The stunning complexity of Thai cuisine, studded at brief intervals with such jaw-droppingly simple dishes, makes it one of the world’s most popular cuisines. This dish is a riff on Gai Tom Kha, the popular chicken and coconut milk soup. There is no better recipe to define my obsession with the romance of food, internationalism, travel or, for that matter, good, solid cookery than this meal in a bowl. I make this dish almost every time I have guests in my house, and I hope you will too.
Andrew Zimmern's Spilled Milk is your go-to source for travel, food, and the intersection of the two. It’s also a labor of love, and I hope you consider becoming a paid subscriber.
For the noodles, when the soup is being made, I bring a pot of salted water to a boil. When I add the coconut milk to the soup, I cook my noodles and drain them well, dividing them into bowls as needed. I use whatever noodles I have on hand. I prefer medium-thick Korean or Chinese wheat noodles these days, but any good quality Asian noodle will do—even Japanese buckwheat noodles work nicely here. Very thin Japanese somen or Vietnamese rice stick noodles work less well, but I have used both successfully in a pinch. Play around and find one you like the most. Even Sun ramen noodles, which are getting wide distribution these days, are good.
For the red curry paste I like Mae Ploy brand if I am not making my own. I like Neera’s for tamarind paste and the Red Boat ‘first press’ fish sauce for cooking.
Hot and Sour Shrimp Noodle Soup
• 3 cups rich shrimp or shellfish stock (recipe below)
• 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
• 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tamarind concentrate. I like 2T if it’s a sweeter one, which guarantees me a nice tart/sweet finish.
• 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
• 1 stalk lemongrass, tender inner white part only, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
• 2 fresh or dried Makrut lime leaves or 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
• Two 14-ounce cans coconut milk, well-shaken
• ½-3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced
• 1 pound whole shrimp, 16 count per pound, heads/shells left on, deveined
• 1/4 cup fish sauce
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
• 2 red or green Thai chiles, very thinly sliced on the bias
• 1/2 cup packed cilantro sprigs/leaves
In a large pot, combine the stock with the sugar, curry paste, tamarind, ginger, lemongrass and lime leaves or zest and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Stir in the coconut milk and mushrooms and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes to allow coconut milk to thicken. Add the shrimp and fish sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the lime leaves. Stir in the lime juice and chiles. Ladle the soup into bowls, over the noodles, add the cilantro to the bowls and serve.
I save my shrimp shells, heads, lobster shells and heads etc until I have a gallon Ziploc stuffed to bursting in the freezer.
• 2T clarified butter
• Shrimp heads and shells (about a gallon)
• 2T tomato paste
• 1 carrot
• 2 leeks
• 3 celery ribs
• 1 onion
• Several sprigs of tarragon
• 2T sherry
• ½ cup white wine
Place the butter in a large pot over high heat.
When it foams, add the shells and tomato paste and stir frequently, turning down the heat as needed so you don’t burn the paste. You want it to caramelize. Add all the veg, chopped, and the tarragon and cook, stirring until all glassy. Add the sherry and wine, cook until almost evaporated and add 4 quarts water. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook at a slow simmer for 75 minutes. Turn off heat, let sit for 30 minutes and strain well.
Cool to room temperature, then utilize or freeze.
All the best,