I was watching an America's Test Kitchen last week with the hated (by me) Becky Hayes, who was making a Tom Kha soup with chicken. Though I despise her chirpy delivery, she had some good tips, especially as to straining and cooking times. This soup can be made with a variety of proteins: chicken, seafood, or tofu would all be appropriate and delicious.
Tom Kha Soup with Scallops:
1/4 cup finely diced yellow or red onion or shallot (preferred)
1 serrano chile, chopped with seeds and ribs intact
1 tbsp. minced lemongrass, fresh or jarred
1 tbsp. galangal, fresh or jarred (you can substitute fresh ginger)
1 tbsp. kaffir lime leaves, fresh or jarred
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
5-10 cilantro stems
1 can Lite Coconut Milk
3 cups vegetable stock
1/4 yellow onion, sliced into ribbons
6 button mushrooms, sliced
6 scallops (can substitute 1/2 package of tofu, cubed)
6 grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cucumber, julienned
1 tbsp. mint leaves, sliced in the chiffonade style
1 tbsp. cilantro, chopped roughly
1 tsp. Green Curry paste
1-2 tsp. Sriracha
3 tsp. neutral-flavored oil
Prepare your aromatics, leaving out whatever you cannot find, or substituting with comparable ingredients. Alternately, you can saute a teaspoonful of the Green Curry paste with the rest of aromatics, as it contains many of the same ingredients.
Heat a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat, with about 1 tsp. neutral-flavored oil. Add the aromatic ingredients, except for the cilantro, and saute until the onion is softened. Add the vegetable broth, half the can of coconut milk, and the cilantro stems, and turn down the heat to low. Cook this mixture for about 5 minutes, taking care to not let the liquid come to a full boil, as the coconut milk will separate.
During this time, set a small frying pan over medium-high heat, with 2 tsp. neutral oil added. Salt and pepper your scallops (or whichever protein you have chosen) and sear the scallops on both sides, for about 3-5 minutes per side.
Once the scallops have taken on good color, place them on a cutting board and chop roughly. They will not be cooked through, but will finish in the soup later.
Strain the aromatics out of the soup, and return the liquid to the pot. Add the remaining coconut milk, chopped scallops, onions, and mushrooms, as well as the Green Curry paste and Sriracha, and cook for 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms darken. Taste the liquid and salt as necessary.
Turn off the heat, and add the remaining ingredients: tomato, cucumber, mint, and cilantro.
Serve over some jasmine rice, and garnish with a squeeze of lime juice and cilantro, if desired.