before: Overseas Food Market. I highly recommend searching for a similar international market in your area if you ever want to start cooking Thai/Vietnamese food... they had such a wide variety and the prices were very reasonable. I will be returning to this gem often. Now, for some Tom Yum Pho!
Tom Yum Pho
2 quarts chicken broth
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, sliced diagonally in 2-inch pieces
8 kaffir lime leaves
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
2 red chiles, sliced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 package baby portabella mushrooms, stems removed, quartered
1 pound large shrimp, peeled with tails on
2 limes, juiced
6 green onions, sliced
1-pound package rice noodles
fresh jalapenos, sliced
1 lime, sliced
Prepare the rice noodles according to the package directions; set aside until needed.
Bring the stock to a boil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger, and chiles. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste the broth and see if you would like to add more of the ingredients to increase the flavor (you should have an equal blend of spicy, salty, and sour). Once you are happy with the flavor, using a slotted spoon, remove the lemongrass, lime leaves, ginger, and chiles. These should not be eaten, but will have flavored the broth nicely at this point.
Uncover and add the fish sauce, sugar, and mushrooms. Simmer for 5 minutes. Toss in the shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes until they turn pink. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice and green onions.
To serve, add rice noodles to a large bowl, and cover with the mushrooms/shrimp/broth. Add the garnishes listed above (I like a lot of garnishes... they add a lot of flavor/bulk to the soup). Enjoy!
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