Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Tom Yom Shrimp and Noodle Soup
Something that's always disappointed me about DC has been the lack of ethnic culture in the city. Sure, we have some really great restaurants, but where am I supposed to get my chopped liver? Where can I get a hot stone bi bim bop? And, maybe I'm just from Boston and have always been spoiled, but I've yet to have a really good (and not overpriced) Italian meal - with homemade pasta, fresh seafood, and way over-sized portions.
After being here for a while, I found that there is one ethnic fix that I can't get in the District - but exists just a short drive away (when someone's willing to take me). Fantastic, authentic (I don't mean orange flavored chicken) Chinese food. "Chinatown" in DC is a hoax - it mostly has a bunch of chain stores and restaurants (like Legal Seafood and Clyde's) with their names in Chinese. The real Chinatown exists just north of the District in southern Maryland.
This weekend, the Monkey Scientist and I took a trip up to Wheaton, MD. We had some really good dim sum at Hollywood East and then made a trip to the H Mart there. I have to admit, not the best H Mart I've ever been to, but I found nearly everything I needed for several dishes - including this Tom Yom soup. Tom Yom is one of my favorite soups - Paragon Thai and Spices in Cleveland Park make delicious versions. I've been wanting to try making my own for a few months now, so I got all of the ingredients I could at H Mart to make it this week!
My Tom Yom Soup broth wasn't as dark or red as the versions I've eaten in restaurants. I think that this color may come from using dried chilis and frying them with the shallots at the beginning - I'd like to try making this again to see if that works. The flavor however, was really close - I was actually surprised! And man oh man is this broth good - sweet, sour, a little bit spicy, and the lemongrass is so unique and brings great depth of flavor.
I decided to add rice noodles to give this soup a little more substance so that we could have it as dinner - Paragon Thai has a version similar to this that they serve as a meal - but if you wanted to serve this as an appetizer you could leave them out. I also changed the recipe below to use about half as many noodles as I actually used, since they soaked up almost all of the broth, and the broth really is the best part.
You could also add more vegetables at the end if you wanted, but I like the simplicity of this soup with such a complex broth. Other things that may make sense to add would be chicken and green onions (my store has been out of green onions for a while). My final review? This a really great soup that will impress your family and friends. Take a trip to your local Asian market and make this - you won't regret it!
Tom Yom Shrimp and Noodle Soup
Adapted from Wandering Chopsticks and Tyler Florence
1 lb shrimp with shells and heads
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch knob galangal or ginger, minced
2 quarts fish stock (water or chicken stock would work, too)
2 tsp tamarind paste (optional, but add umami)
2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar (white or brown)
1 tbsp fish sauce
3 small Vietnamese red chili peppers, diced (more if you like it hot)
2 limes, zested and juiced
4 oz small-width rice stick noodles
1 15-oz can straw mushrooms, drained
1. Peel and de-vein shrimp. Set aside both shrimp and the shells in separate bowls.
2. In a heavy pot over medium heat, heat oil. Once hot, add shallots, garlic, and galangal or ginger. Sauté until edges begin turning brown.
3. Add shrimp heads and sauté until pink. Add stock.
4. Mix in tamarind paste, lemongrass, salt, sugar, fish sauce, chili peppers, lime juice and zest. Simmer 1/2 hour.
5. Meanwhile, soak noodles in warm water for 5-10 minutes. Strain.
6. Strain out all of the ingredients from the soup to get a clean broth. Return to a simmer/gentle boil then add shrimp, noodles, and mushrooms. Cook for 5-8 minutes until noodles are soft and shrimp is cooked through. Serve immediately.