Thai foods can seem fairly complex, with unique herbs and spices lending a distinct taste. But substituting a few common pantry items for more exotic ingredients still yields a tasty soup. Although not ideal from the purist’s view, fresh or ground ginger works in this particular soup, if the aromatic ginger known as “galangal” is unavailable. Galangal is quite unique from regular ginger and can usually be purchased at international markets; it produces a fiery, “woody”, almost piney flavor.
The crushed leaves of the Kaffir lime also have a distinct taste; substituting zest of lime or lemon can still add a note of refreshing citrus if access to Kaffir leaves is limited. Substituting lemon leaves also works, for a next-best option.
The bright purple Japanese eggplant traditionally found in many Thai dishes is delicious, but retaining the bright purple color is tricky. Restaurants often deep-fry it, as oxidation turns it brown. An alternative to deep-frying is to use the method below, which allows the eggplant to cook with minimal exposure to air. The more common globe eggplant can substitute for the long purple ones, if necessary.
To achieve a beautifully green colored broth (as seen in traditional green curry dishes), fresh spinach, basil, parsley and cilantro can be juiced or blended; it can then be frozen in an ice cube tray, handy to add to many batches of such dishes.
This recipe will serve 6 or so.
- 1/2 TBS. curry powder*
- 2” piece galangal (Asian aromatic ginger, or substitute regular ginger, or ginger powder)*
- 3 Kaffir leaves, crushed (or substitute zest of 1 lime or lemon)*
- Boiling water (plus chicken stock, if desired)
- 1 c. brown rice (or white, if desired)
- 1/4 c. coconut oil (or substitute peanut, sesame, or other oil)
- 1 red pepper
- 1-2 eggplant (Japanese, bright purple, if available)
- Large handful spinach
- 2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
- Optional: fresh basil, cilantro, parsley (and spinach), either chopped or juiced (as mentioned above)
- Optional: toasted, chopped peanuts or cashews
1. To make a flavorful broth, simmer the following in soup pot. Add the boiling water slowly, mixing into curry powder to avoid lumps: > 1/2 TBS. curry powder > 2” piece galangal (or ginger), cut in thin strips > 2-3 Kaffir leaves, crumbled (or lemon or lime zest) > about 4 c. boiling water (part chicken stock if desired)
2. In separate pot, cook rice until done, 45 minutes (or 15 minutes for white rice): 1 c. brown rice > 2 c. boiling water
3. Prep the eggplant by cutting lengthwise, so that one side of the piece will have skin on it. The skin side will face down in the pan, to cook. (With rounder eggplants, some middle pieces won’t have any skin on them.) Use: > 1-2 eggplants
4. Preheat large iron skillet until quite hot. Have handy a piece of foil and another heavy pot or pan to set on top of the eggplant. Into hot skillet, add: > 1/4 c. coconut oil (or other) > the eggplant, skin-side down
5. Turn skillet off, letting eggplant remain in pan until tender and cooked through (about 10-20 minutes).
6. In another pan, grill peppers until browned some. Use: > 1 red pepper, cut into strips or chunks
7. Remove Kaffir leaves and the ginger strips from the stock pot, if desired. Bring the stock up to a boil, and add: > Large handful spinach > 2 tsp. salt (or to taste) > Optional greens (basil, cilantro, parsley) > the grilled red pepper > the grilled eggplant, cut into chunks
8. To serve, add the cooked rice to each soup bowl. Ladle the broth and veggies in, and garnish with chopped peanuts or cashews, if desired.
* Green curry paste is available at international markets; a mix of ingredients which typically includes galagal, Kaffir leaves, and cumin. If desired,substitute 1-2 TBS. or so green curry paste for the first 3 ingredients.