Thai Shenanigans and Tom Yummery

I love going to the grocery store with no plan and a bit of hunger.  My best ideas definitely come out under those circumstances.  I actually just needed some feta and dill and olives for a greek salad.

However, as I walked past the normal produce in Farmer Joe's and into the organic and asian produce section (I still don't really know what to call that section, so i'm sticking with asian produce), some lemongrass was looking at me.

Instantly the right side of my brain went into full gear and i started gathering all sorts of things like ginger, basil, lime, garlic, scallions, hot chilis, coconut milk, shrimp, and squid. Clearly I wanted some Thai food.

Upon arriving home I did some research and found that I'd purchased exactly everything I needed for Tom Yum, which made me very happy, because Southeast Asian soups are one of my absolute favorite things. (Raindrops on roses are pretty overrated... but whiskers on kittens are still awesome.)

I don't really have a recipe for any of this because i was just winging it and didn't end up taking a lot of pictures either, but I figured I'd share a bit.    I also ended up making a second round of Tom Yum at our BBQ the other night (the first round was ok, but had some problems... the second round was simply amazing).

The main problem with the first one involves a whole different story:
For a few months I've been on a very casual search for a certain vegetable that I have only ever seen sliced.  So I had an idea that it was greenish and somewhat knobby, and dense, almost more like a turnip or something than a cucumber.  It was clear as soon as I cut into it that bitter melon was not what i was looking for. It looked like the perfect shape, but when cut into there's all the red gloop and seeds, and upon tasting... well let's just say bitter melon is very aptly named.  I threw some of it in the soup anyway.  I liked it, Mike hated it.

I also chopped up some more lemongrass, ginger, garlic, scallions and sauteed them with a bit of wild squid.  Little bit of oil and some dried chilis to start it off, of course.

One of these little guys had some serious long tentacles; I'm not sure what the two longer tentacles are called, if anything special at all, but compared to the rest of the squid I bought that day, this guy was huge. Kraken or no, I still chopped him up and threw him in with the rest.

All in all, it was pretty tasty.... sauteed the aromatics a bunch, then threw the squid in and gave it another 30 seconds or a minute.  I've decided I love buying squid.  It's cheap, it's tasty, and takes literally no time to cook.

So here's tom yum round 1:

Served with the sauteed squid on rice noodles:

Round one was pretty good apart from the bitter melon being a bit overpowering (though i thought it gave the broth a good flavor). The sauteed squid and rice noodles saved the meal though.

My readings in thai soup cooking make me believe what i did is more like something halfway between Tom Yum and Tom Khaa, but there's just so much more wordplay to be had if I call it Tom Yum, so i'm sticking to that.

Shared ingredients in both:

red chilis
coconut milk
lime juice

fish sauce

The differences were pretty vast:

Round 1 used chicken stock from the store; round 2 used homemade veggie stock. (Same stuff I use for my veggie pho.)

Round 1 had bitter melon and carrot; round 2 had baby bok choy, bamboo, and chayote. (Found the mystery vegetable that I had been looking for!)

Round 1 had coriander seeds because I didn't have cilantro; round 2 had fresh cilantro.

Round 1 had huge prawns; round 2 had wild squid and quartered jumbo sea scallops.

Round 1 had oyster mushrooms, round 2 had shiitake.

Round 1 served 2 people; round 2 served 10.

Here is tom yum round 2:

I'm very happy to add this to my soup repertoire.

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