You know how sometimes you see a picture of a dish, and you think to yourself “Man, that looks so tasty!”, without even knowing what’s in it?
Well, I had that moment this week. I didn’t even look at what the dish was called at first, I just saw a bowl of soup that was colourful, full of veggies and screamed spice at me. It inspired me to make this awesome Spicy Vegetable Thai soup, inspired by my time in culinary school learning about different ingredients and how to prepare them, and the cold weather that has finally hit us here in Ontario. Originally made Vegan, this soup is very versatile in what you can throw into it, but it’s guaranteed to cure what ails you this season!
Winter is finally hitting us here in Ontario, and we really lucked out having our little boy’s first Christmas be a white one! It’s so rare that snow falls for Christmas anymore, but it’ll be nice to say that he at least had one!
With all the Turkey and Pie in the house, I was finding myself in a serious vegetable deficit. Everything has been full of butter, sugar and gravy, so I needed a break- big time! This soup really fits the bill. Not only is it highly nutritious from all the vegetables packed into it (it seriously filled my stock pot to the point where I was concerned I couldn’t fit it all!), but the heat also makes you feel like you can flush out a few of those extraneous calories you ate/drank over the holidays. I know it doesn’t work that way, but I can dream!
This recipe involves 20 ingredients, but can also be tweaked according to your liking. For instance, if you want to cut back the heat, simply omit the Red Chilli Peppers. You can also add Brown Sugar to help with the heat, but I find it’s just as tasty without the added sugar!
Most of these ingredients can be found in any grocery store, though they may be hiding. Lemongrass may be found in the produce section either tied together on it’s own, or cut down to size and in a package. Red Curry Paste can be found in many sections of the grocery store, so you may have to get to know your location to be able to find it quickly. Coconut milk comes in many varieties, and I used the full-fat version for this recipe. You can opt for the lighter can if you like, but the fat does help a bit with the heat of this dish.
Most of the time you’ll spend on this soup is in preparing all the vegetables. You can cut back your time doing this by using a mandolin and microplane. A microplane is great for garlic and ginger and will give you a silky paste in the end, while a mandolin will make quick work of the larger vegetables like the zucchini and red onion. These are great tools that every kitchen should have, though I will admit- I didn’t use either! In culinary school, we were shown a few techniques to help achieve the same results. One of my favourites also adds a bit of seasoning to the dish. This involves adding a bit of salt to your finely chopped garlic before using the side of your knife to grind the garlic down. The salt adds a bit of friction to help the garlic get softened, while also seasoning the dish! Give it a shot some time.
To prepare lemongrass, you need to remove the woody outer layer. Most of lemongrass is fairly tough, so don’t think you’ll be getting into anything soft by peeling away layer after layer. Just get rid of that first really bad one, then get your knife out and smash the heck out of it! Use the back of your knife, or anything big and blunt, to help release the oils. Then just finely chop up what you’ve got.
I fell in love with Lemongrass when I was chopping this stuff up, especially since I had just finished chopping up the ginger and the two together were just like candy! Ginger is intimidating to deal with sometimes because of it’s gnarly appearance. How do you peel Ginger? With a spoon, of course! Use the edge of a spoon to scrape the skin off, and you won’t have to fight with a knife or peeler to get around those weird knobs and bumps!
Any number of vegetables can be used in this recipe. I used a lot of quick-cooking vegetables like Mushrooms and Zucchini. It also makes it a very hearty soup because of all the stuff I threw in, so if you’re grabbing up ingredients and feel like it’s too much, you can easily leave out one or two things, or cut down on the amounts.
On the other hand, if you find yourself with an overflow of vegetables that are about to get soft or turn, this is a great way to use them up! It’s a classic example of “Everything but the Kitchen Sink”!
