MUSHROOM COCONUT SOUP
Moving right along in our experimental mushroom series, we are taking the profile of our flavors to Thailand with a simmering soup of silky coconut milk, spicy red chilies, and wonderfully tangy lemongrass. If you’ve ever touched your tongue to a spoonful of Tom Kha Gai or Tom Kha Kai in the past, you know how balanced and rich this soup can be. It’s perfect for a warm day–because damnit–Boston is struggling with some serious weather bipolarity; Thursday and Friday it was in the 70’s, now this week, me and Eric are back to sweater layers and socks so thick we can’t tell when our feet are actually touching the floor.
Well we’re making our version of a thom kha gai (usually boiled with shreds of chicken) with a couple of adjustments here and there to the traditional version. So technically we should just call this our “Mushroom Coconut Soup” ?
Our Mushroom of Choice: A mix. Today I’m using two different mushrooms. We’re bulking the soup with the more widely available cremini mushroom, or baby bella, alongside some oyster mushrooms–I love the texture their frilly underbellies offer.
Because there is so much going on in this soup–between the lemongrass, the ginger, the lime leaves, the coconut milk–the mushrooms in this recipes serve mainly to add chunky texture. So really any of your favorite mushrooms will work (button, straw, shiitake, maitake) I think it’s hard enough to source some of the other ingredients in this soup, you shouldn’t need to overthink the mushroom grocery list.
Cleaning Mushrooms: Brush them off with a damp cloth to clean away any excess dirt. (Rinsing them under water isn’t necessary since mushrooms are as porous as a sponge. Any excess water they absorb will make their texture tougher when cooked.
How to Use and Cook with Lemongrass: Lemongrass is one of my favorite flavors, especially in candles and room fragrances, but it also has an intense citrus scent that can elevate the flavors in my soups and teas. (Same with “kaffir” lime leaves aka makrut limes!) I remember my first time using a fresh stalk of lemongrass in my food, I just threw the entire thing it into a smoothie and blended it. haha. Don’t do this? Unless you want to spend the next two hours picking shards of citrus stalk out your teeth ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Only part of the bottom of the lemongrass isn’t so tough, so chop away the base, the tops of the plant, and the first few layers of outer leaves gone brown or too tough, and then, using the back handle of your knife, bang along the stem to help the plant release some of its oils. You can then add it straight to the soup, and once it’s had a bit of time to simmer, remove the stems because it can be tough to chew. You can also just grind it really fine in a processor before adding to the liquid. It may leave pulp in the soup, but I personally don’t mind this. If you do, you can just strain the liquid after it’s infused. This time I used lemongrass paste instead of the stems, so it was already pre-ground and ready.
Here’s How I Made this Soup:
- 4 ounces cremini shiitake or other mushroom, cleaned and quartered (stems removed)
- 4 ounces oyster mushrooms, cleaned (separated, stems removed)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil for sauteing (or other oil)
- 1, 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 red chile pepper, sliced, seeds and ribs removed
- 1, 32 ounce container vegetable broth
- 1, 15 ounce can coconut milk
- 3 tbsp lemongrass paste, or 3 stalks of fresh lemongrass, cut and pounded
- 3 tbsp organic tamari or soy sauce
- 2 medium limes, juiced (about Tbsp) plus a few wedges for garnish
- 2-3 dried lime leaves, or 2 fresh leaves (bruised before adding)
- handful of chopped cilantro
In a medium pot on medium high heat, lightly saute the mushrooms in coconut oil to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, lime leaves, lemongrass (if using the stems), and half the sliced red chilies. Continue to cook until fragrant, about 2 more minutes.
Add in the vegetable broth, coconut milk, tamari, and lime juice. Continue to simmer over medium heat for another 10-15 minutes so all the flavors come together. Spoon into large bowls and top with the remaining red chiles, lime wedges, and chopped cilantro. Serve!