Thai coconut milk soup (tom kha gai): I used to think this sounded too exotic for a casual night dining alone, but a hundred weeknight dinners can’t be wrong. I’ve made this so many times, in so many different ways — well, all you need is a few pantry items.
Lemongrass is good. In fact, I went with the soup tonight because I happened to have three stalks of it in my fridge (it keeps for weeks — or try dried). If you don’t have that, go with limes. Or lemons and limes. Coconut milk, obviously.
Most recipes call for chicken, but I had frozen shrimp. Perfect. Even better is the Black Japonica rice I made alongside (jasmine is fine, but something nutty with some bit to it is even better). It’s easy, I swear.
I don’t like lots of bits in my soup, so I make a quick stock first: Peel your shrimp and save the shells. Heat some oil in a pot and toss in the shells, some smashed pieces of lemongrass, a few slices of ginger (or even ginger from a jar), some sliced onion, a little garlic, and some spice. If you have dried chiles, you can use those, but red curry paste is even better — I used a couple of large teaspoons. Sauté the aromatics in the oil for a few minutes, then add about 4 cups of stock or water. Let that boil and then simmer for a while — 5 minutes or 30 minutes, whatever works for you.
Strain the stock to get all the bits out (eating lemongrass is a bit like gnawing on wet toothpicks). In the same pot, sauté a little more finely chopped onion and ginger in a little oil, then pour in the stock. When it’s hot, add the shrimp, then a can of coconut milk. If you have some shiitakes, you can throw those in, too. The shrimp will only take a minute or two to cook through. When it’s done, squeeze in a lime or two, add a few splashes of naam pla (buy some fish sauce, seriously — it’s good, cheap, and keeps forever), and some cilantro, if you have it.
Done! Scoop it into a bowl along with a few spoonfuls of some rice, or some noodles. Hot.