Unsure how to proceed I set my sea-blue dutch oven on top of the stove. Regardless, of the uncertainty I turned on the flame and poured in a bit of oil. What I did know was that I wanted a soup much like, Tom Yum – bright, tart and fresh – but with salmon because that’s what my fridge had to offer.
Many of the Tom Yum recipes I read had you simply combining the ingredients with a stock and simmering. I liked the ease but saw a few opportunities to build in layers of flavor. So with a hot pan at the ready I decided to deeply caramelize the mushrooms so they would carry with them a roasted earthiness. Once sufficiently bronzed, garlic and ginger popped in the pan and danced around the bottom until their scent wafted up through the steam. At that point I proceeded along the recommended route.
Even with my additions the soup came together quickly, 30 minutes in all I’d say, but tasted as if it had been simmering on the stove all day; rich, complex and foreign flavors that comfort as if I had eaten it my whole life.
Take care not to over cook the salmon, although I will say the leftovers still tasted great even though the salmon had grown a bit tough. And feel free to adjust the amount of fish sauce and lime juice. I like it briny and sour so my quantities reflect that.
One final quick thank you to those who joined the conversation from the last post. There was so much encouragement from you moms that have paved the way before those of us who still have young ones sitting at our table. Thank you for taking the time to offer a bit of hope and perspective. For those of you who could relate to my story of feeding a table filled with, shall we say, a lack of gratitude? 🙂 I really recommend you spend some time reading the comments. Each one comforted and reminded me of the grace that we can freely offer to one another knowing that the days are long, the job is hard but the years roll on and someday our table will be a bit less crowded. We are all shaky in this crazy role as parent and sometimes that shakiness produces harsh opinions and pointed fingers but here there was nothing but kindness and the sort of feeling that we are in it together. So, thank you. I really do love the community in this place. I’m happy to be a part of it.
Thai-Style Salmon Chowder with Crispy Salmon Skin
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons oil
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1 tomato, roughly chopped
1 red bell pepper, large dice
2 stalks lemon grass, outer layer removed and cut into 3-inch pieces
10 kaffir lime leaves
1 quart chicken stock
1 can ( 13.5 ounces) coconut milk
8 ounces salmon, skin removed (but save for later), cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
crisped salmon skin
Set a large pot or dutch oven over high heat. Add the oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Saute the mushrooms until deeply bronzed, about 7 to 10 minutes. To that add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato, bell pepper, lime leaves and lemongrass. Cook until the tomatoes soften and release their juice and the bell peppers start to wilt.
Add the chicken stock and coconut milk and bring the whole pot to a simmer. Reduce the heat to keep a steady simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the salmon, fish sauce and lime juice and cook for just a minute or two, until the salmon is just cooked. It will continue to cook with the residual heat so be mindful of that.
Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. I tend to like the soup very bright and sour so you may want to start with a bit less fish sauce and fresh lime juice.
Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.
To crisp up the salmon skin add a small splash of oil to a large cast iron pan or skillet. Add the salmon skin to the pan set over medium high heat and cook until the sizzling steadies and decreases. Flip and do the same to the other side, about 3 minutes per side. Add a small pinch of salt to the skin. Cook until crisp.