We've been laid low by the lurgies. Even a morning draught of stinging nettle tea couldn't clear my head...but an evening jolt of spicy Tom Yum with Salmon & Lobster Mushrooms, made from a salmon-head stock, seems to have done the trick for now.
Studies are being done on Tom Yum's immune-boosting properties and I'm not surprised. Along wih Pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup, Thailand's signature hot and sour soup Tom Yum Goong has been our go-to dinner when la grippe has us in its bony grip. Just inhaling those aromatic and spicy fumes is enough to cleanse the sinuses. Until this week, I had never tried to make it myself.
Tom Yum can be made with water, chicken stock, or fish stock. One recipe exhorts readers to use the shrimp's head fat to enrichen the soup base—and who am I to argue with such logic? I did this by removing the heads, squeezing their fat—a noticeable orange color, as illustrated in the photo—into the stock, and then tossing the heads into the boil for a little extra umph. But more than that, I got my deep fish flavor from a couple of salmon carcasses. This year I made sure to keep the remains of every salmon I caught and filleted, which means I've got a ton of soup heads and backbones in the freezer.
The lobster mushrooms, picked during a hike near the Columbia River Gorge, added extra flavor and chew. I've always loved the paddy straw mushroom, a mainstay in Asian soups (and present in this one), but the lobster contributed its seafoody flavor and a texture that's firmer than the straw mushroom. Together, the two species of fungus added heartiness to the soup.
3-4 cups stock or water*
1 medium-sized lobster mushroom, thinly sliced
1 dozen shrimp in the shell with heads
1 stalk lemongrass, mashed and cut into 3-inch pieces
6 kaffir lime leaves, bruised and de-stemmed
6 slices galangal
6 Thai chili peppers, mashed
3 tbsp lime juice
1 heaping tbsp roasted chili paste
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 can straw mushrooms
1 handful cilantro chopped for garnish
1. Peel shrimp, reserving heads and leaving tail on.
2. Bring stock, lemongrass, shrimp heads, and lobster mushrooms to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile combine chili peppers, chili paste, and lime juice in small bowl.
4. Remove shrimp heads with slotted spoon and add kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and shrimp. Simmer a few more minutes.
5. Turn off heat just before shrimp are fully cooked and add mixture of lime juice, chili peppers, and chili paste. Season with salt, brown sugar, and fish sauce according to taste.
Serves 2 ballooned-out congested heads.
*For salmon-head stock, brown in peanut oil in a heavy soup pot a couple small to medium-sized salmon heads (along with backbones if you have them). De-glaze with a splash or two of wine (Chinese cooking wine is preferable). Add 1 chopped leek and 2 chopped cloves of garlic. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for several more minutes. Add 8 cups of water and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain. The salmon meat can then be picked from the pot.