Check out my foodie adventures at Foodspotting and Foodgawker

Friday, March 26, 2010

Vegan Thai Red Lentil Soup with Lemongrass

I don’t make a lot of Thai food at home. Despite my fantastic success with the occasional pad thai and summer spring rolls with peanut sauce (I should really tell you about that sauce later), I’ve failed miserably at tom kha soup and a few other Thai dishes. So I would never go out of my way to just make up a Thai recipe on the fly and hope for the best. Except for this past Monday night. I was with my friend Eli, who always inspires cooking confidence. Maybe it’s because she went to culinary school; maybe it’s because she is a good friend that cheers you along no matter what your goal is.

Eli and I listened to a little Nina Simone, and within minutes of dancing around the kitchen, I was on my way to making a Thai red lentil soup. This soup is a bit unconventional in its method. A rebel to authenticity even. It starts with a flavorful “soup base” made with garlic, ginger, lemongrass and spices. And then develops that fragrant base in to a silky soup with the addition of onions, red lentils, coconut milk and a hint of cinnamon. Trust me (I say that a lot, huh), once you taste the final product, you will understand the method to the madness.


* 1 shallot, chopped
* 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised and minced (only use up to 2/3 of the stalk from the white bottom up towards the green tops)
* 1/4 or 1/2 of a small Thai red chili (cut in half and remove seeds and then quarter; use more or less for desired heat level)
* 4 cloves garlic, chopped
* 1 two-inch piece ginger (or galangal if you can find it), sliced
* 2 Tbsp. tomato ketchup (told you this wasn’t authentic)
* 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
* 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
* 1/4 tsp. ground white pepper (or black pepper)
* 3 Tbsp. soy sauce (omnivore option: you can use fish sauce)
* 1.5 tsp. sugar
* 1 tsp. chili powder
* 1/4 can good-quality coconut milk (reserve remaining liquid for the soup)
* Juice from 1/2 lime


* Puree all ingredients in a food processor or blender (it won’t be completely smooth—it will have a more gritty texture).

Note: This will make about 3 portions of soup base so divide it into thirds and the remaining base will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week or you can freeze it. I imagine the base would work nicely with curries or just a thinned out simple sauce for stir fry with tofu and veggies!


* 3-4 Tbsp. oil (light extra virgin or vegetable oil)
* 1 large onion, sliced finely
* 1 cinnamon stick
* 2 stalks of lemongrass, gently bruised to open up flavors
* 2 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
* 4 tbsp. of soup base (about 1/3 of what you made for the soup base; see above)
* 2 cups vegetable broth (omnivore option: chicken broth)
* 6 cups water
* 3 cups red lentils (rinsed and picked over for debris)
* 3/4 can of coconut milk (using the rest of the unused can from making the soup base)
* Juice from 1 lime
* 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or to taste)
* 2-4 tsp. soy sauce (to taste)
* Cilantro or fried shallots (optional garnish)


* In a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat until glossy.
* Add onions and sautee for up to 10 minutes or until softened.
* Add in the cinnamon stick, lime leaves, lemongrass stalks and soup base and cook for another 3-5 minutes to release all the flavors from the soup base.
* Add the broth, water and lentils and turn the heat up to medium high to bring to a boil.
* Carefully remove and discard the cinnamon stick, lime leaves and lemongrass stalks.
* Cover and turn the heat down to a medium simmer for 15 minutes or until lentils are soft.
* Using an immersion blender (or food processor in batches), puree the soup until silky smooth.
* Add in the coconut milk, lime juice, salt and soy sauce and adjust seasoning if necessary.
* You can add more water to achieve desired consistency—the soup will thicken considerably when cooled so you would want to add a little more water when reheating.
* Garnish with cilantro and/or fried shallots if desired.

Note: This recipe makes about 8 servings. If refrigerated, the soup will thicken considerably so you can just thin it out to desired consistency before re-heating.


Meowbag said...

Mmmmmmmm...... I think I'm going to have to make that.

Anonymous said...

Try to add sweet potato.... delicious !