I’ve travelled a lot through Asia, and one of my favourite places to eat is Thailand. I especially love the way they emphasize all taste sensations – sour, sweet, salty and bitter. Thai food is fairly complex in the interplay between those, and it’s something that can become unbalanced fairly quickly. One of the things I appreciated the most about some of the Thai restaurants I visited was the small bowl of coarse palm sugar set next to your plate, allowing you to add your own level of sweetness.
I found the people in Thailand to be extremely warm and welcoming. I happened to be there for business at the time so it’s possibly coloured with the fact that I was going over as a customer. But from everything I’ve heard from those going over as tourists, it’s been a great experience.
What I didn’t expect to find in Bangkok was such a well developed city – a chaotic blend of high end western style hotels and businesses, with more traditional buildings like the beautiful Wat Arun on the riverside.
One of the things I especially liked about Bangkok was the riverboat system to get across to each side of the city. A great way to see the skyline, and to avoid traffic at the same time.
So, sitting back here in Canada where it is a very uncivilized level of cold on too many nights, this soup (while not totally authentic) is enough to bring back some warm thoughts of Bangkok.
This soup brings all those the four Thai elements in a fairly easy way: sour from limes and vinegar, sweet from the coconut, salty from fish sauce, and bitter from the greens.
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Wedge of fresh ginger, minced or grated with a micro-plane
2 shallots, sliced
1 bird’s eye chili, finely chopped (watch your eyes!)
1 cup coconut milk (low-fat if you’re watching your heart health)
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups various greens (bok choy/swiss chard/kale, etc)
2 lime leaf (dried or fresh)
1tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1/2 fresh lime
Handful cilantro, roughly chopped
Heat up a bit of oil in a soup pot. Over medium heat, gently cook the garlic, shallots, ginger together. If you don’t have fresh bird’s eye chilis, then you could add in some dried red chili at this point.
Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and heavily with fresh ground black pepper.
Cook until soft, about 5 or 6 minutes.
Add coconut milk and vegetable stock. Add lime leaf.
Let it come to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
While that’s cooking, take your greens and chop them up. I like to julienne them because it looks nicer. But it doesn’t really matter. You can pretty much use any greens you want. Swiss chard is great, collard greens work really well, kale is always the best, bok choy is perfect. Or any combination. I think threw in some fennel to this one. This is a good place to experiment and find what you like.
Toss in your greens and leave for about 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
Add in fish sauce and vinegar, stir well.
Put into your bowl, squeeze the lime on top, add cilantro and bird’s eye chili.
Curl up on the couch with a feel-good movie. Like Inglorious Basterds.