I’m not someone who spends a lot of time in the kitchen. (Wait, I wrote this 2 years ago, now I’m constantly cooking.) Maybe because I worked from home for so long that I got in the habit of eating most of my meals out. I have a handful of favorite dishes I cook for myself and for friends and one of my favorite things to cook is soup. Sometimes I’m just looking in the fridge at the leftovers. Sometimes I do this in a structured manner, like deciding on split pea soup and buying just those ingredients, but most often I find myself in the store looking at a juicy stalk of fennel next to a fat leek and the ideas start to flow. If I have no direction in mind, I can just let the fresh vegetables of the day direct me.
I love all kinds of soups. I love thick, chunky stews and I love a simple, delicate broth. I like leafy kale soups and hearty root vegetable soups.
In my past incarnation (in this lifetime), I was a heavy meat eater. Sausage and ham hocks were the first ingredients into every soup! As I turned more health conscious at the turn of the new millennium, I embarked on a mission to discover food alternatives with massive flavor and minimum fat, and big hunks of meat no longer appealed to me.
Now if I want meaty flavor, I’ll add smoked turkey or fish sauce. Yeh, fish sauce sounds gross if you’re not used it it, like anchovy paste, but it imparts a wonderful, deep umami flavor (which is what that luscious mouth feel of a ham hock is.)
There are a few standard ingredients I always keep on hand. My vegetarian friends won’t like this part…
Low sodium chicken broth in the box
Better Than Bouillion roasted chicken soup base
3 Crabs brand fish sauce (nuoc mam)
Frozen bay scallops
Frozen shrimps in the shell
Frozen firm fleshed white fish
My pantry always includes:
Canned tomatoes, large and small cans
Canned crushed tomatoes
Canned stewed tomatoes
I always have on hand:
Fresh onions: white, red and Vidalia
Fresh garlic in bulbs
A few sweet potatoes
A few white potatoes, or Yukon Gold for flavor
Fresh Roma tomatoes (sometimes I can grow them)
Fresh basil and rosemary. I eat a lot of fresh basil and rosemary.
Vegetables I may also include in a soup if I see them fresh are:
Peppers: red, yellow and poblano
Fresh English peas!
Favorite dried spices include:
Sea salt finely ground
Coarse ground black pepper
Cinnamon, powder and in sticks
Favorite dried beans I keep on hand include:
White navy beans
Red kidney beans
AND HERE ARE ITEMS I KEEP ON HAND FOR QUICK ASIAN RECIPES
ITEMS TO BUY AT AN ASIAN MARKET Keep these items on hand and by the time you read the recipes about them a few times, you’ll feel adventuresome enough to make the delicious, classic tom yum soup. Here’s a link to another fave Asian inspired soup.
Stalks of lemon grass. They may be fresh and may be in the freezer and will be wrapped like scallions. They give high lemon flavor as a soup or tea base, and you remove them before eating as they are coarse and woody.
Kaffir lime leaves. These will be in the freezer maybe 25-50 to a bag. They give high lemon flavor as a soup or tea base, and you remove them before eating.
Gangalal. This is a form of ginger. It will be in the freezer in a small tray, probably already cut into small pieces. They give sharp ginger flavor as a soup or tea base, and you remove them before eating.
Chilies or chili peppers. These will be in the freezer in small bags. Most of them are too hot for me; you have to find your own comfort level. I sometimes pop a whole chili in a soup and then take it out and discard it. I do not cut it open. That gives enough heat for me. Remember the high heat is in the seeds, so after handling them wash your hands.
Fish sauce nuoc mam. I use the 3 Crabs brand. A little goes a long way. High flavor, smells hmmm fishy
Chili garlic sauce. in a jar on the shelf. It is hotter than Sriracha sauce.
Sriracha hot sauce. In a tall bottle on the shelf, has a red rooster on the bottle. It is milder than chili garlic sauce.
Nam Prik Pao or Tom Yum Soup paste. In jars on the shelf. Try different brands.
Sesame Oil. Usually not cooked, but added into hot soups and dressings before serving.
Bunches of fresh basil or cilantro. Rinse before last minute adding to soups. I don’t care for cilantro myself, but love sweet basil, holy basil, Thai basil, lemon basil.
Scallions find them in the refrigerator. Rinse before last minute adding to soups.
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