panang curry Lenten soup
A very good tip for the fast, that we discovered some years back, is to make meals that were meant to be vegetarian or vegan in the first place. We wanted to embrace the fast with joy, as we are taught… but each fake hamburger, or look a-like taco made us just wish we were eating meat.
My first visit to an Orthodox monastery was five or six years ago and it was during Great Lent. The food on their table was simple and great. The meals also seemed very traditional – recipes that were meant to be Lenten. I had my four year old daughter with me. She loved everything they served! So the next year, we decided to eat fasting foods that were never intended to contain meat in the first place – a lot are asian or middle eastern or Ethiopian inspired. We didn’t want fake cheese or burgers or other imitations. We wanted real food.
Finding recipes that are meat free to begin with has made a joyful difference at our table.
I hope you will like this delicious Thai coconut panang curry soup. It is made from simple ingredients – and the vegetables can be rotated to what is in season in your area, or to include any specific varieties that you especially enjoy.
This is the way we like it, if it is too sour, just reduce the amount of lime.
- 2 cans coconut milk – Native Forest is a great brand
- 1/4 red onion diced
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- Thai red curry paste – to taste
- one container firm organic tofu (very important to get organic. Trader Joes has a fermented organic tofu)
- 1 cup green beans, ends cut of and sliced into bite sized portions
- 1 cup chopped portabello or other mushroom you like
- 1 cup baby bok choy, chopped (about 4 small baby bok chops)
- 2 inches ginger root peeled and sliced
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 3 cups vegetable broth, plus a little extra to deglaze pan.
Open tofu package and cut into small squares. Lay these flat on a thick layer of paper towels. Cover with another thick layer of paper towels. You can leave it like this, or place a cutting board on top of them. This is to drain the excess water away. Otherwise it just gets soggy.
Prepare all of your remaining ingredients and have them by the stove. This is the step that dramatically changed the results of our cooking. Having the mis en place staged so that you can concentrate on cooking rather than cutting and watching the stove at the same time reduces the possibility that your dinner will burn.
If you have a wok, then this is a good recipe for it. If not, a large frying pan – well seasoned cast iron or non stick is good.
Over medium heat, add toasted sesame oil and coat the pan. Add the tofu and cook until the sides are brown, About five minutes. Remove from pan and lay on paper towels so that it can drain.
In a soup pot, pour coconut milk, vegetable broth, sliced ginger and lime juice. Let simmer while you cook the vegetables.
Add mushrooms to wok/frying pan. Cook over medium heat. If you are using a wok, move to the side and add the bok choy and green beans. You’ll want the mushrooms well done, the bok choy and beans still a little crispy. If it gets dry or if the veggies start to stick, add in some of the vegetable broth.
With a strainer remove ginger from the broth. Sample and add salt to taste.
Add one heaping teaspoon of panang curry paste and taste. I purposely have not added a measurement for the curry, because frankly different brands vary widely in their flavor. Make this tasty for you. We actually add the curry straight to the soup bowls, the younger ones don’t want as much so they just get a hint of it.
Now you can add all of the vegetables and tofu into the broth, or begin to plate the vegetables into the bowls separately – like we do – and add the broth on top of it.
We plate the veggies and tofu separately into the bowls because, in my family, we have three girls, some of who like mushrooms and onions and some who don’t. The one who doesn’t like them, really really doesn’t like them. So the mushrooms and onions go to the bowls in the measure of how well each one will enjoy it. Though we have a general rule in our house that you have to try everything, I have to admit that as a girl, I did not like mushrooms… not at all.
And during the Fast, well, it just seems better to have mercy and give them what they will like, so that they too will embrace the Fast with joy.