Thai Vegetable Chowder

A thick coconut vegetable soup with puréed butternut squash, bottle gourd, fresh corn and cauliflower, and flavored with Thai red curry paste, ginger and kaffir lime leaves. A dash of almond milk too.

The season of Autumn is knocking on our door and will soon be here. Which means, pumpkins and squashes, in various colorful hues and unique shapes and sizes seem to be flooding the stores these days. These sights and simply the feel in the air inspire me to cook a comforting and hearty dish with pumpkin and squash. My favorite is butternut squash, especially for soups, which is on the menu today. To compliment the squash is bottle gourd, which belongs to the same enormous Cucurbitaceae family. Bottle gourd, is what we fondly call lauki or doodhi in India, and a pretty bland-tasting vegetable. But it is one of the healthiest, and contains mostly water. Thus it hydrates the body and keeps the tummy cool. A glass of lauki juice in the mornings, supposedly works miracles for the body. It is found in many Indian stores here in the country all year round, but I have also seen plenty of them in Chinatown, albeit only for a short season, and our local farmers market.

Moving on from the two star ingredients, there’s also an adequate amount of fresh cauliflower, which I see in abundance these days, celery and corn. It’s loaded with fresh vegetables and I did mention it is a soup. But to be more specific, I like to call it a chowder, with basic Thai flavours. It is thick and hearty, dairy-free + 99% vegetarian (1% due to the dried shrimp paste in the store-bought red curry paste). The richness and creaminess comes from coconut milk and almond milk. Onions, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and the red curry paste impart the flavours and aromas of Thai cooking. I love fresh Kaffir lime leaves, it imparts a refreshing flavor to the soup. If you cannot lay your hands on them, sustitute with the rind of a fresh green lime.

A hearty and filling vegetable laden soup + a taste of Thai, is what makes this recipe a must-try from my kitchen to yours 😊

Servings : 6-8

Ingredients:

Butternut squash, cut in cubes – 4 cups

1 small bottle gourd (lauki or doodhi in Hindi), peeled and diced

Fresh cauliflower florets, 2 large handfuls

1 cup fresh corn kernels

3 stalks celery, diced

1 small onion, diced

1 green chile or serrano chile, sliced. Deseed to remove heat.

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 tsp. minced garlic

6-8 kaffir lime leaves

2 tsp. store-bought red curry paste. Can add more for extra heat and flavor.

1 cup coconut milk

1 cup almond milk

Water

Fresh lime juice

Salt and black pepper

Olive oil

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil. Add the onions and celery and stir fry for a few minutes till onions are translucent. Add the red curry paste. Add the ginger, garlic and green chilies. Sauté for a minute. Toss in the remaining vegetables. Stir well and sauté on medium heat for a good 5 minutes.

Add a sufficient amount of water, till it covers all the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling, lower the heat, cover and simmer on low heat, till the vegetables are absolutely tender.

Purée the mixture in a blender or blend directly with a hand immersion blender. Add the kaffir lime leaves and let the soup gently simmer. Add the coconut milk and the almond milk. Add salt and black pepper according to taste. Before serving, squeeze some fresh lime juice.

Serve hot and enjoy!

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