The nights are coming sooner. A chill is in the air. And despite the fact that many yellow and crimson leaves are still hanging on to their earthly moorings, there’s no doubt that we’re in that netherworld between fall and winter in Oregon.
It’s the perfect time for stew and soup. Why not enjoy a taste of the tropics in the midst of the rain and cold?
On a rain and blustery night last week, I decided to take a dish from my childhood memories in Bangkok, Tom Yum Kung, a pungent soup with shrimp and mushrooms swimming in lime-flavored broth, and give it a Pacific Northwest flair by adding salmon to it.
The salmon gave a heartiness to the soup and lent it some of the fish’s robust flavor. The dish is easily accomplished in 30 minutes. And the only three ingredients that you need to get from an Asian grocery store is lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and chili paste with soya bean oil (my favorite brand is Pantai). You can find Thai fish sauce at most grocery stores these days.
Besides mushrooms, you can add all sorts of vegetables: zucchini, celery, onions, even tomatoes.
The first memory I have of eating this soup was when I was about six or seven years old and we were living in Bangkok, Thailand, at the time. I was watching as mom was making it and I remember making some sort of remark about the eyeballs on the shrimp heads sticking out of the soup stock staring at me. Mom believes that the head of all sea creatures, shrimp, crab, fish, stingray, whatever, adds flavor to soup. I wasn’t about to argue with her. I just dutifully ate when it was served to me. And it was heavenly, eyeballs, heads and all.
Salmon and Shrimp Tom Yum Soup
- 8 cups water
- Juice from 2 limes
- 4 kaffir lime leaves
- 4 tablespoons chili paste with soya bean oil
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, sliced into 2 inch chunks
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 zucchini or yellow squash, sliced into chunks
- 8-10 white mushrooms, brushed clean and quartered
- 1 large salmon fillet, skinned and cut into large chunks
- 8 medium-large shrimp, peeled, de-veined and rinsed (shells set aside)
- In a large saucepan, bring water to boil.
- Tie shrimp shells in cheesecloth and add to water and simmer for 20 minutes. Then discard shells.
- Add lime juice, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, chili paste, fish sauce, stirring to completely dissolve chili paste, then lower heat to a simmer.
- Add zucchini or squash and mushrooms and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add fish and shrimp and simmer for another 3 minutes and serve hot.