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Squash and Coconut Milk Soup

Squash and Coconut Milk Soup
Thai soups are a complex fusion of spicy, tangy flavors that taste refreshing and light. Here, chunks of squash add texture to broth enriched with coconut milk and seasoned with lemongrass, chilies, lime and basil.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. dried baby shrimp
  • 4 shallots, quartered
  • 2 red or green serrano or jalapeño chilies,
      seeded
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, center white part only,
      chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 lb. kabocha, acorn or butternut squash, peeled
      and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbs. Thai fish sauce
  • 1 Tbs. lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Place the dried shrimp in a small bowl, add warm water to cover and let soak until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving half of the liquid.

In a blender, combine the shrimp and reserved soaking liquid, shallots, chilies and lemongrass. Process until a smooth paste forms.

Open the can of coconut milk without shaking it. Scrape the thick cream from the top into a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the spice paste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, uncovered, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk, stock, kaffir lime leaves and squash and stir. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, stirring once or twice, until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes.

Just before serving, season with the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and basil leaves. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve hot, ladled into bowls.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Asian Flavors, by Joyce Jue (Time-Life Books, 1999).