Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gaeng Khae (Spicy Thai Vegetable Soup)

I found this recipe for Spicy Thai Vegetable Soup as part of a Vegetarian Times article about "medicinal" soups. Supposedly this Thai soup is believed to reduce colds and fevers. I'm not sure about that, but it's definitely spicy enough to clear your nasal passages! They're not kidding about the spicy part... I really like spicy foods and this one was even tough for me. I had to take breaks while eating my bowl of soup for my mouth to calm down.

The chile paste must be what makes it so hot - 15 peppers! But I really like the concept of grinding a paste from scratch and using it as a base for the soup. I don't have a mortar and pestle so I used a mini-prep food processor which I recommend because I think you'd be using alot of elbow grease for this one.

I used a few of the suggested substitutions in this recipe - Swiss chard instead of beet greens and fennel instead of turnip. I like that they provided so many options.

Besides the heat, I did enjoy this soup. It was fresh and light - if spicy. And maybe it was because I was prepared for it, but it didn't seem as bad when I re-heated it up the next day.

Gaeng Khae (Spicy Thai Vegetable Soup)
Serves 4

Chile Paste
15 dried chiles de arbol or Japones chiles
8 cloves garlic, peeled
½ tsp. salt
2 stalks lemongrass, minced
2 shallots, minced (½ cup)
1 tsp. red miso

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1½ cups sliced beet greens, Swiss chard, escarole, turnip greens or kale
1 cup turnip or fennel chunks
½ cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup firm tofu chunks
1 cup coarsely chopped arugula
½ cup fresh mint leaves
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley

To make Chile Paste: Soak chiles in bowl of boiling water 30 minutes. Drain, pat dry, and finely chop.

Combine garlic and salt in mortar, and pound with pestle. Add lemongrass, shallots, miso, and chiles, pounding and crushing after each additional to make thick paste.

To make Soup: Bring broth to a boil in saucepan over high heat. Stir in soy sauce and Chile Paste. Add beet greens, turnip, and mushrooms, and bring to a boil. Cook 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 5 minutes. Add tofu, and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in arugula, mint, and parsley, and simmer 1 to 2 minutes, or until herbs wilt.

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