If there’s a good place to start for a Thai food cooking virgin, it’s with this tasty Northeastern Thai “soup”. It’s full of good-for-you greens, bright and light with fresh, herbal flavor, and crazy easy to make. Felt like I robbed a bank with this one.
-2 Tbsp fermented Thai anchovy juice (nam pla rah)**
-200 g chicken stock
-200-300 g water
-1 Tbsp fish sauce (plus more to taste)***
1. Set water and chicken stock to simmering boil in pot. Meanwhile, mix lemongrass, galangal, shallots and chilies in blender or food processor until finely diced.
2. Once simmering boil is achieved, add chili mixture to stock.
3. Add pla rah juice, 1 Tbsp fish sauce and fish pieces. Do not overstir, or fish will get mushy. Cover.
4. Increase heat to rolling boil. Add mushrooms and white part of scallions.
5. When water returns to the boil, add cabbage and the rest of greens. The pot should look like this:
6. When vegetables lose some volume, carefully “fold” into broth. Taste and add more fish sauce if needed.
7. Shut off flame. Pot should look like this:
Cover and let “marinate” for a few hours (cool and place in fridge if leaving overnight).
*If you’re a meat person, use sauteed chicken wings or pork ribs instead.
**You can buy Thai anchovies in any supermarket here in Thailand, but Khum Gon, my Thai food tutor, claims homemade is best (obviously). Fermented Thai anchovies look like this:
If this isn’t available to you, try mashing regular good-quality anchovies instead.
***Khum Gon believes that fish sauce from shellfish (such as razor clams) is best because it smells less fishy than other types. Frankly, I am not that sensitive to the smell, but if that is an issue, then take Khum Gon’s advice.
What we ended up with:
In the end, it was … pretty good. I’d use all chicken broth next time. And more Thai anchovy juice. But it was everything I expected and wanted from my first Thai cooking experiment. Next up: a veggie-rich gaeng liang.