Tofu is one of those things I have been trying to enjoy more. It’s a great source of plant-based protein, and since we are eating a lot less meat these days, it just seems like a good idea to expand our horizons. I started out really hating it. But, being a little stubborn about things like this, I’ve continued trying. After cooking and eating it many different ways, believe it or not, I have come up with a few ways I actually like it. In my opinion, the key to enjoying tofu is to not think of it as a substitute for meat. It’s not. There is no way I have ever eaten it where it reminded me even a little bit of meat. Trying to pull this off is futile, and in many cases, really disgusting, not to mention disappointing. Accept tofu for what it is, a food unto itself, and enjoy the unique qualities it has to offer.
One of those unique qualities is that rather than having much of a taste of its own, it tends to take on the flavors of whatever you cook with it. This is one of the qualities that makes it terrific in soup. It adds a little texture (I like the extra firm tofu that actually holds its shape), and soaks up all the flavors in the pot.
For this soup, you don’t have to use tofu if you’re dead set against it. Make it with just shrimp, or just tofu, or neither, or both. It would also be excellent with chicken. And though the name might lead you to expect something excessively spicy, I found it to be rather mild. You can make it more or less spicy by adding or subtracting chile peppers (or chopping them up instead of just stabbing them), and/or adding or subtracting curry paste, which does have a kick. This is the recipe I used, and I would rate it a medium on the spicy scale – enough to make my nose run, but not to make my eyes water.
Fire Pot Soup
(adapted from Eat, Live, Run)
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled & deveined
8 oz. extra firm tofu, cute into small cubes
3 tbsp. thai red curry paste
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn (thai basil is preferred, but regular basil works fine too)
1 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 – 14 oz. can coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
Lemongrass – 1-2 small stalks, smash with flat of knife
Juice from 1/2 lime
2-3 red or green Thai chiles (or you can use serrano peppers), pierced a couple of times with a knife
Heat a drizzle of oil in dutch oven or soup pot. Add shrimp and saute less than a minute, just until it’s turning pink and curling. Remove shrimp and set aside along with the cubed tofu. Heat another drizzle of oil over medium high heat. Add curry paste and stir and mash together with oil until combined. Whisk in coconut milk and broth. Add fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, basil, lime juice, lemongrass and chiles. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Coarsely chop the cooked shrimp and add both that and the tofu to the pot. Heat through and serve over rice. Be sure to remove the chiles and lemongrass before eating!