Monday, March 9, 2009

Tom Kha revisited

When I was in college, I had a crush on the waiter at a Thai restaurant. I ate there constantly, subsisting for weeks on a diet of yellow curry, pad see ew, and fried bananas. Sometimes, I would bribe friends to go with me, so as to appear legitimate. I didn't want it to seem like I was eating there solely for flirtation purposes, but of course, I was. The point was not the food, or the ambiance. The point was covert eye movements, watching the object of my affections like a hawk, and angling for scraps of charged conversation.

I would make those meals last a long time. I ate magnificently slowly, carefully twirling my noodles, sneaking furtive glimpses. Every mouthful was thoughtfully chewed, every sip of soup was duly savored. Every meal began with a steaming hot bowl of Tom Kha, a citrusy coconut milk soup spiked with chili peppers.

In the end, my lingering noodle twirling and furtive eye movements were for naught. He moved away. What's stayed with me, however, is the heart-racing memories of college crushes, a distaste for fried bananas, and an enduring love of Tom Kha.

In this recipe, I scaled down the liquid and added a bunch of vegetables and some tofu, to make it more of a meal. If you wish, you could substitute chicken or shrimp for the tofu.

Tom Kha with Tofu and Vegetables

1 14-oz can reduced fat coconut milk
1 cup vegetable broth
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one lime
1 1-1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced

8 oz extra firm tofu, crumbled or finely cubed
1 cup fresh or frozen bell pepper strips
1 cup fresh or frozen broccoli florets
1 cup sliced zucchini
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar

Rice or noodles of your choice; I used soba.

Combine coconut milk, stock, ginger, and citrus zest in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer ten minutes with the cover on. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil. Lower the heat, and simmer another ten minutes. Serve over rice or pasta.


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