Thursday, April 7, 2016

Try the World: Tom Yum Soup (Thailand Box)

When I lived in Tokyo, I bought curry mixes which were little more than a cardboard sleeve filled with plastic packets of spices on a few occasions. I wanted to produce something that was more authentic than Japanese curry, which is more like a spicy beef stew than a true curry. Unfortunately, my results with these mixes were lifeless and thin.

I've since gotten a lot better at making curry thanks to the copious amounts of advice on the internet for doing a better job with Indian cuisine. I am still, however, wary of mixes that are little more than plastic packets of spices. I associate them with the same failures I had in the past, but I also wonder if they are "enough" to produce a dish of complexity and depth. So, it was with no small level of skepticism that I looked at the dry spices and had my doubts.

The instructions say to use mushroom, onion, "lemonade." I interpreted that as "lemon juice" as I believe it's a poor translation. For the meat/seafood portion, I opted to use tilapia fish because I had tons of it in the freezer. I cooked the onion a bit longer than it said (1 minute) because I don't like the sharper flavors of raw onion in soup, but otherwise followed the instructions faithfully.

The soup smelled great and I was very careful not to overcook the fish since that could make it rubbery. The lemongrass was the strongest aroma, followed by the pandan. I did not question the portions of the spices that I used because the end of the recipe said one could add Thai chili paste for more heat. I don't have this item, but I figured I could shape in some red chili flakes if it was bland.

It turned out that this was far from an issue. I'm quite tolerant of heat in my dishes, but this was nuclear hot from the plethora of dried chilies. It would stun me if anyone felt this needed more chili. I had to add in coconut milk and mix the soup with rice to make it tolerate. It was stunningly hot.

Though this was really tasty, I wished I'd been warned about how hot it would be. I think that half the number of chilies would have worked better for my tastes. For people who are even less intolerant, I'd think no more than three would do. The other issue with this was that the spices remained too hard to consume when the soup was done. I had to laboriously pluck them all out each time I ate it.

This was very good and I'm glad that it was included in the box. I wish I had known more about it before I had prepared it so I could have made more adjustments to suit my tastes. I can say that the fish went well with this and I think this is a fantastic way to have seafood in your diet. If you don't care for it, the soup is so flavorful that you can't really taste the fish. 

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