Comfort food provides safe haven in times of despair and vulnerability,
scents and tastes on tongue nourish innate corporeal tugs from loved ones lost.
I mourn the loss of my mother’s recipes,
misplaced by her many moves around the globe.
In their place, solace recipes fill the void,
recorded and saved for my own children.
A ceaseless purl of shared affinities and humanity.
When my 16 year old son was a tiny newborn, my closest childhood friend came to our house and with her own baby girl wrapped up close to her body in a carrier, she cooked up this soup in our kitchen. To this day, it is one of our favorite comfort soups. The flavorful kaffir lime leaves can be found at most specialty grocers, but I never want to risk their seasonal availability so I have leaves ready-at-the-pinch from a potted kaffir lime tree on the patio.
Shrimp Tom Yum
1 stalk lemongrass, peeled of 1st outer layer
1 or 2 fresh jalapeños
6 slices (quarter-size) fresh ginger (no need to peel)
4 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves
2 1/2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
1 lb. dried rice noodles (udon or buckwheat okay too)
1 lb. prawns, shelled & deveined
1/4 cup lime juice
2-3 TBSP Asian fish sauce
1/2 cup each cilantro leaves & thinly sliced green onions
Crush lemongrass slightly & cut into 3-inch lengths. Slice jalapeños into thin rings, discard stem. In a 3-4 qt. pot, combine lemongrass, jalapaeño rings, ginger, lime leaves, and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a 6-8 qt. pot, bring 3 qts. water to a boil over high heat. Add noodles and cook, stirring occasionally, until barely tender to bite, 3-4 minutes. Drain well. Place noodles in 5 or 6 large soup bowls. With a slotted spoon, scoop lemongrass, jalapeño rings, ginger & lime leaves from broth & discard. Stir shrimp/prawns into broth and cook until opaque in the thickest part, 2-3 minutes. Transfer shrimp to bowls with noodles. To broth, add lime juice and fish sauce to taste. Ladle into bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro & onions (optional.) Add chili oil or sriracha to taste.