Friday, January 4, 2008

Mmmmm . . . soup: Tom kha gai

I've decided to back off laughing at people in my state for freaking out about the storms that are PUMMELING California, making driving conditions EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, and placing the entire state of California at GREAT RISK. I'm mean, really people, it's RAIN, not a hurricane, black ice, a tsunami, or some other such life-threatening event. But many people in California have been left without power, areas that burned last summer are at risk for mud slides, the San Francisco bay ferries could not run, and the Richmond-San Rafael bridge (which connects the East Bay to Marin) was closed because of high winds. So I guess it is sort of big deal. I rode my scooter to work today and felt like I was riding through a washing machine. My waterproof pants held out until a block from work, when I started to feel that creeping dampness. I had to sit on a towel on my chair for the first part of the day, feeling much like the incontinent old lady I will hopefully not become. I did take note, though, that I was not nearly as wet as most of my colleagues who drove or took the subway and then walked a few blocks.

And may I just point for a moment to the totally obvious? When we have rain, the Sierras are getting a well-needed dump of snow. That's right, SNOW: used for skiing and a source of water in a dought-striken state through the summer. So I wish everyone (except people driven from their homes by mud slides and floods) would just shut up and stop complaining. And enjoy the round of rain on their window. And perhaps the smell of soup simmering on their stove.

On a cold, windy, rainy night at our house, soup is required. I wanted something warm, rich, and a little spicy. Tom kha gai, Thai chicken coconut soup, fit the bill perfectly.

I make it by combining the following ingredients, give or take some, in quantities varying according to taste (read: I just mess around with it until it tastes right):
  • canned coconut milk (always plenty of this in my cupboard)

  • chicken stock (usually plenty of this in the freezer; we roast a lot of chickens around here)

  • canned straw mushrooms (or fresh or dried)

  • minced fresh ginger (or ginger powder if necessary)

  • kaffir lime leaves (purchase from a Thai grocery; these keep well in the freezer)

  • minced lemongrass bulb

  • fish sauce (Thai not Philippine brand)

  • fresh squeezed lime juice (thank goodness for my gin and tonic lime tree

  • palm sugar (can use regular white in a pinch)

  • chopped green onion

  • little canned corn (Sophie loves these, and they add some nice color; remember Tom Hanks eating these in Big?)

  • thinly sliced chicken breast (add at the penultimate moment)

  • chopped prawns (the frozen ones from Trader Joe's work just fine; thaw in cold water; add at the final moment)

  • With this batch, I threw in some fresh spinach I had in the fridge that needed to be used. I've done the same with various other greens as well. We garish with fresh cilantro and Thai chili sauce (Sophie is sensitive to too much heat) and serve over steamed rice, followed, of course, by a green salad.

    Stay warm, stay dry, and enjoy.


    M. said...

    Hello! I came over via Libby's blog, and read your comment regarding the Uggs...they were originally house slippers, in fact. My fiance is from Australia and when they first started getting popular in the States he was aghast when I requested a pair for Christmas:

    "Uggs! Why? I used to wear those around the house, those are NOT meant for city streets! We don't wear those outside the house n Australia!"

    He is such a sweetie, however - I still received a pair (Ultra, the ones with the Lug sole, I requested that) for Christmas/Birthday that year (2004, still have them, though I might chuck them when I return to the States!).

    Libby said...

    I was listening to NPR this morning as they were reporting on the weather out by you (particularly the mud slids in OC) and I, of course, wondered about you. I'm glad to see you are handling the storm with some nice, hot and very delicious looking soup. Stay safe, my friend.

    ElleBee said...

    Mmmm...I lovelovelove this soup. I have a favorite Thai restaurant where I order it every time I go. Maybe I'll have to give the recipe a go!

    gwendomama said...

    dude. we were all in the car on HWY 1 that morning. en route to SFO!!!!!!!!!
    we are all still alive, miraculously, though the family i left behind in the mountains is STILL without power. (i send this to you from the state of PA)