You love all manner of east Asian soups, but tom Kha Gai – Thai coconut milk soup with chicken is perhaps my favorite for its irresistible blend of the creamy and luxuriant with the fresh, hot, and spicy. I wanted to make a vegetarian (even vegan) version of the classic that was just as satisfying. I substitute fudgy chunks of steamed pumpkin for the chicken. They work beautifully, soaking up the rich, coconut liquor. Noodles are not traditional in tom kha, but I add them for a more substantial meal, and everyone enjoys a good bowl-slurping session, don’t they?
Honeyed Figs On Sourdough Ingredients
1 teaspoon vegetable or chicken stock powder
400ml full-fat coconut milk
1 lemongrass stick, bruised
8 kaffir lime leaves (fresh, or frozen and defrosted, but not dried), torn
2.5cm piece of galangal or ginger root, thinly sliced
4 small, hot, red chilies, halved (deseeded if you want less heat)
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
15 g coriander, leaves, and stalks separated
300g peeled and deseeded pumpkin or butternut squash (prepared weight), cut into 2.5cm dice
2 teaspoons fish sauce or dark soy sauce, plus extra to taste if necessary
2 teaspoons dark brown or palm sugar, plus extra to taste if necessary
150g button mushrooms, halved
200g baby plum tomatoes, halved
juice of ½ lime, plus extra to taste if necessary, and extra wedges to serve
100g dried rice noodles.
Cooked according to packet instructions
Place 500ml of water in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the stock powder and half the coconut milk, along with the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, chillies and spring onions. Roughly chop the coriander stalks and add these too. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 20–45 minutes (the longer you leave it, the more flavoursome it will be).
Place the pumpkin or squash in a metal or bamboo steamer over a large pan or wok full of simmering water. Steam for 10–15 minutes, or until just tender to the point of a knife. Divide between two deep soup bowls and set aside.
Strain the soup liquid through a sieve into a large jug. Discard the aromatics but keep the liquid. Return it to the pan and bring it to a boil. Add the fish sauce, sugar, mushrooms, and tomatoes, and cook for 5–10 minutes, until the tomatoes are starting to collapse and the mushrooms have shrunk a little. Lower the heat to a bare simmer, then add the lime juice and the remaining coconut milk and check the seasoning.
You may want it a little more sweet/salty/sour, so add sugar/fish sauce/lime juice accordingly. Divide the rice noodles equally between the two soup bowls, followed by the broth. Roughly chop the coriander leaves and scatter them over the soup. Serve with extra lime wedges to squeeze over.