Yields: 4 servings
We recently took a daytrip to Portland, Maine. In between rummaging around at Yes Books and The Green Hand, grabbing a beer at The Thirsty Pig, walking around The Old Port and visiting LeRoux Kitchen, we stopped at The Green Elephant (twice), a vegetarian bistro that I kind of want to curl up at and live in forever. I only order appetizers there because I want to taste a little bit of everything and, after two appetizers for dinner, I only had room for only one more item, which was their Fragrant Coconut Soup. It was simple, pretty and a wonderful end to a fabulous dinner. I loved it so much that I wanted to try to recreate it at home, and this version came pretty close to the original.
Although I've made a Tom Kha Gai-inspired dish before, I wanted to make something a bit less involved. I resisted the urge to add things like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and vegan fish sauce to it, and forced myself to keep everything minimal and easy—and the results were fantastic. Once the coconut milk was added, the aroma of this soup triggered an immediate eyeroll accompanied by an uncontrollable dumb smile that was followed by complete happiness after the first bite. This soup is good because it's simple ... and simple is good.
1 TB toasted sesame oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
6-8 shiitake caps, thinly sliced
2 tsp brown sugar
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4 cups broth (homemade or Imagine brand)
small can of coconut milk (5.46 ounces)
juice from half of a lime
10 cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves
tofu cubes (cut into dice-sized pieces)
thai chilis or sriracha, to taste
Heat the sesame oil over medium low heat, then throw in the shallots. Allow them to soften for a minute or two, then gently stab the slices with chopsticks or a spatula to break them up. Throw in the shiitake caps, stir, and allow to soften for two minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top, then stir again to combine.
Increase the heat to medium, then throw in the chopped scallions and broth. Stir, then allow to come to a small simmer. Allow it to simmer for about two minutes, then remove it from the heat and stir in the coconut milk, lime juice and tomatoes.
Serve immediately with a few tofu cubes thrown in if you like. Garnish with hot peppers or sriracha and cilantro, if desired.