The Cure: Tom Yum Soup

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My cough was so nasty, it could take paint off a wall.

Like so many, my flu-cold misery lasted and lasted. Christmas. New Years. Beyond …

Determined to cure it before Groundhog’s Day, I called Kaiser’s on-call nurse. I didn’t want to spend untold hours among other sickies in the E.R., so I put my faith in the phone professional. I described that thickness in my upper chest, the color of the gunky phlegm, the noise.

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The wellness goddess told me to drink hot liquids. Lots of hot liquids to break up the congestion. I made loads of ginger-lemon tea. It seemed to be working, but at a slow pace. So I sent Mr. Wonderful to Bangkok Avenue, a really-good Thai restaurant in Huntington Beach.

His assignment? Bring back lots of Tom Yum Soup.

Hot, spicy, sour magic. As I swallowed, I could feel the spiciness working its way through the muck. The tartness melting its way through the debris.

The next day … practically well. No kidding.

My version takes about 8 to 10 minutes to prepare. Easy, and absolutely delicious. Buy some TOM YUM PASTE at an Asian market or online and keep it in your fridge; it helps to make short work of the prep. The brand I prefer is “EXOTIC BRAND.” I’ve tried other brands and don’t like them nearly as well. 

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At the Asian market, buy some kaffir lime leaves and small Thai chilies to use in the soup. You can freeze the extra leaves, as well as the chilies for future use.

Add shrimp if you like, or make it vegetarian. Enjoy.

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TOM YUM SOUP

Yield: 3 to 4 servings
4 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tom yum paste (see story)
2 fresh kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped (see story)
Optional: 1 tablespoon minced lemongrass
Juice of 1/2 lime
Optional: 2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 small red Thai chili, very thinly sliced, see cook’s notes
1 teaspoon sugar
4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced or pulled apart if in clumps, see cook’s notes
2 green onions, sliced, including 1/2 of dark green stalks
Optional: 3/4 pound raw shelled and deveined shrimp
Garnish: about 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Garnish: lime wedges for optional use
Cook’s notes: Use caution when working with fresh chilies. Wash work surface and hands after completion and do NOT touch face or eyes. Use any fresh mushroom you like. My favorites are the shimeji mushrooms I find in small cellophane bags at Asian markets; they grow in clumps and have lovely brown caps.
1. Heat broth in large saucepan on medium-high heat. Stir in tom yum paste, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass if using, lime juice and fish sauce if using. Add chili and sugar. Lower heat and simmer 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, green onions and if using, shrimp. Simmer long enough to cook shrimp (if using), about 2 minutes. Garnish with cilantro. Provide lime wedges for optional squeezing.

shimejiMushroomsShimeji mushrooms are sold at Asian markets, and often at Whole Foods and Mother’s Markets.

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