one of my favorite dishes in the entire recorded history of humanity—and probably in all the un-recorded bits that came before that—is tom yum soup. if the planet was about to explode and they could only find room on the escape-rocket for five dishes from around the world to be taken to humanity's new home, i would suggest that three of those dishes should be tom yum.
there would be a bowl each of the "regular" chicken and shrimp varieties, plus a third bowl of tom yum infused with the rich, creamy goodness of coconut milk. the chickens and shrimps can fight between themselves to decide who gets to travel inside that last bowl. exactly.
however, as much as i love the stuff, and as much as we enjoy cooking new things, we always drew a big red circle around that one. tom yum soup, Chinese barbecue, and Peking duck were the dishes that i always... always... left to the experts. that was, until we found ourselves with all of the necessary ingredients close at hand.
we had already made a few rounds of bbq pork, and i was/am still not quite ready to tackle Peking duck (though i did give it a try once, some years ago), so we decided to move on to tom yum as the next dish on which to focus our attention.
no exaggeration... we had tom yum soup probably once a week through most of the Spring, until Summer arrived, and it was too hot for large bowls of soup. once we get back to Autumn, i can guarantee you this will return as a regular feature on our dinner table.
this dish relies on what is called the "Thai holy trinity"... that being, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal.
lemongrass is a pretty standard feature at most large supermarkets these days, but the other two were harder to find. turns out we did not have far to look.
galangal looks very ginger-like, but that is where the comparison ends.
best part of making this meal is... it is ALL him. well, mostly him. he does the whole thing every single time. the only part i am allowed to help with is the chopping up of the veggies, and that is only because my brand of OCD requires some measure of uniformity in such things.
i chop in two stages. first come the veggies that get used in the making of the base soup...
then i move on to the bits that will be added at the very end, or added to the bowl after serving.
i usually get banned from the kitchen once that part is done. i am okay with that arrangement.
when it is time to eat, rice noodles go into the bottom of each bowl.
i love coconut milk in most things, so i usually add a healthy glug at this point.
next comes the "soup", with all those lovely mushroom bits over the top.
and finally, a topping of fresh cilantro and a wedge of lime to squeeze over the whole thing before eating.
seriously... who does not want a bowl of this stuff?
it is so good. trust me.
his most ambitious combo thus far was shrimp and crab. no words.