april 24, 2019
Soup is one of those meals enjoyed year round, with seasonal ingredients and temperatures to suit the weather. In summertime, Cucumber Vichyssoise is green and cooling. Autumn calls for Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Cider and Chipotle Spice and winter brings big steaming bowls of White Bean and Cabbage Soup. Spring soups are less heavy, more on the broth spectrum, with light veggies and bright herby flavors. Such is today’s Hot and Sour Scallop Soup, as incendiary as you like with hot pepper and fresh ginger.
This soup is a close cousin to Thai Tom Yum Soup, but in fairness I cannot call it Tom Yum. Instead of galangal, I load this broth with chunky ginger. Lacking kaffir lime leaf, the zest and juice of a fresh lime both give that tart punch. Similarities abound, however, with fresh coriander and Thai bird chiles making a strong show and fresh cremini mushrooms taking over from canned straw mushrooms. One of my new favorite condiments is coconut aminos, a proper substitute for soy sauce and an alternative to fish sauce if you want to create a vegan version of this soup. Some versions of Tom Yum use canned coconut milk but I like a clear broth.
About scallops : it’s worth the price to search for wild caught dry pack scallops, not those packed in a chemical brine which makes them watery and flabby. If you can’t find fresh scallops, frozen will do, but make certain the label reads only scallops. Using the frozen will cause a little loss of juice once defrosted, but the texture will be akin to real scallop meat, firm and tender at the same time.
Fresh lemongrass is available at local Asian markets, as is lime leaf and galangal. Wherever you live and cook, my substitutes make sense if you don’t care to buy a batch of ingredients you’ll use once and need to freeze. The exception for me is Thai bird chiles, which keep well in my freezer and don’t lose potency when added to recipes. My local grocer carries lemongrass paste and I’m loving its flavor and grainy texture for soups and sauces.
Know how soups develop flavor in the days after creation and how you can make them ahead for enjoying later? This is not one of those soups. There are so many flavor bombs here that a day or more in the fridge is not necessary for best quality and anyway the lime juice will bleach the color of your bok choy even minutes after the soup simmers; more loss of color would not be appetizing.. Scallops will toughen if you add them to the broth and then store for reheating. Maximum tenderness and flavor means making your broth, adding the scallops and serving right away.
The good news is that this is an easy soup which takes little time beyond gathering all prepped ingredients on your counter and performing the magic of a quick stovetop simmer. You are minutes away from a feast for the senses.
Hot and Sour Scallop Soup
recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company
makes four large bowls
¼ cup peeled and chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon neutral oil like grapeseed or canola
2 tablespoons lemongrass paste (found in the refrigerated produce aisle of most grocers)
2 large garlic cloves, zested on microplane grater
zest and juice of one lime
2 Thai bird chiles, snipped (leave seeds in for maximum heat)
14.5 ounce can petite dice tomatoes
6 cups best quality vegetable stock
3 tablespoons coconut aminos ( I like Trader Joe’s) *
6 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced – cremini, shiitake or button
6 ounces baby boy choy, cut lengthwise in halves or thirds **
½ cup fresh cilantro stems and leaves
8 ounces wild dry pack scallops, cut in thirds horizontally
optional garnishes : fresh cilantro leaves, thinly sliced lime, bird chiles
* if unable to find, use 2 tablespoons soy sauce plus a pinch of sugar
** if using larger bok choy, cut into chunky slices
- Have all ingredients prepped and ready.
- In large stockpot, stir together ginger and oil over medium high heat and when mixture begins to sizzle, turn heat to low and cook until just tender, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add other aromatics : garlic, lemongrass paste, lime zest and juice and bird chiles, stirring over low heat about 10-15 seconds.
- Add tomato, mushrooms and stock; bring to boil, then simmer uncovered about 10 minutes to develop flavor.
- Add bok choy and cilantro; simmer gently another 7-10 minutes.
- To simmering broth add scallops and cook for one more minute until scallops turn from translucent to opaque.
- Serve immediately with garnishes of choice- cilantro, lime, more chiles.