20 September 2012

Savory tom yum pasta

After almost 8 months in Bangkok (where did the time go???!!!), it has unquestionably been a joy to discover the diversity of Thai cuisine and all kinds of new dishes which aren't really known outside of Thailand. Sometimes I have to pinch myself as a reminder that I'm not in some culinary reverie and that all of this incredible food all around us is really for real! We've also enjoyed dining in some of the more fusion style Thai restaurants, which offer a mix of Thai and Western food and some very interesting mixes of the two. Think dishes like green curry spaghetti or spicy linguine with chilies, fresh green peppercorns and basil leaves. This incredibly tasty and ridiculously simple recipe for savory tom yum pasta is inspired by this fusion tradition.

Tom yum (see my recipe here) is of course one of the most famous dishes in Thai cuisine, known and loved the world over. This sour-spicy soup is usually served with shrimp (goong), but there are endless variations including vegetarian, creamy tom yum with a bit of evaporated milk mixed in and noodle soup versions as well. Typically, tom yum is made by adding bruised lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and chilies to broth, but for a shortcut version ready-made tom yum paste is also available. My favorite brand is Lobo which seems to be vegetarian according to its list of ingredients (curry and other Thai pastes usually have some dried shrimp or shrimp paste in them). To keep this easy (and perfect for a weeknight meal!), try to find ready-made tom yum paste, otherwise you can make your own. Try this recipe, omitting the dried shrimp and anchovies and replacing the fish sauce with salt if you want a vegetarian paste.

This dish is so versatile and so delicious that I've made it twice in the last week, Luis proclaiming to be one of the most amazing pasta dishes he's ever had! The first time it was with linguine, this time with fusilli. Though the recipe below calls for a mix of different colored bell peppers and mushrooms, you can use whatever veggies you like or happen to have in your fridge. Use your imagination! With the delicious savoriness of the tom yum paste, the creaminess of the coconut milk and the hot and sour from the bird's eye chilies and the kaffir lime leaves, this might just become a part of your regular rotation as well!

Serves 2-3

250 grams (8-9 ounces) pasta of your choice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
6 button mushrooms, sliced
1 (30 grams or 1.06 ounces) packet tom yum paste or the same quantity of homemade paste
1 cup coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
2 bird's eye chilies, halved vertically (for less heat) or chopped with seeds left in (for more heat)
Additional kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced (for garnish)
Additional bird's eye or red spur chilies, thinly sliced (for garnish)
Chopped coriander (for garnish)

1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water, until just al dente. Drain and set aside.

2. While the pasta is cooking, warm the oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the onion and bell peppers (or any other hard-textured vegetables that you might be using) and saute until the onion is translucent and the other vegetables are just beginning to become tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms (or any other soft-textured vegetables) and stir well. Cook for a couple of minutes before.

4. Add the tom yum paste, coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves and chilies. Stir well until you get a creamy sauce. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let the sauce thicken just a bit (about 2 minutes).

5. Stir in the pasta, mixing well so that it is evenly coated with the sauce.

6. Serve garnished with the additional kaffir lime leaves, chilies and coriander.

Note: If you're reheating leftovers the next day, you might need to add a bit of additional coconut milk.


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  2. hehe I often cheat by using the same ready made paste ;p I am looking forward to some good Thai food when I am in Bangkok next.
    Good fusion!

  3. What a gorgeous mix of soup and pasta flavour :D

    Choc Chip Uru