the appetizer:

Thai cuisine is really better described as four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country. The cooking of Thailand has been influenced by China and India while maintaining a unique taste of its own. Like Vietnamese food, Thai food uses fresh (rather than dried) herbs and spices as well as the ingredient found in almost all Thai dishes and every region of the country: nam pla, a very aromatic and strong tasting fish sauce.

Destinations Lemon Grass Shrimp Soup  


Lemon Grass-Shrimp Soup

Quick and easy, this soup depends on its aromatics for its ethereal allure. The barely poached (definitely undercooked) shrimps, however are what make it a treat.

A little note about this and other soups: lemon grass, galangal root and lime leaves, the trio of flavors that give many Thai soups their distinctive taste are unchewable, but form dictates that they be left in the soup. It is then up to the soup slurpers to avoid eating them. Furthermore, though lemon grass is easy to find, galangal root and lime leaves are not so easy. They can be substituted with ginger root and lime juice respectively as indicated in the recipes.

4 cups water
1 stick lemongrass
4 lime leaves (or 2 tbsp lime juice)
1 inch galangal root (or ginger root)
2 fresh hot chilies
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp chili paste
2 oz button mushrooms, quartered
16 large shrimps, shelled and deveined (10 oz)
3 tbsp lime juice
Fresh coriander leaves

1. Heat 4 cups water in a soup pot to boiling.

2. Smash the lemon grass with the flat of a chef's knife once, and then cut into 1- inch pieces; tear the lime leaves into thirds; and slice the galangal into thin rounds. Reserve all three of these ingredients together.

3. Crush the fresh chilies and cut in half. Reserve separately.

4. When the water has boiled, add the reserved lemon grass/galangal/lime leaves. Boil for 1 minute. Add fish sauce, sugar and chili paste. Boil for another 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and boil for 2 minutes. Add shrimps and lime juice (3 tbsp plus the other 2 tbsp if you haven't used the lime leaves) and lower heat to medium-high. Cook for 2 minutes, just until the shrimps have turned white and springy. Transfer to a soup tureen, decorate with fresh coriander leaves and serve immediately.

Simply Thai Cooking
Wandee Young and Byron Ayanoglu
Robert Rose, Inc., 1996
$17.95/trade paperback
ISBN 1-896503-18-7
Recipe reprinted by permission.


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