Shrimp and Lemongrass Soup

  • 1 whole dried red Thai chile pepper,* or to taste
  • 3 stalks lemongrass*, white tips only
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 5 to 6 kaffir lime leaves*
  • 1 (2-inch) piece galangal* (or ginger root), unpeeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can straw mushrooms, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pound jumbo shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (preferably Squid brand), or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (juice of about 2 medium limes), or to taste
  • 6 green onions, green tops only, cut into 1/16-inch thick slices
  • 1/4 cup whole fresh cilantro leaves, packed
Place a small frying pan over medium-high heat; add chile and toast just until the aroma is released, about 30 seconds. Bruise (crush) the chile slightly in a mortar and pestle, then set aside until needed.

Slice trimmed lemongrass on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces; bruise it slightly as well, then set aside until needed. In a medium saucepan, combine chicken broth, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, straw mushrooms, and prepared lemongrass over medium-high heat. Bring mixture to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until aroma is released, about 5 to 6 minutes.

Add toasted chile and shrimp; cook until shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 1 to 2 minutes. Just before serving, stir in the fish sauce and lime juice. Taste, and adjust the seasoning to your liking with fish sauce, lime juice, and chiles. Stir in green onions and cilantro and serve immediately.

Serving Suggestion: Delicious served with steamed jasmine rice.

*Note: These aromatics (kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, and whole dried chiles) are for flavoring the liquid only; they are not to be consumed. If you prefer, you may place these aromatics in the center of a dampened, 6-inch square piece of cheesecloth folded double. Draw up the sides to form a pouch and tie with kitchen twine. Continue with recipe as directed above, then discard the sachet before serving.

Serves 4