Tom Yum Noodle Soup

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So my dear friends A and P are moving back to Australia. It’s a real toughie for them – A’s from England, and P’s from Oz, and every six years or so, they find themselves moving from one side of the world to the other. They start all over again from scratch, get new jobs, a flat, a routine, then a few years down the line have to start from zero again on the other side of the world. You have to be hardcore to do that kind of thing, which I’m not – I get desperately homesick if I’m away for longer than two weeks. I actually longed for drizzle and a wintry chill when I’d once travelled to SE Asia, bamboozled by the endless heat.  But A and P are made of sterner stuff.

These past two months have seen A and P sorting through all their belongings from their London flat and deciding what has to be shipped over to Melbourne, and what has to be ditched. P has met all kinds of people who wanted the random stuff she was donating on Freecycle, and it’s amazing what she’s unearthed in the flat when packing up – for example a bag of 30 cigarette lighters or a sack of reels of unused electrical tape. One woman actually drove across London with all her kids stuffed in the back of the car, and her newborn baby strapped to her, to pick up a bag of P’s unwanted shampoos. Imagine doing that, for shampoo!  I think A and P’s most surreal moment this week was when they took their ailing car to the wrecker’s yard and got handed an envelope of grubby notes for their vehicle from a gruff old lady poking her head out of a caravan window. No questions were asked, and their car was a crushed to a cube just minutes later.

Anyway, this Thai tom yum soup recipe is dedicated to A  and P – hopefully they’ll soon be enjoying all the food bounties of SE Asia in their new Melbourne address. The produce they’ll be able to buy in Oz will be out of this world. Lucky buggers! They’ll obviously be missed A LOT, but I’m confident that P will still be the top commenter on this blog for years to come! (no pressure there).

This is a recipe adapted from one I learned at the Smokin’ Pot cookery school in Cambodia. It’s fresh, zingy and will make you feel a little better if you’ve got one of those minging winter colds. It’s really easy to make, so don’t be put off by the long-ish list of ingredients. Also, my version is not that authentic in that you don’t usually add noodles, but if you’re hungry and need something filling, it’s a great way to turn this dish into a main course.

Asian soul in a bowl:

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Serves 4 as a starter, 2 hungry people as a main

You will need:

1 packet of prawns (try to buy MSC-certified ones, as others are bred in filthy conditions)
3 lemongrass sticks, dry ends removed, outer skin discarded, chopped into 2 inch lengths
6 Kaffir lime leaves, central leaf vein removed and leaves thinly shredded
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 large thumb fresh ginger, skin removed, sliced into thick coins
1 medium onion or 4 shallots, thinly sliced
2-4 fresh chillies (depending how hot you like it), sliced into small rounds
Large handful fresh coriander, chopped
Handful fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red pepper diced (optional)
4-6 mushrooms, quartered
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons fish sauce (Squid brand is a good one)
4 cups fresh chicken stock (if you have it, or buy a good quality fresh one – a stock cube won’t really cut it for this recipe)
Rice noodles, cooked separately and set aside

Get all your ingredients prepped, then you can just chuck everything together in the following order. In a wok or large casserole dish, bring your stock to the boil (if you have any prawn heads and shells, throw them in and then remove once the the stock has come to the boil). Then add the onions, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and bring back to the boil. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and pepper (if using) and bring back to the boil again. Then add the chillies and fish sauce, followed by the lime leaves. Cover and cook gently for a couple of minutes, then add the prawns and cooked noodles and cook for one minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the lime juice and freshly chopped coriander.

This recipe is also delicious using chicken, beef, tofu, mixed seafood or pork. Just add them after you’ve put in the ginger and lemongrass.

Bon voyage A and P! xx

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