Thursday, April 23, 2009
Thai Fresh Pea Soup with Green Curry
I'm convinced there are as many French-trained chefs in Southeast Asia as there are in all of France. The food of the region is a wonderful fusion of French and Asian cuisines. Pho, a Vietnamese specialty, is served for breakfast, but unmistakably French baguettes and croissants are also available for those whose stomachs can't start the day with such gusto. Lunch and dinner can be Asian, French or a fusion of the two. Today's soup is a case in point. We were fortunate to have two versions of fresh pea soup while we were in Southeast Asia. The Thai version has heat from the addition of green curry paste. It is served hot. The French version is flavored with mint and served cold. Both are delicious. The curry paste used in the Thai version can be a tricky thing. Commercially available curry pastes are hot. The chilies can overpower other flavors in the mixture, so unless you are sure about your heat tolerance proceed with caution, adding only a teaspoon at a time. I'm also including a recipe that will allow you to make your own green curry paste. It's simple to prepare and once you've made your own the commercial paste will become an emergency only condiment. Let's do the soup first.
Thai Fresh Pea Soup
3/4 cup water
1 cup chopped onions
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1 to 3 teaspoons green curry paste
3 (14.5-oz.) cans vegetable broth
8 cups shelled peas, thawed if frozen
1 teaspoon lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon toasted mustard seed or several grinds of black pepper
1/4 cup chopped mint
1) Combine water, onions, garlic and curry paste in a soup pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add broth; return to a boil. Add peas; simmer, covered over low heat for 10 minutes.
2) Remove pot from heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. Transfer in small batches to a blender jar and puree. Transfer pureed soup to a clean pot. Stir in lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Return soup to a simmer over low heat. Garnish with mustard seeds and chopped mint. Yield: 8 servings.
Cook's Note: Soup may be refrigerated for 2 days and frozen for 1 month.
Green Curry Paste
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup chopped hot green chili peppers (serrano, jalapeno or Thai)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup chopped shallots or scallions
9 large cloves coarsely chopped garlic
3 tablespoons minced lemon grass
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger or galanga
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1) Place coriander and cumin in a small frying pan. Cook over medium heat until slightly darkened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Stir in salt and pepper. Set aside.
2) Combine chilies, cilantro, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, lime zest, 2 tablespoons water and toasted spice mixture. Blend until fairly smooth. Add small amounts of water if needed to keep blades moving. Transfer to a lidded jar. Refrigerate for up to i month. Yield: 3/4 cup.