the saturday soup: tomato lemongrass January 28, 2011

Sometimes, I feel like tomato soup gets pigeonholed the way we all do sometimes. Maybe it’s in our work or it might be in our personal style. The way they say people get stuck looking like they did in the happiest time in their lives. We’re all hoping to be 28 (in my case, 33!) still. There’s a certain vibe, look or attitude that folks come to expect. I’m kind of bummed that tomato soup is expected to be creamy, full of some sort of pasta or tortellini and/or paired with basil. It can’t get away from being Italian-ish. I’m all about a good tomato basil soup with a grilled cheese panini but…c’mon…it’s got so much more to offer.

Creating a new variation on a simple tomato soup isn’t easy without reverting to the old faithfuls. However, I’m on an Asian soup kick and I was determined to fit a tomato soup into the mold. The bare bones recipe of tomato soup is so versatile, charismatic, friendly with all flavors. When you steep the water with the lemongrass, though, you really build the base for a seriously flavorful and unusually Asian inspired soup. On its own, it’s light with pronounced flavors…but it won’t knock you over. Where this recipe shines is in the garnishes. I swirled a quick spoonful of leftover creme fraiche on top with a smattering of edamame and some teeny cilantro…and when it mixes together, it tastes like a twisted version of my mom’s tomato bisque. I encourage you to experiment with how you gussy up this soup. I can totally see some crunchy bean sprouts, some zippy wasabi peas crushed on top or maybe some won ton strips pinch hitting for croutons.

Tomato Lemongrass Soup – makes 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 tbsp. grapeseed or another neutral flavored oil
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, chopped and broken up
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. dried red chili flakes
  • 2 tbsp. fish sauce – this is acting as your salt in this dish. if you don’t have it, substitute kosher salt to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • optional garnishes: creme fraiche or sour cream, edamame, cilantro, crispy won ton strips, wasabi peas, bean sprouts

– In a large stock/soup pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. When shimmery, add the minced shallot and saute until translucent – about 2 to 3 minutes. Add in water and chopped up lemongrass. Bring to a boil then turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. If you want more intense lemongrass flavor, turn the heat off completely and allow the water to steep with the lemongrass (leave the cover on for this) for up to an hour. Place a very fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the lemongrass stock through the sieve to remove all the woody chopped lemongrass parts and return it to the stock pot.

– Once your lemongrass infused soup base is done, bring the soup back to a slow boil over medium heat. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, red chili flakes, fish sauce and ground black pepper to taste. Taste here and add more fishsauce/salt and pepper if needed. Ladle into soup bowl, top with your chosen garnish and serve immediately. This soup will keep in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for 4-5 days.


Jenny Jan 29, 2011 01:01 pm

Nice! What a great idea. Maybe would go well with some rice noodles? Yum.

Cookin' Canuck Jan 30, 2011 10:01 am

Okay, I have never thought to pair tomatoes, lemongrass and fish sauce in a soup. How inventive!

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Kulsum at JourneyKitchen Feb 3, 2011 10:02 am

Love tomatoes. Love lemon grass. So this is right up my alley. People kind of stick to tomato and basil combination mostly, but tomatoes go so well wit curry leaves, coriander or even rosemary and now I know lemon grass :)