Hot & Sour Soup for the Ailing Home Cook

Tom Kha Talay

Whenever I get a cold, I crave Tom Kha, Thai hot and sour coconut soup. Recently, I was quite miserable with a scratchy throat, headache, and mild fever. Everyone around me says it’s die-off. Whatever, I felt lousy. Gargling with warm salt water and breathing steam helped some, but mostly, I just wanted my comfort soup.

The last time I had a cold like this, I couldn’t drag myself to the store to get the ingredients essential to this soup: lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal root. At the time, my husband was working long hours far from home, so I couldn’t ask him to pick up some take-out soup for me. I finally rallied enough to pick up take out myself, but was determined that next time I had a cold, I’d be prepared. When I felt better, I went to the Lily Market, a nearby Thai market that I’ve shopped at for a decade, and picked up the essentials. I spoke with the owner, who years ago took me around the store, showing me all I needed to make a good hot and sour soup, about my emergency soup plan. He agreed that freezing the essentials would be fine and let me know that I could also get dried galangal root.

He then proceeded to give me a short Thai language lesson. Tom means soup. Tom Kha means coconut soup. Tom Yum is hot and sour soup. Tom Kha Koong is coconut soup with shrimp. Moo = pork. Gai = chicken. Koong = shrimp. Talay = mixed seafood. Nuekua = beef.

When I got home, I put my essential soup ingredients in a freezer bag and stowed them away. I also picked up some bagged frozen wild-caught seafood mix and ordered a case of coconut milk from Azure  Standard. I was all set for my next cold.

Clockwise from upper left: mature and young galangal, baby bok chok, whole and chopped lemongrass, kaffir limes leaves, cilantro

What are those essentials? Kaffir lime leaves come from a lime tree that produces small limes with bumpy rinds. The rind and leaves are used in Indonesian, Thai, Laotian, Cambodian, and Phillipine cuisines. The leaves give the soup some of its sour flavor. Lemongrass is a fibrous stalk that also provide a lemony tang to the soup. Galangal is related to ginger and has a similar aroma, though with an added note of cedar and it does not have as peppery a flavor. Because of their fibrous nature, these ingredients are not usually consumed, but add to broth to flavor it. You can remove them before serving or just let those you are serving know not to eat them. Because they could be quite irritating to the gut, GAPSters might consider putting these in a loose bag made of cheese cloth, to fish out before serving.

I won’t claim that my Tom Kha is completely authentic. This is an emergency version that delivers the soothing, sinus-clearing hot-sour combo without a lot of fuss, for the ailing home cook or perhaps a partner who doesn’t do that much cooking. To be prepared for to make this soup whenever a cold strikes, keep on hand

  • galangal root, lemongrass, kaffir leaves, peas or mix vegetables, and bagged mix seafood or shrimp in the freezer;
  • dried mushrooms, fish or chicken stock, chili flakes, crispy peanuts, and coconut milk in the pantry;
  • ginger, lime juice and fish sauce in the fridge;
  • onions and garlic in storage.

Wild Caught Seafood Mix includes octopus, squid, pink shrimp, and mussels

Of course, if you happen to have the frozen or canned items fresh, that’s great, but this is for those times when you don’t and you’re feeling too lousy to go shopping. The soup pictured above has bok choy, for example, because I made it again this week, after I started feeling well enough to go shopping.

A note about fish sauce: I looked at over a dozen brands and the only one that did not list sugar as an ingredient was Gouramy Fish Brand.

Emergency Tom Kah Soup
Serves 4-6

1/2 cup dry mushrooms (shitake is what I used) or 1 cup of fresh
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 onion, sliced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons galangal root, sliced 1/8-inch thick
3 stalk lemongrass, outer leaves removed, sliced into inch-long pieces, and lightly crushed
4-5 kaffir lime leaves
1 quart fish or chicken stock
1 can 15-ounce can coconut milk
2-4 tablespoons lime juice
a pinch or more chile flakes (my kids don’t tolerate much heat, so I just start with a pinch and add chile sauce to my bowl)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 pound of mixed seafood or shrimp, fresh or frozen
1 cup frozen peas or a couple baby bok choy, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced

