Over the weekend, Adam and I took a short trip up to Mendocino, a seaside Victorian village about two hours north.
And when I say “village”, I mean village! The town was simply a row of quaint clapboard homes perched high on a cliff over the Pacific. It was like something out of a novel, with a very Cape Cod-esque feel. We both loved it!
While in Mendocino, we went wine tasting at Pacific Star Winery. And when I say “wine tasting”, I mean we spent five amazing hours there. Who does that? During those five hours, we became best friends with the owners (hi Sally! hi Marcus!), joined the wine club, played with the dogs and watched both the sun set and the moon rise.
It will forever go down as the longest (and best!) wine tasting ever.
Before we left, Sally told me we had to stop at The Mendocino Cafe on our way out for their Thai Fire-Pot Soup.
“It will warm you from the inside out! Ask for rice–not noodles—and shrimp, ” she said as I struggled to wiggle my toes, which at that point had frozen inside of my boots.
The temperature here drops about thirty degrees once the sun goes down and my Florida blood is still quite thin despite now being a Northern Californian for two and a half years. So, we listened to her advice and got the soup, which turned out to be phenomenal: shrimp and rice floating in a light and spicy curry broth. After three deliciously spicy slurps, my toes and fingers defrosted and I anxiously wrote down in my notebook different flavors that I was tasting so I could recreate it at home.
I used shrimp and tofu but shrimp and chicken would work, as would simply shrimp or simply tofu. The base of the soup is coconut milk and chicken broth, and it’s delightfully creamy without being heavy.
You may have to go on an adventure to your local Asian market for curry paste, Thai basil and lemongrass but I promise it’s worth the trip. This soup is perfect for chilly January weather and leftovers taste even better the next day once the flavors have a chance to settle a bit. If you want to make the soup a little less spicy, omit the Thai chilies. If you love spice, add another! Then come over for dinner—at my house, it’s the spicier the better.
3/4 lb raw shrimp, deveined, tails on or off
8 oz extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes
3 tbsp thai curry paste (available at large supermarkets and Asian markets)
1 tbsp canola oil
6 thai basil leaves, torn (available at Asian markets)
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
1 6-inch stalk lemongrass
1/2 lime, juiced
2 red or green Thai chilies, pierced with a knife
1/2 cup dry jasmine rice
cilantro for serving
Cook the rice in a cup and a half of water until tender (about thirty minutes). Fluff and set aside.
Heat up a teaspoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet on high heat. Add the shrimp and saute about thirty seconds, until pink and curled. Remove shrimp and place on a plate with the cubed tofu. Set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in the skillet and bring back to medium high heat. Add the curry paste and “mash” together with the oil until both are combined. Stir while cooking for another two minutes and then slowly whisk in the coconut milk and broth.
Add the fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, torn Thai basil, lime juice, lemongrass stalk and chilies and simmer for ten minutes. Chop the cooked shrimp and add both that and the tofu to the skillet and heat through. Add cooked rice to individual bowls and top with soup and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Don’t forget to discard the lemongrass and chilies—you don’t want to eat those!