Spicy coconut soup with red curry paste

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coconut-soup-1coconut-soup-2It was so cold this morning that it hurt to breathe through my nose. I would have cursed the day I got a dog except that she was so happy running around the frozen meadow that it gave me the strength to endure the cold after all.

This is the kind of weather that requires a very hot bath, very hot tea, and very hot, spicy soup.

Ingredients for a big pot of soup
Serves 4-6
vegetable oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste* (or more if you like it spicier)
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1 palm-sized bit of dried kelp or kombu (optional)
1-2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 can coconut cream or coconut milk (use less water, if using milk instead of cream)
1 – 2 tsp palm sugar
Combination of sliced/chopped vegetables, such as 1 cup mushrooms, 2 cups dark leafy greens of choice (kale, spinach, dandelion, chard, etc) 1 cup bell peppers, 1/2 cup baby corn
1 cup firm tofu
Large handful of cilantro/coriander
lime
green onion or chives
Serve with glistening rice noodles, fat chewy udon or sticky jasmine rice

*I used homemade vegan kaeng kua red curry paste. Recipe coming soon!! In the meantime, this is the High-Heel Gourmet’s excellent post about homemade red curry paste.

1) For a bit of extra flavor, bring vegetable stock to a boil and add in the kelp/kombu. Simmer for ten minutes then remove kelp.
2) Heat up a large soup pot with 2-3 tbsp of oil, enough to coat the bottom. Then add the curry paste (recipe for vegan kaeng kua red curry paste coming soon) and fry the paste until cooked and fragrant. Do not burn!!
3) Add in half the can of coconut cream or the thick part of the coconut milk first. Stir and cook until the oil starts to separate in the pan. At this point, add in the remaining coconut cream/milk, and the vegetable stock. Then add in palm sugar and a splash of soy sauce. Only use light soy sauce as a darker soy sauce will affect the color of the soup.
4) Once at boiling point, turn heat to low and simmer while preparing vegetables.
5) Wash and slice mushrooms and peppers. Wash and chop the greens to desired size (I used dandelion greens and they were delicious. The bitter flavor cooked out of them by the time I ate the soup). Cut the tofu into bite-size cubes. (I used slices of tofu sheets in my soup as that is all I had).
6) Add the vegetables and tofu into the soup broth and simmer till cooked, about 10 or 15 minutes.
7) Cook noodles or rice according to packet and set aside for serving.
8) When ready to eat the soup, add the chopped spring onion, chopped fresh cilantro/coriander and a squeeze of lime juice at the end. This is a key ingredient to freshen the soup with the cilantro and lime and also add the vital sour note from the fresh lime juice.
9) Taste the soup and adjust seasoning if needed.
10) Garnish soup with extra cilantro and lime. Serve with noodles or rice.

Mapa dubu noodles

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Mapa dubu is a korean take on the famous chinese dish mapo tofu. It uses staples from a korean cupboard — doenjang (fermented bean paste like miso), gochujang (sweet tangy chili paste), gochugaru (chili flakes) — instead of szechuan peppercorns, fermented black beans and doubanjiang (chili bean paste). It’s also just a teensy bit easier to put together, I think, than mapo tofu and just as tasty, but in a totally yummy korean way. If you’ve never had it before, this will taste spicy, tangy, rich and just a little sweet.

Don’t worry boys and girls–My veganized version of chinese mapo tofu is coming soon!

So I planned on making some mapa dubu today. I love love love spicy food. But once I got started I wasn’t feeling the rice making. Sure it’s easy to make rice but I don’t know, I just wasn’t in the mood for rinsing, rinsing, rinsing–SNORE–today… I thought I would try it with some ramen.

You can do this two ways: With a lot of broth to make a ramen soup dish, or with hardly any broth to make a drier noodle dish. I opted for the soup, but simply leave out most of the vegetable stock to make straight up noodle dish.

Ingredients
Makes 2 large bowls of ramen
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon gochugaru, 고추가루, Korean red chili pepper flakes
2 tablespoons light soy sauce (I recommend Korean SHIN style for soups)
1 tablespoon doenjang, 된장, Korean fermented soybean paste
1/2 tablespoon gochujang, 고추장, Korean red chili pepper paste
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch (mixed with 2 tablespoons water)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1-2 cups mushrooms, chopped
1/2 white onion chopped
1/2 red pepper, green pepper, carrot chopped (optional)
2-3 green onions sliced for garnish
1 package soft tofu
2 portions dried ramen noodles (or noodles of your choice)
1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetable broth

1) Heat up 2 tbs vegetable or light sesame oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan. (I like to mix the two). Add in the white onion, mushroom, garlic, ginger, and other vegetables if using. Add a turn or two of salt and stir fry on medium to medium low heat till cooked down.
2) Gently strain the block of soft tofu and then gently cut it into square pieces. One of the tricks with mapo tofu is keeping the soft tofu in nice square pieces without it crumbling. I have read that you can fill a bowl with salted warm water and soak the tofu for a minute and this helps it stay together. When cut, set the tofu aside and go back to the sauce.
3) Add in the gochugaru, gochujang and doenjang and stir fry another minute. Then add the vegetable broth, sugar, soy sauce and corn starch. Cook on medium to medium low heat for about 5 minutes.
4) Carefully add in the soft tofu pieces. Stir gently to combine and cook in the soup so that the fragile tofu doesn’t break apart too much.
5) Par boil the ramen noodles in a bit of salted water and then finish cooking in the mapa dubu broth with the tofu.
6) Portion into two bowls (or more if you want smaller portions) and top with green onion or scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil.

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