So far, my most popular cooking workshop has been Thai cuisine. This is not surprising at all – who doesn’t love Thai food? The complexity of flavors which make up Thai cuisine – hot, sour, salty, sweet – are quite unique to the region of Southeast Asia. If you think about traditional Western foods rarely do we prepare one meal which encompasses all of those elements. We are less bold in our flavor combinations. But not the Thai!
Another beautiful thing about Thai food is how healthy it is. In a day and age when people are gluten free and vegetable crazed Thai food ticks all the boxes. Soups, salads, stir-fries and curries are usually chock full of vegetables with just a hint of meat or fish to satisfy the protein cravings. In my opinion – as one who is very health conscious but not an extremist – that is the healthiest way we can fill our plates.
Many of my clients will be following a 2-week cleanse in the coming month. Banished from our diets are: sugar, caffeine, gluten, dairy, and night-shade vegetables. At first this may seem daunting but if I stick my nose in a Thai cookbook I will find many recipes that suit these criteria and will help them to cleanse without feeling restricted.
The soup below does contain tomatoes (night-shade) but everything can be adapted if you are following the cleanse. Have fun and add another veg you love. Replace the prawns with fish or make it a vegetarian soup. Play around! Lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and thai red chiles can be found at Asian grocers and they can all be frozen (the lime leaves and chiles are often found in the frozen section). So, buy packs and stick them in the freezer – if you love Thai food they won’t go to waste. I like to serve the chiles on the side because they are SOOOO hot and everyone has a different spice tolerance. One thing is for sure – this is one healthy and delicious bowl of soup!
- 12 Kaffir lime leaves, sliced into quarters
- 5 stalks fresh lemongrass, cut diagonally into 4 cm pieces
- 10 slices of galanga or ginger
- 6 cups (1.5 liters) water or chicken broth
- 1 “nest” of rice vermicelli (no more than 100g/3 oz)
- 450 g/ 1 lb fresh prawns (shrimp), peeled and deveined
- 2 cups (about 150g) thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
- 6 Tablespoons (90 ml) fresh lime juice
- 3-4 Tablespoons (45-60 ml) Thai fish sauce
- 4 spring onions (scallions), sliced on the diagonal
- 1 small handful of chopped coriander (cilantro)
- 3-4 red or green thai chilies, thinly sliced (seeds removed for less spice)
- Place the lime leaves, lemongrass, galanga and water or stock into a soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer, covered, 10 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
- Meanwhile, boil water in a kettle and place the rice noodles in a medium sized bowl. Pour the boiling water over the noodles and allow to soften for 10 minutes. Drain the noodles. Depending on the size of the nest you may not use all the noodles in the soup. The noodles you will use should be roughly chopped into bite size pieces and then set aside. Throw any left over into a Thai salad.
- Once your broth is aromatic you can remove half of the lime leaves and lemongrass.
- Add the mushrooms and cherry tomatoes and cook 2 minutes before adding the prawns. Allow to simmer just until the prawns are cooked, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the soup from the heat and add the lime juice, fish sauce, spring onions and coriander. Ladle the soup into bowls. Place the chiles in a small serving bowl and pass around the table so that guests can choose their own level of spiciness.