Here is an elegant seafood stew imbued with a profusion of Asian flavors: Lemongrass, thai red curry paste, cilantro, and miso. In truth, when I first made this dish and tasted it before adding the miso, I thought it wasn't going to work despite the fact that these ingredients are commonly combined in thai dishes, in this stew the various flavors seemed to be fighting one another.
Then I stirred in the miso and voila: transformation. The broth was suddenly balanced, complex, and soothing. The contrast was astonishing. Try the before-and-after experiment yourself, and you will understand the harmonizing miracle of miso better than I can ever put into words.
1 four-inch stalk lemongrass
(measure from fleshy bulb upward),
bruised outer leaves removed, sliced
into 1-inch-long pieces (see note)
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 pound shallots, peeled
3/4 teaspoon thai red curry paste or
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon peanut oil
4 cups water
8 ounces extra-firm or firm tofu,
drained and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons barley miso
1-1/2 pounds mussels, bearded if necessary
3/4 pound medium shrimps, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
10 large fresh basil leaves, shredded
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (optional)
With the motor of the food processor running, pop the lemongrass through the feed tube. Process at full speed alternating with the pulsing action until the lemongrass is very finely chopped, about 2 minutes, stopping and scraping down the sides of the work bowl as needed. With the motor running, pop in the garlic cloves and chop finely. Toss in the shallots and curry paste and process until the mixture resembles a coarse paste, 30 to 60 seconds more.
Heat the oil in a 4-quart (or larger) nonstick saucepan over medium heat. (if you don't own a large nonstick saucepan, do this step in a nonstick skillet and transfer the mixture to a saucepan.) Sauté the lemongrass paste in the oil, stirring constantly, until the ingredients begin to brown and cling to the bottom of the pan, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the water, tofu, and red pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Ladle out about 1/2 cup of the broth into a glass measuring cup and blend 3 tablespoons of the miso into it. Set aside.
Return the soup liquid to a rapid boil and add the mussels. Cover and cook over high heat for 1 minute, then quickly toss in the shrimps. Cover and continue to cook just until the mussels open and the shrimps turn pink, 1 to 2 minutes. (do not cook an instant longer than necessary or the seafood will become rubbery.)
Remove from the heat and stir in the miso solution, cilantro, basil, and scallion. Taste and, if needed, blend a bit more miso into 1/2 cup of the broth and add to the pot. If you'd like to add yet another marvelous flavor dimension, stir in lime juice to taste.
If fresh lemongrass is not available, Thai Kitchen's jarred lemongrass packed in water is a viable substitute.
The New Soy Cookbook
Tempting Recipes for
Tofu, Tempeh, Soybeans, and Soymilk
By Lorna Sass
Photography by Jonelle Weaver
120 pages, full color photographs throughout
Recipe Reprinted by permission.
This page created April 1999
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