World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: Thailand

IMBB #19 -Vegan Tom Yum


Sam of Becks & Posh is hosting IMBB #19 Vegan, a great event to launch World Vegetarian month (October) perfectly perfect but Sam is one smart vegan cookie.

Lately, I’ve become curious about Asia cuisine in particular Thai food.  Needless to say the intersection of this new study with that of having to cook a vegan dish presented a challenge.  Just about every dish has that essential ingredient fish sauce or nam pla.  Truly this is the single most important flavoring for authentic Thai. An adequate substitute can be found in soy sauce although not in equal parts due to its strength.

So although this soup recipe from Real Vegetarian Thai, by Nancie McDermott in her own words, veers “away from the framework of authenticity” she is a realist.  Thailand, McDermott writes, “lacks a strong indigenous vegetarian tradition.”  There are religious practices such as Terawada Buddhism and Sino-Thais (Thais of Chinese descent) that have long traditions of traditions of vegan fasts and cuisines. It’s interesting to note that the Thai concept of veganism is stricter than Western interpretations in that many stimulating spices, onions, garlic and alcohol are excluded from the vegan diet.  These items are said to inflame passions.

In Phuket there is a 9-day Vegetarian Festival in early autumn where the center of town becomes a showcase for Thai-style Chinese vegetarian cooking.

This version of a popular soup, Tom Yum is a spicy lemongrass soup with mushrooms and tofu.  More commonly found is tom yum goong, which contains shrimp. Nahm prik pao, roasted chili paste fortifies the broth. Lemongrass permeates the broth and offers a delicate and ethereal note to the taste.  A more rustic, northeastern Thai version of this soup uses pieces of fish such as catfish or salmon.  After making this soup and serving this soup and telling my dinner guests that it was vegan S and W replied with a well we thought it “rocked the house.”  So really this dish convinced me that good tasting food, regardless of a vegan classification is just that, food that rocks the house and comforts the soul.

Final Dinner Menu (Semi-Vegan

Tom Yum (V)

Organic Greens with Spicy Thai Citrus Dressing(V)

Chicken Satay (Not V)

Satay Peanut Sauce (V)

Tom Yum
Spicy Lemon Grass Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu


Serves 4 –6

4 Cups Vegetable Stock

3 large stalks fresh lemongrass

12 wild lime leaves (optional)

2 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

3 slender green onions, cut crosswise into 1" lengths

1 fresh green jalapeno chili

8 ounces firm tofu, cut into 1” cubes

1 cup well-drained, whole canned straw mushrooms

2 tablespoons roasted chili paste

2 teaspoons sugar

½ teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan bring the stock to a boil over medium heat.  Meanwhile, trim the lemongrass stalks.  Cut away and discard any hard, dried root portions, leaving a smooth, flat base just below the bulb.  Trim away the tops, including any dried brown leaf portions; you should have handsome stalks about 6” long, including the bulbous base.  Using the blunt edge of a clever blade or heavy knife or the side of an unopened can, bruise each stalk, whacking it firmly at 2” intervals and rolling it over to bruise on all sides.

When the stock is boiling, add the bruised lemongrass stalks and half of the lime leaves 9if using), and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.  Cook until the stock is fragrant and the lemongrass has faded from bright green to a dull khaki, about 5 minutes.

While the soup simmers, combine the lime juice, the remaining lime leaves (if using), and the green onions in a serving bowl large enough to accommodate the soup.  Remove the stem from the jalapeno and cut the chili crosswise into thick rounds; add 2 or more of the rounds to the serving bowl; the amount depends on you love of chili heat.  Reserve any leftover chili for another use and set aside.

Scoop out the lemongrass form the stock and discard it.

Raise the heat to high and add the tofu, mushrooms, chili paste, sugar, soy sauce, and salt and stir well.  When the soup boils again, remove it from the heat and quickly pour it into the serving bowl.  Stir to combine the lime juice and herbs with the soup and serve at once. 

Note:  Adjust taste with more lime juice, chili paste desired.  Serve at once.


Thai Kitchen

coconutmilkThai Kitchen, founded in 1990 makes cooking Thai food at home easier. At least for those of us who are challenged when it comes to understanding the diversity of ingredients that goes into making traditional dishes of a faraway place.

The food line includes more than 50 products and is sold in gourmet food shops, natural food stores and grocery stores in all 50 states, Canada and Japan. Whole Foods carries a number of their products.

An authentic Thai cuisine cupboard can include fish sauce, lemongrass, mussamun curry, kaffir lime. I’ve recently started exploring Thai cooking at home and this company site was one of my first stops to take a look at recipes, cooking tips, and a glossary of Thai ingredients and cooking terms.

I was fascinated by the fact that they carry organic light coconut milk. This proved to be lucky for me as it gave me liberty to indulge in a Thai treat Sweet Jasmine Rice with Mango. I was surprised in this first outing into home cooking Southeast Asia style that something seemingly simple took some time. Most of the time was due to the preparation of the jasmine rice. For my taste I used less than the recommended sugar called for in the recipe. The mango flavor was perfect and with the coconut milk were more than enough of a sweet flavor. All in all it was decidedly worth the effort.

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