Wife Jan has been having digestive difficulties for the last few weeks. She is finally getting better, but she is being really cautious about reintroducing various foods to her diet. At this point, she knows that she can handle seafood, but she is still afraid of chicken.
The first dish I created on my own—rather than following a recipe—was a soup that Miriam called “Papa’s Fine Soup.” Some powdered lemon grass, chicken, pea pods, green onion, and udon noodles. While this soup has changed over time, it has been a comfort food in our house for almost 30 years. Turning this into a seafood soup seemed like something that would give her the feeling of having a “real” meal, without introducing foods that might give her difficulties.
Note: My preferred noodle for this dish is Inaka Udon. These are thick wheat noodles that plump up to about ⅜ of an inch thick when they are cooked. While you could make do with any pasta—in a pinch—these noodles are a key ingredient in this dish.
A few years ago I discovered Consome de Cameron—a shrimp broth made from ground dried shrimp—at my local Mexican market. One teaspoon per cup of water makes an excellent shrimp broth. To boost the flavor, I always boil the shrimp shells in the broth before adding the other ingredients.
Papa’s Fine Shrimp Soup
½ lb. shrimp, raw with shells
1 stalk lemon grass, sliced finely
4-5 cups water
4-5 tsp. Consome de Cameron
3 coins of fresh ginger
1 Tbs. fish sauce
1 Tbs. light soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. ginger, cut into matchsticks
Pinch white pepper
2 green onions, green parts only
¼ lb. Shanghai bok choi, separate uses
1+ pkg. Inaka Udon Japanese Style Noodle
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1. Peel the shrimp and put the shells in a pot with four cups of water.
Tip: Put the raw peeled shrimp in a bowl—covered—in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.
2. Slice the lemongrass into ⅛–¼ inch pieces, put them in a soup pot
3. Add the water, Consome de Cameron, and the ginger coins to the pot and bring it to a boil.
4. Reduce the heat and simmer the broth for 20 minutes.
5. Strain out the solids and return the broth to the pot.
Tip: Consome de Cameron is basically ground up whole dried shrimp. As a result the bits of shells settle to the bottom of the pot. If you prefer a clear soup you may strain out this “sand” by filtering the broth through a couple of layers of cheese cloth set in a strainer.
6. While the broth is simmering, prepare all of the other ingredients.
7. Remove the tough outer leaves of the lemon grass.
Note: The outer leaves of the lemongrass frequently have mold on them. You want to wash off, or cut off, any of the mold that remains.
8. Cut the green parts of the green onions into 1 inch.
Tip: The green parts are added at the last minute, so that they do not overcook.
Note: There are compounds in the white parts of green onions that are upsetting to my wife digestion. If you are not having this problem feel free to use the entire onion.
9. Cut the bok choi into pieces and set them aside, thick parts and leafy parts separate.
Tip: separate the stalk/leaves from the base and cut off the leafy part. Cut the stalk into one inch pieces and set them aside. Stack and shred the leaves into half inch strips and save them.
Note: Anything in the cabbage family is off my wife’s diet. however it is not off mine. To please up both I cooked the bok choi in a separate small pot with a bit of the shrimp broth.
10. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.
11. When the water comes to a boil, add the udon and reduce the heat to medium.
Note: Figure one ounce of dried udon per person.
12. Simmer the noodles until they are almost done, about 8-10 minutes.
Tip: Boil noodles until almost cooked through—noodles will still show a tiny white spot in the center when cut.
13. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger matchsticks, white pepper, and white parts of the bok choi.
Note: While I cooked the bok choi separately, usually I would simply add it to the pot.
14. Continue to simmer while the noodles are boiling.
15. Drain the noodles and submerge them in cool water.
Tip: This keeps them from forming one large clump.
16. Simmer the shrimp broth for 10 minutes.
17. Add the shrimp, the leaves of the bok choi, and simmer the soup for 2-3 minutes.
18. Individual diners serve their preferred amount of noodles and then add the green onion.
19. Pour the hot soup over the noodles and garnish with the cilantro.
20. Serve hot.