Last week's NY Times Dining section was heavy on the Easter goods, which might be why Melissa Clark's Thai soup stuck in our mind as something different. We couldn't wait to try it, and even though we couldn't get a stalk of lemon grass at our nearest market, the soup was exactly what we wanted — spicy, sweet, and full of fragrant green herbs. Clark's inspiration was some leftover, takeout tom yum soup that she brought to life with coconut milk. In trying to recreate the hot-and-sour flavor of the tom yum, she starts with a recipe but eventually swaps in shallots for galangal and lime zest for kaffir lime. The only remotely exotic ingredient in her final recipe is lemon grass, and we're sure our soup would have been the better for it.
Still, our broth was delicious, with a lingering tartness from the lime and fish sauce and a faint sweetness from brown sugar. Clark's recipe called for an entire jalapeño, which made us a little nervous (the recipe only serves two), but simmering the broth for 10 minutes mellows out the heat.
The broth was so good that we almost regretting having to eat another bite of shrimp or fish (Clark uses snapper; we bought tilapia). We're thinking we may try it with tofu next time, to let the broth take center stage.
Overall, it took us less time to make this soup than to wait for takeout. We were eating alone, and there were still barely any leftovers.