Since this is my first post of the new year, I guess I should begin by wishing you all a happy new year! We’ve spent the time between Christmas and now mostly hibernating. Gigi turned five years old and we spent her birthday as a family. I discovered Yoga with Adriene and it’s been a hugely beneficial addition to my days. My book club has been reading Great Expectations; the going was a little slow and tedious at first, but now towards the end I can’t put it down. I also started Brené Brown’s online semester class called Courage Works and it’s really, really great. Other than books, yoga, and a few sporadic play dates with friends things have been wonderfully quiet and contemplative. It’s been so nice to pull back from work, responsibilities, and obligations and just spend lots of quiet time settling in to the new year.
After a rather difficult 2015, I kept expecting all of that nice, quiet time to manifest into something bigger, and that one day I’d wake up and feel refreshed and renewed. I thought that one day I’d wake up and feel like myself again. But since the month of January has sidled by in a series of cozy grey days, piles of laundry, quite a bit of snow, trips to the library, and excessive cuddling and I still don’t quite feel like myself, I have instead come to the realization that I just have to start somewhere. Starting by sharing a recipe seems like the right place to begin.
The perfect recipe for this week is Thai Coconut Soup with Udon Noodles and Tofu; partly because it’s cold and wet and grey here, and partly because there is no wrong time for Thai Coconut Soup. I shared this recipe ages ago back on my old site, but somehow it missed getting transferred over and I’ve made some adjustments to it over the years, so here it is refreshed and renewed. It’s reassuring to know that a recipe can have a fresh start, even when it feels hard to manifest your own.
This soup is all about the broth which is rich and creamy thanks to peanut butter and coconut milk. The real flavor punch comes from the sofrito: slight heat from the chiles which, when cooked, mellow into a subtle warmth; fragrant and floral lemongrass; vibrant and zingy fresh ginger; assertive garlic and shallots; pungent and irreplaceable fish sauce. The broth is rounded out with a little brown sugar and a kick of lime juice. When it’s ladled into a bowl along with the cooling udon noodles, tofu, and cilantro the result is a wonderfully balanced, perfectly satisfying soup.
THAI COCONUT SOUP WITH UDON NOODLES AND TOFU
1 14oz package of Firm Tofu (this needs to be drained so make sure to note the extra time in the directions)
1 Tablespoon honey
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
2 stalks of lemongrass, peel off the outside layer and quickly chop the tender centers of the stalks
2 Fresno red chilies, seeded and deveined
2-3 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and quickly chopped
4 garlic cloves
1 large shallot, quickly chopped
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 14.5oz can coconut milk
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 quart chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/3 cup lime juice (about 1 1/2 limes)
10oz Udon noodles
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
To drain the tofu, wrap it in paper towels, and set it on a plate. Place another plate on top to help press out the water. Let the tofu drain for about an hour. Mix together your honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil to make a marinade for the tofu. After draining for one hour, cut the tofu into 1″ cubes, place in a bowl or dish and pour in the marinade. Gently toss and allow it to sit while you prep all your other ingredients for the soup.
Put all the ingredients for your sofrito in a food processor (lemongrass, chilies, ginger, garlic, water, fish sauce, and shallot) and purée it. Set aside.
In a bowl, gently whisk together all of your soup base ingredients except for the oil (coconut milk, peanut butter, chicken broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice). Set aside.
Heat your vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Put in your sofrito and cook it, stirring constantly for a few minutes. Once it smells really fragrant and sweet add in your coconut milk/broth mixture. Bring to a low simmer and cook the soup for 15-20 minutes.
In the meantime, bring another large pot of water to a boil. While you’re waiting for it to come to a boil, heat a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add a bit of vegetable oil to the pan and allow it to heat up. Carefully add your tofu cubes to the pan using a pair of tongs. Sauté the tofu until it’s nice and golden brown on all sides. Transfer the tofu to a plate and set aside.
By now your water should be boiling, toss your Udon noodles in and cook them until they are al dente, then drain them.
Stir the soup well and ladle it into bowls, add in some noodles, top with tofu, cilantro, and the thinly sliced shallot. Drizzle with a tiny bit of sesame oil and serve immediately.
THAI COCONUT SOUP WITH UDON NOODLES AND TOFU