soup for what ails you: tom yum

right now we’re knee-deep in winter, literally–am i the only one that feels like a human gutter ball weaving my way around the snow-flanked sidewalks?–and so many i people i know are sick are just getting sick or just getting over something and i have been mercifully spared (i think last winter i got 2 years worth of sick).  if you didn’t know before, thai tom yum soup is some kind of natural antibiotic so if you’re feeling kind of under the weather or just want something else warm and not too heavy, this is your best bet and fast and simple to make. (recipe, Darlene Schmidt)

Ingredients:

(Makes 2-3 large bowls OR 4+ smaller appetizer-size bowls of soup)

6 cups good-quality chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves (can be purchased frozen at most Asian food stores)
2 stalks minced lemongrass (see below), OR 3 Tbsp. frozen store-bought prepared lemongrass
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 fresh red chili, minced, OR 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili OR cayenne pepper
generous handful of fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup lime juice
3 Tbsp. fish sauce (or more to taste)
8-12 medium to large shrimp, fresh or frozen, shells removed
1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro
handful of fresh basil

Place stock in a large pot over high heat. Add the minced lemongrass (and leftover lemongrass stalks, if using fresh), plus kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a boil.

When soup reaches a bubbling boil, turn heat down to medium. Add the garlic, chili, mushrooms, lime juice, and fish sauce. Stir well. Partially cover with a lid and simmer 3 minutes.

Add the shrimp, gently stirring them in. Also add other vegetables, if using. Simmer until shrimp are pink and plump (2-3 minutes).

Remove soup from heat and do a taste-test, looking for a balance of salty, sour, and spicy. If the soup needs more salt, add 1 Tbsp. more fish sauce. If it’s too sour, add 1-2 tsp. brown sugar. If too spicy (Tom Yum is meant to be spicy!), add a little coconut milk. If too salty, add another squeeze of lime juice (Note that the saltiness of your soup will depend on how salty your stock was to start with).

As a final touch, add a dollop of two of Thai Nam Prik Pao chili sauce, either store-bought or the homemade version: Nam Prik Pao Chili Sauce Recipe. (The chili sauce/paste will turn the soup a little red in color, but will bring the flavor up to a whole new level.) It can also be served on the side in small dishes, so each person can add as much as they prefer.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a generous sprinkling of fresh coriander and basil.

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