My version of Thai hot and sour soup/Tom Yum soup/'Put that cold back where it came from’ soup
It’s that time of year, I’m not quite able to let go of summer and take the knowing leap into autumn and winter; the change of season tends to bring about a physical and emotional deluge. ‘Back to school’ colds and the cyclical feelings that are associated with days getting shorter and the beginning of a new a year. Such feelings sometimes create unrest and discord (I have no idea why this feeling rears it head at THIS particular time of year, rather than the more sensible time of January – actual new year but there we go).
My solution for both mild illness and seasonal brain fog is Thai food, (Vietnamese food would also do the trick but for now we’ll stick with Thai) usually my solution to anything involves food….
Something about the clean flavours, broths, abundance of fresh herbs and all those reviving citrus notes does wonders for giving colds the boot AND harmonizing the mind. The fact that it also tastes phenomenal and is far easier to cook than you may imagine is a huge bonus.
- 2.5 litres of chicken stock
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 2 tbsp tom yum paste (you can make your own but in the name of mid week dinner, I think it’s ok not to be too picky about this – there are many varieties available)
- 2-3 birdseye chillies – use more if you are a seasoned chilli lover
- 1 inch piece of galangal OR ginger – thinly sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic – crushed (no need to peel)
- 2 stalks of lemongrass – bruised
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 6 spring onions – thinly sliced
- A good handful of mushrooms
- A good handful of Tenderstem broccoli or sugar snap peas
- ¼ of a cabbage – cut into largish pieces
- King prawns (you can use tofu or chicken – the main thing is just cook it! You can personalize it according to your preference)
- A big handful of fresh coriander – picked, stalks and leaves separated
- 2 limes
- A small handful of Thai basil
Method: Serves 4-6
- In a large saucepan combine the coriander stalks, chicken stock, fish sauce, palm sugar, tom yum paste, chillies, galangal (or ginger), garlic, lemongrass and lime leaves.
- Bring to a gentle, rolling boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Strain the soup, discarding all the bits and bobs (if you are fighting a cold, I’d put the lemongrass and lime leaves back in the soup and get maximum healing benefits).
- Add the spring onions, mushrooms, broccoli and cabbage and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
- Add the prawns and juice of both limes, heat the prawns through and serve with a generous amount of coriander and a few torn Thai basil leaves on the top.
For a seriously refreshing pick me up try Mieng Kham
This is a Thai street food snack. Betel leaves (available from Asian supermarkets) are filled with a combination of:
- Lime, including the skin
- Toasted, crushed peanuts,
- Shredded and toasted coconut
- Dried shrimp
- Nam Pla Wan (a fruit sauce – also available in Asian supermarkets)
They are rolled up and eaten just like that – raw, spicy goodness that is totally refreshing and delicious. If you can’t get hold of betel leaves, I have found a good substitute to be spinach leaves. In some parts of Thailand lettuce leaves or cooked cabbage leaves are used.
This beats lemsip hands down in my book.
Key Thai ingredients to stock your cupboard:
A relation to Holy basil, and Tulsi (used and worshipped in India)
Slightly liquorice flavour good detoxifier, calmer and has fantastic anti bacterial qualities.
Coriander, also known as Cilantro or Chinese Parsley.
Coriander is high in Iron and vitamins A and C.
Use it with wild abandon in Thai food, leaves atop soups at the end, and stalks thrown into broths (they have the most flavour)
It is a souring agent (like lemon or lime).
Tamarind is a pod like fruit grown from a tamarind tree and originates from Sudan in Africa.
It is now cultivated in South Asia where it has the highest consumption and production in the world.
Tamarind is a source of anti oxidants. It can help to reduce a fever and aids in digestion.
You can buy it as a paste (more concentrated flavour) or in a block which requires soaking and passing through a sieve before use, (whilst this requires a little more time and effort, I prefer it this way – it’s fresher).
Galangal is closely related to Ginger and sometimes known as Thai Ginger, Blue ginger or Siamese ginger.
It’s known to have anti inflammatory properties and aids in digestion. It can help with stomach aches and sickness as well as improving circulation.
You can but fresh galanghal in some supermarkets now (failing that there are jars in the Thai section) treat it much as you would ginger, although it’s flavour is more fragrant and perfumed.
Lemongrass is native to Asia and is widely used in Asian cuisine, especially curries and soups.
It can help to clear headaches, stomach aches, can help to fight off the common cold and can soothe nasal congestion.
Lemongrass also has anti fungal properties.
It has a slightly herbal flavour and scent, not as sweet as lemons slightly cleaner and more medicinal.
You can peel the outside leaves and chop the inner stalk – which can then be added to a paste, or bash the whole stalk with the end of a rolling pin and add to soups and curries.
Dried lemongrass is not a good substitute, stick to fresh which freeze well.
Kaffir Lime leaves:
The incredible flavour and scent of Kaffir limes leaves is unlike any other ingredient. Thai food is not Thai food without these fantastic leaves, again dried are not as good as fresh, but fresh leaves freeze well.
In Thai culture Kaffir lime is thought to cleanse the mind and body. The scent is seriously rejuvenating.