Monday, February 16, 2009

Hot-and-Sour Shrimp Soup with Noodles and Thai Herbs (Page 121)


  • Date: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: B-

This sounded like a recipe my special gentleman and I would both enjoy so I made this for dinner a few weeks back. To start, I peeled some shrimp, reserving the shells, then tossed the shrimp in salt and sesame oil and refrigerated. I boiled chicken stock with thinly sliced fresh lemongrass, ginger, and garlic and boiled for a half an hour, then added the shrimp shells and boiled some more. Then I strained the broth, returned it to the pan and added 3 sliced serrano chiles and chopped shallots. I simmered for a while then added fish sauce, sugar, and salt. I cooked rice noodles separately in a pot of boiling water. I put noodles in the soup bowls and topped them with some sliced spinach. Then I added shrimp, cilantro, basil, and lemon juice to the broth and let it stand until the shrimp were cooked. I ladled the soup over the noodles and served.

I'm not really sure how to grade this recipe. One the one hand, it was very tasty. On the other hand it was completely inedible. I tried to eat it. I really did. Look at -- it looks delicious, no? And it smelled delicious. So I would take a small spoonful. Almost instantly my mouth would be burning and there would be tears in my eyes. It was INCREDIBLY spicy -- inedibly spicy. Now I admit, I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to spicy food. But my special gentleman is not, and even he couldn't eat this soup. It was a shame too, because the flavor (aside from the painful spiciness) was very good. So how did it end up so spicy? Well the recipe indicated to use "3-4 fresh green Thai chiles or small serrano chiles (to taste) cut lengthwise into strips." The grocery store I frequent doesn't sell Thai chiles, but does sell serranos, so I went with those. I interpreted that "to taste" comment to mean that I should use 3 if I wanted it not-as-spicy, or 4 if I wanted it more spicy. Since I knew I don't like my food super spicy, I went with 3. Now, if you seeded 3 serrano chiles before using them, that would be a totally manageable amount of spice. But I read the recipe 4 times looking for the direction to seed them and it was nowhere to be found. The Book is very clear about seeding chiles when you are meant to, so the only interpretation I could imagine was that the seeds were meant to be included. So I cut my chiles into strips, seeds and all, and tossed them in. Even at the time I worried that this was going to be a disaster, but the spiciness of the end product far exceeded the amount of spiciness I imagined.

With, say, 1 serrano chile, or 3 serrano chiles that had been seeded, I think I would have quite liked this dish. I love brothy Asian soups with noodles, and aside from the spiciness this was a good take on that concept. But I couldn't eat it. So I ate toast with jam on it for dinner instead, and stared longily at my bowl of soup. My special gentleman and I very rarely throw food away, but this one went down the garbage disposal. It was just too spicy! I can't give it a terrible grade because with such a minor adjustment it would have been delicious. But as it is written, I also can't recommend it!

This recipe isn't online.

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