Sunday, December 9, 2012

Shrimp, Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

We made chicken pho last weekend (which I will post about later this week - I promise) and we ended up with a ton of really good leftover Asian chicken stock.  The only logical thing to do when you have 8 cups of leftover homemade chicken stock (and you already have some homemade chicken stock in the freezer) is to go on a soup-making extravaganza.  And given the cool temperatures and rainy weather outside, soup was the ideal meal.  Last night we made this shrimp, pumpkin and coconut soup.  We had a cheese pumpkin and some Thai basil hanging around the apartment that I wanted to use so I started thinking pumpkin soup.  And then I started thinking pumpkin and coconut soup because they work brilliantly together and are fairly common in some Asian cuisines.  So I started paging through our Thai cookbook and stumbled pretty quickly on a recipe for a pumpkin coconut soup (which I have renamed Shrimp, Pumpkin and Coconut soup since it has shrimp in it too).  We adapted it a bit to work with what we had in the apartment and then went for it.  

I thought that the soup was a success in a lot of ways.  It was tasty and fairly easy.  And the flavors were pretty complex.  I think some of the complexity was due to the homemade stock, but some of it was due to the spice paste and the other ingredients.  The soup had a lot of intense flavors without tasting fishy - and given that it had dried shrimp, fish sauce and shrimp in it (and given the smells that filtered out into the hallway as the soup simmered) I was worried it would taste a little fishier.  But the sweetness of the pumpkin, coconut milk and the coconut sugar and the heat of the jalapeno and the Thai chili really balanced it out.  After tasting the soup we decided to add a little squeeze of lime juice at the end and the acid really brought it all together.  Yum.  Hurray for soup.

Recipe after the jump!

Shrimp, Pumpkin and Coconut Soup
Adapted from The Food and Cooking of Thailand
By Judy Bastyra and Becky Johnson
1/2 of a 2-3 lb cheese pumpkin (or a whole small kabocha squash)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 shallots, finely choped
1/2 tsp shrimp paste
1 lemongrass stalk, trimmed and roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded
1 tbsp dried shrimp, soaked for 10 minutes in warm water to soften
3 cups chicken stock
14 oz. can coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp coconut sugar
4 oz small cooked shelled shrimp
1 lime, cut into wedges (for garnish)
1 Thai chili, thinly sliced (for garnish)
10-12 Thai basil leaves (for garnish)

Peel the pumpkin and cut in half.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard.  Cut the pumpkin into 1-inch chunks and set aside.

Put the garlic, shallots, shrimp paste, lemongrass, chili and salt in a mini food processor.  Drain the liquid from the from the dried shrimp and discard.  Add rehydrated shrimp to the mini food processor.  Grind the mixture into a paste.

Heat a large pot over medium heat.  Add vegetable oil.  Once the oil is warm, add spice paste to the pot.  Toast the spice paste until aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, stirring until the spice paste has dissolved.  Add the pumpkin chunks and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 15 minutes.  Stir in coconut milk.  Once the soup returns to a simmer, season with fish sauce, coconut sugar and ground black pepper to taste. 

Add cooked shrimp and continue simmering until shrimp are heated through, about 1-2 minutes.  Serve soup with lime wedges, Thai chili and basil.

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