I used Tofu in this recipe, but you can easily swap it out for Chicken, Beef, or even Seafood! If you want to do this, cook your meat at the same time that you cook the chopped onion. Be sure to fully cook the meat, as the rest of this recipe cooks up in no time. Like I said, most of the work goes into prepping your ingredients, and once you start cooking, it’s done in no time since the recipe uses quick-cooking veggies.
If you decide to use Chicken or Pork, definitely be sure to thoroughly cook your meat- no one wants to get sick! But seafood is another quick-cooking ingredient, so if you choose to go that route, you won’t need as much time with it. If you use Shrimp, for instance, just cook until the flesh starts to turn a pink colour, and then quickly add the rest of your ingredients to avoid getting tough shrimp.
This is a highly versatile recipe. For instance, if you want to swap out one vegetable for another, it can easily be done, just be aware of cooking times. If you want to have potatoes or squash, they will need to be cooked in the broth longer, depending on how large you cut them. I would add at least ten minutes of boiling time with tougher root veggies, then start checking to see if they’re tender enough for a fork to come out easily.
The vegetables I used all cook very quickly, so I tossed them in a few minutes before removing from the heat. However, if you want to have some stay crispy for texture, you can leave them for garnish along with the coriander and lime. For example, if you want to keep the red onion crisp and sharp, don’t add it to the broth until you’re ready to eat. Keep in mind that as your soup sits after cooking, the vegetables will absorb some of the residual heat and cook anyway.
Enough talk! let’s get to the soup! This soup doesn’t need anything else with it, save for maybe a glass of water if you’re a little sensitive to the heat like I am! We let this batch sit for a while on the counter, and the flavours only kept melding together more and more, making it great for leftovers!
I really hope you enjoy this recipe, and feel free to comment and let me know what you think about it, and if you want to see more!
Spicy Thai Vegetable Soup
A hearty and hot soup to cure what ails you!
- 1 block Extra Firm Tofu, cubed into 1/2″ pieces
- 1″ piece Ginger root, minced
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 2 Lemongrass stems, smashed and finely chopped
- 4 Hot Chilli Peppers, finely chopped (omit to reduce heat)
- 1 1/2 TBS Red Curry Paste
- 1 TBS Soy Sauce
- 1 tsp Fish Sauce
- Vegetable Oil
- 1 Red Onion, half julienned and half finely chopped
- 1 Sweet Green Pepper, julienned
- 1 medium Zucchini, finely sliced
- 8 oz Button Mushrooms, finely sliced
- 1 large head Bok Choy, or 6 baby Bok Choy
- 6 cups Vegetable Stock
- 1 can Coconut Milk, full fat
- 1/3 pack or more Vermicelli noodles
- 1/4 bunch Coriander, to garnish
- 1 Lime, sliced into thin wedges, to garnish
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1-2 TBS Brown Sugar, to taste (Optional)
DirectionsPrepare your aromatics: Peel and finely mince the Garlic and Ginger. Finely chop the Red Chilli Peppers and half of the Red Onion. Peel the outer layer of lemon grass away, discard the green tops and root, and smash with the back of a knife before finely chopping.
Prepare the vegetables by washing and finely slicing. If using a large head of Bok Choy, remove any woody parts of the white base, and slice into halves or thirds to make the leaves easier to eat. Alternatively, if using baby Bok Choy, simply slice in half.
In a large stock pot, add enough Vegetable Oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Cube the Tofu and add to the pan along with the finely chopped red onion. Cook until the Tofu becomes lightly golden before adding the rest of the aromatics: Ginger, Garlic, Lemongrass, Chilli Peppers, Curry paste, Soy and Fish sauces.
Cook aromatics for 2-3 minutes before adding the stock and coconut milk. If using Brown Sugar, add this now. Bring to a boil.
Add the Vermicelli noodles and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the vegetables and removing from heat. Alternatively, if you want your vegetables to be fully cooked, or only some to be fully cooked and others crisp, add at the same time as the noodles.
Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with whole coriander leaves and a wedge of lime.
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