If you are using dried mushrooms, rehydrate them in a bowlful of boiling water. Save the liquid–you can add it to the soup or save it for another soup later. If you are using fresh mushroom, quarter them and put in a saucepan with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Melt coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until softened. Add the ginger and cook another minute, then add galangal, lemongrass, limes leaves and stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, lime juice, chile flakes, and fish sauce. Gently simmer for a minute or two to allow flavors develop, then taste. Is it sour enough? Hot enough? Salty enough? Adjust seasoning as needed. Turn the heat up to medium-high again, add the seafood and simmer until the shrimp are opaque. Add the garlic, frozen vegetables and mushrooms and cook just until the vegetables are warmed through. Serve with crispy peanuts, fresh limes, sliced fresh chiles, and cilantro if you have those on hand. Otherwise, just slurp up that hot-sour goodness and feel better soon.


Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Chicken and Olives

I’ve been obsessing for a week or so about these red crackers over at Nourished and Nurtured. Finally got some red bell peppers and roasted them this morning, but I decided to add some cheese and bake them rather than dehydrate them. Well, the crackers need a little more work. Actually, they might have been really good, but next time I need to not run outside to chat with a friend who unexpectedly shows up across the street, looking at the house for sale. The crackers were a little over cooked.

With plenty of roasted and pureed red bell peppers left, I knew I had something good for dinner, but it took a while for inspiration to strike. Finally did, right before dinner, which was going to be quiche, but we had leftover chicken and gravy from the Chicken Paprika I made last week and the thought occurred to me that the puree + gravy + chicken would be a good soup. So, go make Chicken Paprika and then come back here and make some soup, okay?

Anyway, once again, leftovers save me from working too hard and once again, Luc whined about the soup, then tried it and loved it.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Chicken and Olives
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons ghee or schmaltz
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1-2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2-3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 quart gravy leftover from Chicken Paprika
1 chicken breast and 1 thigh leftover from Chicken Paprika
1-1/2 cups roasted red pepper puree
2-3 garlic cloves, fine minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 or so slice black olives

In a heavy-bottomed large sauce pan, melt fat over medium-high heat. Saute onion, carrots, and celery for about 10 minutes, until the onions are beginning to soft. Add gravy, bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft. Remove pan from heat and puree the vegetables with an immersion blender. Add chicken, roasted red pepper puree, minced garlic, salt, pepper, and black olives. Reheat if necessary. Serve with sauerkraut.

Hunger Is the Mother of Invention

Soup is Good Food...

Today I took the kids to OMSI for homeschool science club, which starts at noon at runs for an hour. Usually, Mike takes them and I had planned to stay home and put something together for lunch, but he got a call about a job opening right when it was time to go, so I got the honors.

Though I hadn’t eaten anything since 8am or so, I wasn’t at all hungry when we arrived. I even remarked to another mom, who has done GAPS for a couple years now, that one thing I like about the protocol is that I wasn’t worried about being out and not having brought a snack. My hearty breakfast and fattened broth would tide me over.

After class, we hung out for another 45 minutes or so, ’til the kids started asking about food and I began noticing a low blood sugar headache coming on. Driving home, I was a bit panicked. There was no leftover soup in the house or defrosted meat of any kind. There was almost a quart of Bolognese sauce leftover from the double batch I made Saturday and plenty of raw veggies around…

Pondering, pondering. I needed something meaty and brothy and I needed it fast. By the time we got home, I had it all figured out. This recipe demonstrates how doing ahead–stocking up on vegetables that keep well, making big batches of versatile basics, preparing stock, fermenting vegetables and dairy–can save you when you haven’t planned ahead.

Almost-Instant Vegetable Beef Soup
Serves four

tallow or ghee
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
dash of Old Bay seasoning
4-5 kale leaves, de-spined and chopped
1 quart beef broth (pressure canned and ready to use…no thawing!)
2-3 cups meaty leftover Bolognese
creme fraiche or kefir’ed cream

Melt fat over medium-high heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Saute carrot, celery and Old Bay for about 5 minutes. Add kale, beef broth, and Bolognese to pan, bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 more minutes or until you feel faint from low blood sugar. Ladle into bowl and add a forkful of kraut and a dollop of cream. EAT!

