Saturday, August 4, 2012

Shrimp & Lemongrass Soup

Last night my Mom volunteered to cook dinner.  Not that I am complaining, but we had clam chowder and Ritz crackers, and this morning I woke up to a puffy face from all the salt.  Today she handed the reins back to me, and after the market I opted for some something slightly cleansing yet perfect for a hot summer day when your appetite is on the light side. 

R has made this meal for me 100 times and I never tire of it.  The base recipe is from The Book of Thai Cooking by Hilaire Walden.  You can get that book on Alibris for about $1 and it has some really simple, authentic recipes, at least according to R as I have never been to Thailand!  Try this sometime for a simple meal or for a starter in a small portion.  The trick with Thai cooking is all in the prep.  Lots of chopping and prepping and the actual cooking times are very short in a hot wok or pan.

For my adaptation, I use a small finger of chopped fresh ginger, three stalks of fresh lemongrass, half a lime, and two small red chilis (one seeded, one not, sliced).  You will also need a pound of shrimp with shells on (heads on or off, I bought off), a tablespoon of oil (olive oil or vegetable oil), a tablespoon of fish sauce and a small bit of fresh greens (parsley, cilantro aka coriander, lemon balm or other) for garnish.

Prep your ingredients by slicing them finely like I have done here below and set them aside.  Be sure to strip the lemongrass stalks of two or more of the outside leaves and trim the base of the stalk.  It can be rather tough, so find the tender part of the stalk if you don’t have it fresh from your garden.


You can find Fish Sauce in any Asian grocery or sometimes in a well-stocked grocery.  It’s very inexpensive and made with anchovies.  It gives just a little bit of complexity to the flavor of your Thai dishes and yes, also, a dash of salt.  This is not the brand I usually buy, and need I mention, a bottle lasts for years, though I keep leaving the latest bottle as someone’s house and so buy new.  You might not read a word on the label, but you will see the words “Fish Sauce” somewhere on there~


The base recipe calls for fish stock, but I don’t add any.  Peel the raw shrimp, setting the shrimp meat aside and putting the shells in a fry pan. Fry the shells in a teaspoon of oil for a few minutes, then add two cups of water and turn the heat to simmer.  This makes the base of your broth, and I assume adds calcium or other nutritious goodness from the shrimp shells~


After 20 minutes, strain the shells and put the broth back in the fry pan.  Add the lemongrass, ginger and chilies to the pan, cook on high for two minutes.


Add the shrimp meat and cook on high until done (when it turns red), about 5 minutes or less.  Squeeze half a lime on top, and toss in the greens.  Today I used flat leaf parsley and lemon balm from the garden~


Serve immediately in the nicest bowls you can find; I use these Limoges bowls in France and Laguna, with a nice silver spoon~


Last night and early this morning I finished more of my Honey-Do list.  Clean the fridge as well as defrost the freezer  We aren’t sure why a Sub Zero froze up but hope it is fixed.  I am slowly adding the food back in; and the Parents are now forbidden from buying any frozen Costco food.  We mutually decided the freezer will only hold Rocky Road and Vanilla Ice Cream until further notice. Love to start with a clean fridge!


Side note; my garden gave me this gift this morning.  Talk about a one night show, it’s one of the few nights of the epiphyllum Orchid Cactus.  These 12” blooms last only one night and are done by the morning.  No wonder this one is called Queen of the Night~


It ranges up the honeysuckle about 30 feet high, and gets its water from a few roots which have migrated into the pond below.  There are multiple blooms in one night, but only a few nights of the show.  Then I have to wait until the following August~


You can see a few more blooms still waiting….and I also spy several more tiny 1” buds forming; maybe these will be ready to bloom in two weeks when my guests arrive; they would love this show~


Hope you will try the soup and let me know if you like it. Tomorrow I have an early rise to be in Rancho Santa Fe by 7am.  I get to be market manager for a day!


  1. The soup sounds wonderful. I will be giving it a try very soon! Such a beautiful bloom.


  2. oh my that soup sounds good! I'm going to try it... gotta get some lemongrass and ginger. I wish we had a farmer's market on Sunday... ours is only Sat... and I never totally have my act together Sat AM!

  3. Andrea the soup sounds delish! That is one of the most beautiful and exotic orchids I have ever seen! Enjoy party prepping!

    Isabella went home today so my little coach and helper isn't about to cheer me on! The rehab exercise is draining, (send me some energy!) I keep going though. Friends have been so wonderful ( bringing food, flowers, gifts) and I am so grateful! There are times in life we all need a bit of TLC.

    Art by Karena
    2012 Artist Series

  4. That looks totaly delicious!!!! LOVE the colours and I can almost taste it! :D


  5. Sweet Boy said to me, "Mom, does Miss Andrea know that my favorite thing in the world is shrimp?" I told him "She will now." :)

  6. After reading your post I ran out to check my epiphyllum but no buds :( Yours are beautiful!

    Another great Thai cookbook is "The Original Thai Cookbook" by Jennifer Brennan. I bought it about 25 years ago and, after all this time, it has a nice patina of splatters and scribbles in the margins. I bought it just after a friend returned from a tour with the Peace Corps and she said the recipes were quite authentic. She also introduced me to "Squid Brand" fish sauce, which has remained my favorite after all these years.

    Ah...the satisfaction of a clean fridge and freezer!