I get it: the snow is falling, the wind is blowing, the streets are slippery. You can’t be bothered to leave the warmth of hearth and home. Well, here’s a dish that’s the perfect replacement for a phone call to the takeaway. It’s bursting with the beautiful, aromatic, authentic Thai flavors that will transform your kitchen into a worthy competitor to a bought in meal, while offering the same warmth and hospitality of your favorite Thai restaurant.
There are as many versions of Tom Yum as there are cooks. It’s a wonderfully warming soup that feels at once healing and satisfying. I included mung beans to add some extra substance for these tough winter months, but they’re entirely optional, particularly if your goal is the thin, broth-y elixir that you traditionally find at your local Thai eatery. Just know that if you honor the basics and the traditions of southeast Asian cuisine, you really can’t go wrong with a bit of improvisation.
Tom Yum with Lemongrass Monkfish Serves 2
For the Soup:
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, grated
2 medium carrots, diced
1 scallion, sliced
1 thai red chili, or equivalent
1 sprig of lemon thyme (or plain ol’ regular thyme)
A 2-3-inch piece of ginger, grated
Zest of 1 lime, plus the juice
6-8 shitake mushrooms, sliced
1 c of dried mung beans, optional
1 stalk of lemongrass, bashed with the back of a knife and halved
1 T rice vinegar
1 T fish sauce, or more if you think it needs a punch of something that you can’t put your finger on
1 large handful of fresh coriander, plus some for garnish
Some Thai basil would be brilliant (if seasonal), say nothing for some galangal, if you can find it
1 T vegetable oil
In a saucepan, add the oil and heat. Then add shallot, garlic, scallion, thyme and carrot and heat on medium low until soft, about 6 minutes. Pour in the stock, add the beans and bring it to the boil. Then reduce to a gentle simmer. Add the vinegar, fish sauce, chili, ginger, coriander, lime juice and zest, mushrooms and lemongrass. Let it simmer for about an hour, or until the beans are toothsome. Work on your fish.
For the fish:
1 monkfish fillet, 2/3 – 3/4 of a lb., sliced into 3-4 oz medallions
1 lemongrass stalk, bashed with the back of a knife and finely diced
1 inch of ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Zest of 1 lime
A generous bunch of fresh coriander
6 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients but the salt into a container for marinating. Leave for at least 1 hour. More is better. About 15 minutes before you want to eat, heat a large, nonstick (Yes, I said nonstick, I don’t argue with Raymond Blanc if he says cook your monkfish in a nonstick pan. He’s got stars. Two to be exact.) pan and add the marinated medallions. Cook for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until fish is cooked through. The milky white fish should brown slightly.
To serve, ladle the soup into warm bowls, add two medallions per person, and garnish with more fresh coriander.
Serve with Fairhills Bus Stop White from South Africa, which echoes the lemongrass notes of the dish beautifully. Available at Whole Foods for a relatively modest $10. A good wine for a good cause.
Playlist included Oh No!, by house band Marina and the Diamonds.