Curried Coconut Soup with Lemongrass

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 40 minutes

A Thai-style soup that becomes quite substantial when you add fried tofu (or try Crunchy Crumbled Tempeh). This soup is also wonderful with a couple of spoonfuls of Steamed Sticky Rice or a cup or two of soaked and cut mung bean threads (see Chinese Egg Noodles) stirred in at the last minute.

2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 large onion, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger

1 small fresh chile, preferably Thai, stemmed, seeded, and minced (optional)

3 stalks lemongrass, peeled, trimmed, and minced (see Specialty Herbs for Enthusiasts)

1 tablespoon Curry Powder

1 cup sliced shiitake mushroom caps (reserve stems for stock or discard)

1 quart vegetable stock

2 cups homemade coconut milk or one 13-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste

1/2 cup minced scallion, for garnish

1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, for garnish

01 Put the oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 10 minutes, then lower the heat a bit and cook for 5 minutes more, until it is very, very tender. Add the garlic, ginger, chile, lemongrass, and curry powder and cook, stirring, for about a minute. Add the mushrooms and cook for another minute, stirring.

02 Add the stock and bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture simmers and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and cook about 5 minutes more. Add the soy sauce, then taste and add more soy sauce or some salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of lime juice, then taste and add more if you like. Garnish and serve.