Monday, October 11, 2010
Coconut Curry Noodle Soup
Most times, when I try a new recipe for the first time, I follow it pretty close to the letter. I might add a little more garlic, a little less hot pepper, or salt it at different times, but overall, I try to stay true to the original recipe. Sometimes, however, I’ll find an interesting (or not so interesting) looking recipe and use it as a jumping off point for a somewhat different creation. That’s what I did with today’s recipe - a warm, richly flavored soup with great color and texture.
I made quite a few changes to the original recipe, some dictated by necessity (an empty fridge), some by personal taste. For instance, the original recipe called for using already cooked, shredded chicken, snow peas, and spinach. I didn’t have any of those things on hand (and I wasn’t about to go out to get them at 8 pm – we were hungry!) so I decided to substitute cubed firm tofu for the chicken, matchstick carrots for the snow peas, and arugula for the spinach. All worked very well. In fact, I don’t know that I would have liked the chicken as much as I liked the tofu. Same goes for the snow peas and carrots. I think spinach and arugula would work equally well though. I also swapped out chow mein noodles for linguine, cause that’s what I had!
Those were the changes of necessity. The changes of personal choice included the addition of soy sauce for a little salt and lime juice for acidity and a little tang. The soy sauce was a nice, subtle touch, but I found that I still needed to add a little (sea) salt at the end. I added the lime juice after tasting the soup and finding it a bit bland. The juice punched up the flavor, but I kept thinking I would have liked it better with a little more. (Unfortunately I couldn’t add more because I was out of limes.)
All this goes to show that it’s possible to take a recipe and twist it into something that fits your taste – and the contents of your pantry. I am certain my mom is rolling her eyes right now and preparing to call me out for calling curry paste and fish sauce pantry staples. (I’m right aren’t I, Mom?) I understand that these ingredients are not staples for everyone. I don’t have a clue how they became staples for me considering I didn’t even try Thai food until I was seventeen. Regardless, you get what I’m trying to say, right? Don’t be afraid to try a recipe just because you don’t have every ingredient. Tweak it a little and you might just end up with something you’ll like even more. Unless you are baking, in which case specificity is important. Nobody likes a flat cake or burnt cookies.
Coconut Curry Noodle Soup
Adapted from Food and Wine
12 oz. (3/4 box) linguine, rice noodles, or chow mein noodles
3 T. vegetable oil, divided
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. Thai red curry paste
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
13.5 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk (regular or light)
2 T. Asian fish sauce
2 T. sugar
1 T. soy sauce
1 block firm tofu (not silken), patted dry and cubed
1 large handful matchstick (or shredded) carrots
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
3 cups baby spinach or arugula
Juice of 1/2 a lime, or more to taste
Salt, to taste
Optional: Lime wedges and sliced chiles, for serving
Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are light brown and starting to get crispy, about 2 minutes. Scoop the shallots out of the pot, and set them aside.
In the same pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, curry paste, curry powder, coriander, and turmeric. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
Add the chicken broth and increase the heat to high. Bring the soup to a boil, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar, and soy sauce, and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the tofu, carrots, cilantro, and scallions. Cook until the tofu is heated through and the carrots have softened.
Stir in the lime juice and the spinach/arugula. Add salt, to taste, if desired.
To serve, place the noodles in individual serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles and garnish with the crispy shallots. Serve with lime wedges and sliced chiles.