This soup has a bit of spice yet a good balance of Asian flavors. Adding a big squeeze of lime juice and slivers of fresh basil just before serving always brightens a dish. It’s a wonderful way to welcome spring into your kitchen.
While ginger, fish sauce and spicy red curry paste bring the flavors to this dish, the shrimp is the real star. I encourage you to seek out wild caught shrimp, even if it has been frozen, and try to avoid foreign shrimp, which to me has a strange “off” flavor and often the texture of the shrimp is soft. It’s the quality of the shrimp that counts, not the fact that it’s been frozen.
For many years we were spoiled living near the Gulf of Mexico where some of the best shrimp in the world is harvested. I can remember buying freshly caught shrimp with their heads still on packed in lots of fresh ice from big Igloo coolers in the back of pick-up trucks on the side of the road in south Louisiana. Heads on shrimp are THE very best of the best and you can’t fake freshness when you can see their heads. We’ve now discovered that the coast of the Carolinas also has wonderful fresh caught wild shrimp. I’m not saying only buy Gulf of Mexico or Carolina shrimp or never buy frozen. What I am saying is ask your fish monger where the shrimp is from or read the label so you’ll know what you are buying. Try to avoid those bags of frozen shrimp that come from who-knows-where. Good quality seafood is not cheap, so buy the best you can find. Cheap seafood is just that, cheap.
Spicy Coconut Shrimp Soup
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
½ teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon red curry paste, more if you like it really spicy
1 cup light coconut milk (shake well before measuring)
1 pound large shrimp, preferably wild caught, peeled and deveined
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Slices of lime and cilantro sprigs for garnish if desired
Combine chicken broth, mushrooms, chopped red pepper, brown sugar, fish sauce, grated ginger and curry paste in a large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and cook for 2 minutes until hot. Add shrimp, cook for 3 minutes or until the shrimp are done. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the cilantro, basil and lime juice, garnish if desired, and serve right away.