It’s Foodie Tuesday!
As the weather gets cooler, don’t we crave more the warmth of hot hearty soups? Let’s venture into exotic territory with these Asian classics. One thing these have in common is that they pack a punch in terms of flavor. They’re not the soothing, comfortable types — they’re passionate and intense, fragrant and fiery, rich and spicy. They make quite a food trip.
Another thing they have in common is that they’re very complicated to make, if you’re making them from scratch, because they either involve a lot of ingredients or a whole lot of steps. The good news is you can buy packets that can give you the real thing with very little time and effort.
It’s a classic Thai soup with fierce hot and sour flavors that make me perspire just thinking about it. It’s smells heavenly — with a light freshness from kaffir lime leaves and cilantro, and the heady earthiness from the shitakes and whatever protein, usually seafood, that is in it.
This one’s a well-loved staple in Singapore and Malaysia. There are many different variations on this noodle soup, but my favorite is the coconut milk based curry laksa. The soup itself is rich, thick, and creamy. It’s spicy and has a riot of flavors from different spices in it. There’s also a salty and seafood-y base flavor from prawns. Here’s a recipe if you want to make it from scratch, or get it from a Prima Taste box.
Sinigang is basically a sour soup, and its variations are derived from the different sources of the sour component. My favorite is the tamarind-based soup, and though we had a tamarind tree in our backyard, I never saw my mom make sinigang old school — by cooking the tamarind to a pulp and straining the liquid through as sieve. The soup mixes are really quite excellent, and I grew up with this one made by Knorr, and available at the Filipino Store. But if you want to make it from scratch, here’s a recipe. You can also try this sinigang from the Kitchn. The soup is made with either prawns, milkfish, pork, or beef, and a selection of vegetables — string beans, water spinach, radish, chilies, and taro.
Bak Kut Teh
It is basically a slow cooked pork bone soup. Literally, its name means, “meat bone tea”. There’s no tea in it though, but it is flavored with numerous spices such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and fennel — all wrapped in muslin that stays in the pot for the entire cooking process, and fished out just before serving. The tricky part in this is gathering the correct blend of spices, so using a store-bought ready-made bak kut teh spice bag is definitely a good way to go, and you can get it from Prima Taste. But if you want to conquer this particular mountain, here’s an excellent recipe for making it from scratch.