Tom Kha Gai (Thai Spicy Coconut Soup)

When my husband and I traveled Thailand, we could not get enough of this. The broth is is essentially a spicy lime broth, but you blend in coconut milk to give it a creamy background. Admittedly this does not have all of the 'authentic' ingredients (mostly because I had trouble finding them), and is usually chicken or fish based, however this compares on the delicious scale, and is easy to make.

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 tbsp oil
1/2 package of firm tofu, cubed

1 cup mushrooms, sliced (I like to use a real earthy flavor mushroom, such as shitake)
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup bamboo spears, chopped (you can find these in the canned section of the Asian aisle)
 1 lemongrass stalk (cut off the top, dry portion, leaving about 4 inches of lemon grass, peel some of the drier leaves away, then bend it back and forth to bruise it so that flavors can be released)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (you can also use fresh red chili's, about 2 seeded)
2 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
1 tbsp nori, in small pieces (this gives it that 'fishy' background)
2 tsp white sugar
3/4 tsp sea salt
pepper to taste

1/2 can coconut milk (you can add more if you find it too spicy)
1/3-1/2 cup lime juice (if you add it too early, the flavor mellows; I find if I use fresh lime juice, I can use less)
1/8 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

2 cups cooked rice (optional; I like to serve it over rice)

1)  In a large pot, saute the oil and tofu until the tofu picks up some color (about 3 minutes). Add the mushrooms until they begin to take on a little color (about 3 minutes). Add all other ingredients (except for the coconut milk, lime juice and cilantro) and allow to simmer, covered for about 15 minutes. Add the coconut milk and lime juice, continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes, covered. Take off of the heat, stir in the cilantro leaves, allow to sit for about 5 minutes, serve over rice (if using) and enjoy!

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