Archive for November 5th, 2018

Thai-ing to Beat a Cold: Coconut Rice Noodles with Ginger and Eggplant

November 5, 2018

I’ve got a few things working against me this week – end of daylight savings (I hate the time change); cold and damp to warm and rainy weather; and some nasty sinus stuff.  Add to that a pretty busy schedule over the last few days and I’m feeling a little run down.  Gotta get myself together before my half marathon on Saturday.  Time for some soup!

I’ve had eggplant on the brain for a week or so, but I’ve never made a soup with eggplant in it.  Melissa Clark’s Dinner: Changing the Game to the rescue again.  I found this recipe for a Thai soup with rice noodles.  It’s a little bit strange in that it’s designed around summer vegetables.  I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around a Thai coconut curry with corn and tomatoes so I made some omissions and substitutions.  No corn or tomatoes.  Added mushrooms and green onions.  I stuck with the spinach because I had some left from last week.  I used chicken stock because I had that leftover too, but vegetable stock would have been my preference.

I only made a half a recipe, two servings, which I think I might be sorry about!

Here’s what you need: 2 entree servings

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  • 2-3 oz rice noodles, prepared according to the package
  • 1 hot chile, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 t curry powder
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C cilantro leaves
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2-3 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 C stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 C coconut milk (lite is fine)
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 1 large green onion, chopped
  • 1 T fresh basil, chopped

I know.  It’s a long list.  The good news is that you don’t have to mince the garlic, ginger, chile, and cilantro because you’re going to stick them in a food processor or blender and make a paste.  That will save some time.  Buy the mushrooms pre-sliced. And you don’t have to chop the spinach at all.  So, it’s not as bad as you think.

If you have a wide, deep pan, that will work well.  You want to have a big enough surface to brown the eggplant and other vegetables in a single layer, but you need it to be deep enough for the soupy part.

Here’s what you do:

  • In a blender or small food processor combine garlic, ginger, chile, curry powder and 1 T oil.  Pulse until it’s well blended.  Add the cilantro leaves and lime zest.  Pulse until it becomes a paste.  Set aside.

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  • Heat 2 T oil in a large pan.  Add eggplant and saute until browned. 6-8 minutes.  Remove the eggplant from the pan.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Saute until they soften.  5-6 minutes.  Stir in the spice paste and cook 1 minute.
  • Add the stock and coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer.
  • Add the eggplant back to the pan along with the fish sauce.  Saute 5 minutes, until eggplant is soft.
  • Stir in spinach.  Cook 1 minute.  Add lime juice and basil.

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  • Divide cooked rice noodles among the bowls and top with the soup.
  • Garnish with green onions and cilantro leaves

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A few tips.  When you’re making the spice paste, go ahead and include the cilantro stems.  They’re tender and they have a lot of flavor. No need to waste them since you’re making a paste.  Also, measure the fish sauce.  The best way to describe the flavor of fish sauce is funky.  It’s a great addition, but too much is really too much.  Make sure you get a good sear on the eggplant.  That will help it keep its shape in the broth.  Finally, if you have leftovers, store the noodles and soup separately or your noodles will be mushy when you reheat it.  You can heat up the noodles by dunking them briefly in hot water.  That will also separate them.

Here’s how it turned out:

So good.  Really, so, so good.  When I make it next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll use more chile.  The thai chiles didn’t look good at the store so I bought jalapenos. (I’m making Mexican later in the week).  Jalapenos are much milder than thai chiles so I should have used more of them.  Better to have too little heat than too much, but more heat would really add something to this dish.  Still, there’s something truly wonderful about the mixture of coconut milk, lime juice and fish sauce.  The eggplant is soft but not slimy and not bitter at all.  The spinach is optional, but add it if you have it.  It looks pretty, doesn’t have a strong flavor, and adds an extra vegetable.

This was perfect for an evening that’s cold and damp and that got dark at 5pm!

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