In Thailand, pumpkin and coconut milk are commonly paired up to make a variety of both savory and sweet entrées. In this recipe, the two come together beautifully in a lightly-curried soup that tastes as delicious as those you may have tried at your favorite Thai restaurant. A variety of protein sources can be used with this soup, including tofu, deep-fried tofu, shrimp, or chickpeas. It makes a perfect meal on a chilly night but is also wonderful to serve as an appetizer for a dinner party.
Try not to be intimidated by the ingredient list. There are good substitutions for a number of the specialty ingredients.
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemongrass (minced)
- 3 leaves makrut lime (left whole)
- 1 shallot (minced)
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 thumb-size piece galangal (grated or sliced thinly into matchsticks)
- 1 fresh red chile pepper (sliced)
- 3 cups pumpkin (peeled, cut into bite-size chunks)
- 2 cups yam (peeled, cut into chunks)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon shrimp paste
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons lime juice (fresh-squeezed)
- 1/3 to 1/2 (13.5-ounce) can thick coconut milk
- 1 to 2 cups soft tofu (cubed)
- 1 large handful baby spinach (washed)
- Garnish: sprig fresh basil
- Garnish: sprig fresh cilantro
- For Serving: cooked rice
Gather the ingredients.
In a large pot over high heat, add the chicken stock.
Add the lemongrass (plus leftover stalk if using fresh lemongrass), the makrut lime leaves, shallot, garlic, galangal, and chile pepper. Bring to a boil.
Add the pumpkin and yam. Reduce heat slightly and gently boil for 6 to 7 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, add the spices and flavorings, stirring with each addition: turmeric, ground coriander and cumin, fish sauce, shrimp paste, brown sugar, and lime juice.
When the pumpkin and yam are soft enough to eat, reduce the heat to low. Stir in the coconut milk; start with 1/3 can and increase to 1/2 can, depending on how creamy you want the soup. Stir well, taste-test, and adjust the salt and spice to your preference.
Just before serving, add the soft tofu and spinach and gently stir it into the soup (the spinach will wilt instantly).
Portion out into bowls and top with fresh basil and cilantro. This soup is usually served with rice on the side, but it could also be served with noodles. Serve and enjoy!
How to Adjust the Soup's Flavor
When taste-testing the soup, you can use certain ingredients to adjust the flavor to your liking:
- Add more fish sauce if it's not salty or flavorful enough (this will depend on the saltiness of your stock).
- Add more lime juice if it's too salty or sweet.
- Add a little more brown sugar if it's too sour.
- Add a bit more chile pepper to make it spicier.
- Add coconut milk if it's too spicy.
- For a more gourmet-style soup put the finished soup in blender and blitz before serving. This makes for a creamy-wonderful soup.
- Don't be tempted to omit the fish sauce and shrimp paste—they may have a pungent aroma but they make for wonderfully-flavored soup!
Use Caution When Blending Hot Ingredients
Steam expands quickly in a blender and can cause ingredients to splatter everywhere or cause burns. To prevent this, fill the blender only one-third of the way up, vent the top, and cover with a folded kitchen towel while blending.
- No fresh lemongrass? Prepared lemongrass can also be found bottled or frozen and you can use the same amount.
- In place of the makrut lime leaves, add 1 teaspoon lime zest.
- Use 1/4 cup minced purple onion if you don't have a shallot.
- Ginger is an excellent substitute for galangal and is rather easy to find in the average grocery store.
- Instead of red chile pepper, use 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed chile pepper or 1 to 2 teaspoons chili sauce.
- Squash can be used in place of pumpkin and sweet potato is a good substitute for the yam.
- If you don't have shrimp paste, add an extra tablespoon of fish sauce.
- Replace the tofu with chickpeas or cooked shrimp.