So far in this beautiful life I have managed to travel to eleven countries. Visiting new countries and experiencing different cultures other than my own has made me more open minded, taught me many life lessons, introduced me to new friends, and expanded my palate exponentially. As an avid cook and self-proclaimed foodie, tasting new flavors and learning new cooking techniques around the world is a dream come true. In my opinion, learning about the cuisine of a country is one of the best ways to learn about the country’s culture as a whole. I have a hard time playing favorites with the countries I’ve visited because each has stirred me in unique ways. But if I was forced to choose a favorite, Thailand would be a front runner without a doubt.
Thailand has it all. From gorgeous tropical beaches and islands to bustling metropolises and abundant jungles. You can party till the sun comes up under the full moon and seek guidance from a local monk at the temple the next day. And I can’t say enough about the Thai people! Generous. Lively. Vibrant. Happy. Welcoming. Thai people are all of these things and their dynamic culture is especially brought to life in the bold, complex flavors of their cuisine.
The aromatics in Thailand are insane! Lemongrass, galangal, and other herbs are flavors that will dance on your palate in new, interesting ways. If, like me, you love spicy food, then Thailand will be your mecca. Thai chilies brought a new level of heat into my life in the best possible way. The use of fish sauce and dried shrimps brings a special umami to many Thai dishes. And somehow Thai food is made all the more delicious when savored while seated on low plastic chairs outdoors near a food stall or at an outdoor restaurant with a roll of toilet paper on the table for napkins. Motorbikes and tuk-tuks speeding by on the street behind you whipping your hair up as they go. Your ice-cold Thai milk tea dripping with beads of sweat from the humidity. Now that is living!
The Inspiration For My Easy Thai Noodle Soup
While I was in Thailand, I took a cooking classing to learn Thai cooking techniques so I could one day recreate this magical cuisine at home. I elected to make prawn and coconut Thai soup, pad thai, and green curry, which all turned out incredibly delicious. In addition to having the proper ingredients (we picked ours up from a local outdoor market), I learned the key component to making a perfect pad thai is to have an extremely hot wok. For the green curry, it was all about the curry paste. We made our curry pastes from scratch, using a mortar and pestle to pound a total of 15 ingredients into a paste. These ingredients included dry cumin seeds, dry coriander seeds, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime, coriander root, shallots, garlic, yellow tumeric, ginger, sweet basil leaves, red Thai chiles, green Thai chiles, salt, and shrimp paste. If memory serves, it took at least 20 minutes to pound out the curry paste, but man was it worth it!!
All of these flavors combined with the coconut milk in the curry were mind-blowing to say the least. We also used a red curry paste as the base for the prawn and coconut Thai soup, whose bold flavors equally matched the best Thai soups I had at Thai eateries throughout the trip. The rich, sweetness of the coconut milk paired with the spice of the aromatics in the curry paste is magical and a trademark of Thai cuisine. This pairing is at the heart of my easy Thai noodle soup.
If you have the time to visit your local Asian market to purchase a long list of ingredients and then pound said ingredients into a curry paste, then I say go for it! I love to do this when I have the time or for a special occasion or special someone. But I’m a realist. I know most people are a bit time poor these days. Though I feel that shouldn’t stop us from savoring those insane Thai flavors on a weeknight. So I developed this easy Thai noodle soup recipe for just that occasion, or any occasion really. The soup is inspired by authentic Thai flavors with some variation including ingredients from other Asian cultures.
Rather than making my own curry paste, I opted to use the Thai Kitchen brand red curry paste to save some time. A great product with a variety of curry flavor options! I chose to use tofu for the protein in my soup, though you could just as easily use shrimp or chicken instead. I also elected to add udon noodles to my soup, a thick, pillowy, wheat flour noodle of Japanese cuisine. Alternatively, you could use vermicelli rice noodles to keep the soup more authentically Thai or you may forego the noodles all together.
The Wine Pairing
The heat from the curry paste and the richness of the coconut milk in this easy Thai noodle soup definitely calls for a white wine pairing. I chose to pair the Thai noodle soup with a 2013 Grenache Blanc from Daou Vineyards. The flavors of white peach, lime, pear, and honeysuckle paired perfectly with the complexities of the Thai aromatics. This Grenache Blanc also had a brioche-like quality whose richness complemented the luscious coconut milk quite well. Grenache Blanc tends to drink well alongside dishes with the lemon or lime zest, garlic, and cilantro.
An off-dry Riesling is another ideal wine pairing for Thai food. Tropical fruit flavors, a touch of sweetness to match the heat of Thai spices, and refreshing acidity make Riesling my go to wine for Thai takeout and Asian flavors in general.
Let me know what wine you decided to pair your Thai noodle soup with in the comments below! Or post a photo of your beautiful Thai noodle soup creation on Instagram and tag me (@palm.and.vine)!
Thai cuisine is bold and complex. With layered flavors and lots of heat from those spicy Thai chilies, Thai is one of my all-time favorite cuisines. If you're longing to create Thai flavors at home, but want to skip buying an extensive list of ingredients at the Asian market, then this easy Thai Noodle soup is for you!
- 2 tbsp Thai Kitchen red curry paste. You can substitute any flavor curry paste of your liking.
- 48 oz chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 can coconut milk
- Trader Joe's coconut aminos. You may substitute with Bragg's liquid aminos or soy sauce
- sesame oil
- fish sauce
- 3/4 package firm tofu
- 1.5 cups shitake mushrooms
- 4 or 5 baby bok choi
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 limes
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 1 jalapeño
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1 package shishito peppers
- 1 package udon noodles
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Drizzle a little olive oil in a pan and toast sesame seeds in the pan over low heat until golden brown and fragrant. Set aside.
Wash and quarter the shitake mushrooms. Drizzle with 2 tbsp coconut aminos, 1 tsp sesame oil, and juice of half a lime. Toss to coat and set aside.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil and cook the udon noodles for 13 minutes or to the directions on the package. Drain when done and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
Wash and prep all herbs and vegetables. Mince the garlic. Thinly slice the green onions. Thinly slice the jalapeño. Chiffonade or rough chop as much basil and cilantro suitable to your taste. You may want to keep some leaves whole for garnish. Cube tofu, about 3/4 of the package.
Cut base of bok choi stems off and separate leaves if you wish to add them to the soup as is. You may alternatively cut each bok choi in half lengthwise, spray with oil, and place face down on a hot grill or pan to char a bit. This will add another layer of flavor to your soup.
Drizzle some olive oil in a pan and blister the shishito peppers over medium heat. Set aside.
Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan and sauté the minced garlic for 2 minutes on medium heat.
Add 2 tbsp Thai Kitchen red curry paste and marinated, chopped shitake mushrooms. Stir to coat and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add 1 can of coconut milk, liquid only, and bring to a simmer. Reserve the solid portion for another use.
Add 48 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth.
Bring to a boil. Add cubed tofu and bok choi leaves. Squeeze in juice of 1 lime and 1/2 - 1 tbsp of fish sauce depending on your taste.
Let boil for 5-10 minutes. You may add some chopped herbs at this time if you wish.
To serve, place desired amount of cooked udon noodles in a bowl. Ladle the soup over the noodles. Add additional fish sauce and lime juice to suit your taste. Garnish with basil, cilantro, blistered shishito peppers, sliced jalapeños, toasted sesame seeds, and a lime wedge.
Wine Pairing: Grenache Blanc or Viognier