Looking for an interesting and different way to make soup out of your fall/winter squash? Well here it is—butternut squash harmonized by the exotic Thai flavors and cooked (tom) in coconut milk which has been infused with galangal (kha), lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. It’s spicy, cozy, delicious, and just the thing for fall and winter. I dare say, you’re going to LOVE it! 😉
For any of you who might try this soup—and I hope you do—there is some flexibility and you might pull it together a few different ways. I have friend who makes tom kah pumpkin, for example, and uses red curry paste. I adapted her recipe to come up with this one. I would think using acorn squash might be another way to go. You might be able to find some of the ingredients for this soup at your local grocery store, but for the more exotic ones, you might have to visit a local Asian or Thai market. I was lucky to find tom kah paste to add to my soup, but like my friend, you could also use red curry paste. Just be sure to season your pot of soup with traditional tom kah ingredients—coconut milk, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass and chili.
Tom Kah Butternut Squash
1 butternut squash (or small sugar pumpkin)
3 shallots or half a small onion, finely diced
1-2 tablespoons vegetable or coconut oil
4 tablespoons tom kah paste (or red curry paste)
1 teaspoon red curry paste, optional
1 can coconut milk (I used full fat)
3-4 cups, or more, vegetable broth or water
10 kaffir lime leaves, stems and tough veins removed, and tear leaves torn in half (you can buy fresh leaves that have been frozen at an Asian grocery store)
3-5 tablespoons mushroom soy sauce
5 or 6 thin slices galangal (sometimes ginger is substituted for galangal)
2-3 tablespoons cane sugar
1 stalk lemon grass, trimmed, bruised and cut into 1/2 (or 3 tablespoons minced, frozen)
1 cup straw and/or oyster mushrooms, halved or quartered
1 cup baby corn, optional
juice from 1-3 limes
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
lime wedges, to serve
chile oil, to serve, optional
Preheat oven to 350F.
Cut butternut squash in half, scoop out seeds, and roast cut side down in glass baking dishes with ¼ inch of water until softened, about an hour. Remove from oven, allow to cool. Scoop out the cooked flesh and reserve.
In a large soup pot heat oil and cook shallots until softened and translucent. Add tom kah paste and/or red curry paste, if using, and heat until fragrant. Add 1/2 can of coconut milk to paste and combine. Remove from heat, pour into blender and carefully blend. Return mixture to large pot and add 3 cups of vegetable broth or water.
Using the blender, blend the reserved butternut squash flesh with the remaining coconut milk and about a cup of broth or water until smooth. Add squash mixture to soup pot.
Add the kaffir lime leaves, mushroom seasoning, galangal, sugar and lemongrass. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors are melded, 8–10 minutes. Discard the solids (lemongrass, kaffir leaves and galangal). Add mushrooms and baby corn, if using, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add juice of one lime, taste and adjust as necessary, adding more broth, lime juice, mushroom soy sauce, etc., to taste. The soup should be sour, salty and a little sweet. Stir in the cilantro leaves, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves, lime wedges and chile oil.
You can also serve your tom kha butternut with rice, or other grain, as an entree.