On the menu: Shrimp and Mushroom Laksa
Today I took a two hour nap. It was the second time I’ve done that this week. I rarely nap; I’ve been that way all my life. My mother was my daycare teacher when I was a child, and she could tell you stories of how I always was allowed to stay up at nap time. Perks of being the teacher’s kid, eh? Sleepy weeks like this call for fast and simple dinners, such as this soup. This recipe is on pretty high rotation for us. It’s light, flavorful, and doesn’t require any seasonal ingredients. Except, of course, when it’s shrimp season in Maine.
Remember that scampi? After we had made an epic mess of that meal, we simmered the shells in water with a carrot and an onion and made a delicate but intensely perfumed shrimp stock. That stock became the base of this shrimp and mushroom laksa, a Thai style soup with a curry and coconut broth. The recipe comes from a cookbook I picked up early in my cooking days, What to Cook and How to Cook It by Jane Hornby. It’s a great beginner’s cookbook, plus it’s published by Phaidon, so you know it’s going to look good. The soup comes together quickly once you’ve peeled your shrimp and cut your mushrooms. You begin by sauteing the mushrooms until they soften, then they’re set aside. The broth is built up by briefly frying the curry paste before adding the shrimp stock and coconut milk. The shrimp cooks for a few minutes, then the rest of the ingredients are added at the very end. It all takes about 20 minutes.
Finished with a big squeeze of lime juice and a small handful of cilantro, the laksa encompasses all of our favorite Thai flavors. (Well, not the cilantro, if you’re Kevin. I have warmed up to its distinctive flavor.) It’s just the thing to warm you up between bouts of sleep.
Shrimp and Mushroom Laksa
adapted from What to Cook and How to Cook It by Jane Hornby
4 ounces thin rice noodles
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch scallions, sliced, green and white parts separated
2 teaspoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons red Thai curry paste
14 ounces can reduced fat coconut milk
3 cups shrimp stock, chicken stock, or water
1 pound small to medium sized shrimp, peeled
2 cups bean sprouts
1 medium sized carrot, shredded
1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 lime, juiced
1 handful fresh cilantro or parsley
Prepare the rice noodles. Place noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over them to cover. Let them soak as you prepare the rest of the soup, but stir them a few times so they don’t stick together.
Heat oil in a medium or large saucepan. Saute the mushrooms and the white part of the scallions for 3-4 minutes until they soften, then remove them from the pan. Add the curry paste to the oil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant. Stir in the coconut milk and the chicken broth, then simmer for 2 minutes. Add the shrimp to the pan, then simmer for 2-4 minutes, until they have become opaque.
Stir in the bean sprouts, the shredded carrot, and the greens of the scallions. Season the soup with nam pla, lime juice, and a pinch or two of sugar if you want to add a little sweetness, then remove it from the heat.
Drain the noodles and divide them among 4 serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the noodles, then garnish with cilantro or parsley.