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Hella Delicious: Grain-Free Tuesdays

Gingered Carrot Soup with Shrimp

The kimchi added a lot of kick to this soup!

4 tablespoons or more coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
1-1/2 pounds carrots, sliced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
1 quart chicken broth, fish broth, or dashi
1 pound frozen shrimp
salt and white pepper

Melt coconut oil in a stock pot over medium-high heat. Saute onion for 5 minutes, then add carrots, ginger, and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes or until carrots are soft enough to puree. Remove soup from heat the puree with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. Return soup to heat and add shrimp. Simmer until shrimp is warmed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with kimchi or a dollop of yogurt.

Onion Soup with Sirloin

I cooked two large steaks and added the most cooked bits to the soup and saved the rare bits for the kids to enjoy. The bones went into the stock pot for more broth.

1-2 sirloin steaks
3 large onions, sliced
2 tablespoons or more tallow
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 quart beef broth
salt and pepper

Preheat broiler to high and set a rack 4″ from the burner. Sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of the steak(s) and place them on to rack of a broiling  Set under the broiler and cook for four minutes, turn steaks over and cook for another four minutes. Remove from oven and let rest.

Melt tallow in large saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute onions until browned and completely softened. Meanwhile, cut the steak(s) into bite-size pieces.

Add the garlic and saute for another minute, then add wine, bay leaf, thyme, and broth. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Add meat to the soup and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Serve with dollop of yogurt, crème fraîche or sauerkraut.

Pork Loin and Bok Choy in Duck Broth

My husband went to Carlton Farms last week and came home with a lot of pork, so here’s another pork recipe. We also happened to have a little bit of duck breast prosciuotto left over and I added that to the pot as well.

2-3 pound pork loin
salt, pepper
2 tablepoons duck fat or ghee
2 tablespoons shallot, minced
1 tablespoon (or more!) minced ginger
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart duck broth
2 cups apple cider
3-4 stalks bok choy, ribs and leaves chopped in 1″ widths

Preheat oven to 400F. Rubbed pork loin with salt and pepper and place in a roast pan. Cook for 45-60 minutes, until thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 155°F. Remove from oven. At this point, you can cool and refrigerate the loin to use later. When you are ready to make the soup, cut the pork loin into bite-size strips.

Melt cooking fat over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add shallots and saute until golden. With the duck broth nearby and ready to pour, add the garlic and ginger to the pan. Saute briefly, just a minute or so, then add a cup or so of broth and scrape up any bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the broth, the apple cider, bok choy ribs and pork loin and bring the pot to a simmer. Cook until the bok choy is tender, then add the leaves and simmer for five more minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Keep in mind that if you will be adding kimchi juice to the soup, it will not need as much salt.

Serve with kimchi or just kimchi juice and add one raw egg yolk to each bowl.

Celery Root & Green Apple Soup with Pork Sausage

Luc loves his “sausage soup”

I had an immense piece of celeriac, I’m guessing it was about 4 pounds…almost as big as my 5-year-old’s head. This made a half-gallon of very thick pureed soup, which I thinned when serving with more chicken stock and kraut juice.

2 pounds pork sausage
2 teaspoons rubbed sage or 3-4 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons (at least!) cooking fat: duck fat, schmaltz, ghee…
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 celery root, peeled and chopped
2-3 green apples, peeled and chopped
1 quart (or more) chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the sausage, sage, thyme, teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper by hand or in a mixer until the ingredients are thoroughly combine. In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, cook the meat over medium-high heat until just browned. Remove and set aside.

Add cooking fat to pan. Saute onions until soft, add celery root and apples and cook briefly. Add enough chicken stock to cover the vegetables. If you don’t have enough stock, add water. Bring to simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Puree soup with an immersion blender or allow to cool and puree in batches in a blender. Add pork to soup, return to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that if you are going to add kraut juice that this will make it saltier.


Chris Musser © 2011