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Give yourself a break + tom kha goong-inspired shrimp soup
Wrap yourself in comfort and warmth.
It’s the season of the holiday meal: joyful, celebratory moments with every side dish imaginable, a main piled with fresh herbs, and the good wine. Holiday meals are all over the place: Whether you’re in person with your household or pod, on your own, or Zooming with loved ones, it’s an emotional experience. And maybe holiday meals are hard for you for any number of reasons — it can be difficult to feel celebratory if your family situation is complicated, or if you’re having a hard year, like so many of us are.
If you spent the whole day cooking, or tasting while someone else cooked, or making small talk, or simply doing anything besides sitting on your couch, you’re probably exhausted the day after. And if your hangover hits around 2:00pm and lasts the rest of the night, your stomach might be a touch on the fritz. But you still need to nourish yourself — maybe even more so than usual.
Soup is the meal you can make when you need to give yourself a break. Soup is meditative to make: adding ingredients to one pot and watching them swirl together. It can be as easy or complex as you want it to be — make a stock from leftover turkey bones, or throw in the boxed stuff. Most recipes make a few meals worth, so you can simply reheat the next day for lunch. And as the days get colder and the sun shines less, soup is a way to wrap yourself up in comfort and warmth.
Most of us are seeking comfort right now, whether it’s watching the same episode of the same show over and over, or calling friends twice a day, or yanking the underwire out of a bra. In a world that’s increasingly taking away our sense of control, we’re looking to ease things, to make it feel better. Soup softens the edges.
Today’s recipe comes from a craving when everything was closed over a holiday weekend. Anna wanted a Thai, spicy coconut shrimp soup, but nothing was open. Niki made a pepper paste with what they had: shishitos. What they came up with was a delicious reset meal, full of complex flavor and comfort — inspired by tom kha goong. Instead of galangal, we’re using ginger, and obviously swapping in green shishitos for red chilies. We learned from experts like Kris Yenbamroong and Andy Ricker, and we encourage you to buy their books to explore real Thai cooking.
Tom kha goong-inspired shrimp soup
A note on shrimp: Shrimp freezes really well, and in many cases, frozen shrimp is actually better. (Most grocery store shrimp have already been frozen anyway.) We use frozen, easy-peel shrimp, which have the benefit of shell protection without the pain of deveining yourself, and they thaw in minutes in cold water. Just remember to save your shells!
3 shishitos or 1 jalapeño or 2 serranos, cut small to blend
2 tablespoons ginger, cut small to blend
½ medium shallot, cut small to blend
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 stalk lemongrass (optional), two inches trimmed off the bottom and all but four inches trimmed off the top, chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 14-oz can coconut milk (2 tablespoons reserved)
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 tablespoons sugar
½ lb shrimp, peeled and cleaned, shells reserved
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ medium shallot
3 heads bok choy, cut at the base and picked into individual leaves
4 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced thick
Any combination of bean sprouts, basil, and cilantro
Combine shrimp shells, ½ shallot, and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil and leave at a hard simmer for about 30 minutes until shells are bright orange and broth is reduced by about 1 cup. Strain and set aside.
Combine shrimp with cornstarch and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Massage roughly but without damaging the shrimp. Rinse.
Toast coriander and black peppercorns in a dry pan, let cool. Combine shishitos, ginger, garlic, shallot, black pepper, coriander seeds, turmeric, fish sauce, 2 tablespoons coconut milk, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a blender, and blend into a mostly smooth paste.
Heat vegetable oil in pot over medium heat. Add paste and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes until it no longer tastes raw.
Add the rest of the coconut milk and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add shrimp shell stock, bok choy, and mushrooms. Simmer until the vegetables are cooked, bok choy should be quite tender but not mushy.
Add the cleaned shrimp and simmer about 2 minutes until cooked through.
Season to taste with more fish sauce, salt, and sugar.
Squeeze a generous amount of lime juice over the top and garnish heavily with bean sprouts, cilantro, and basil.
If you make a recipe from our newsletter, please tag us in pictures! You can find us on instagram at @littlefish_echopark. If you’re in LA, our next fish fry is Sunday, 12/12.