Inspired by an extended stay in Penang, The Ex-Press’s resident chef cooks up an enticing mix of Asian flavours with Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup
By Louise Crosby
I lived for awhile in Penang, Malaysia, where the mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisines makes for some fantastic eating. The food at roadside stalls, known as hawker food, was so delicious, inexpensive and safe, we hardly ever cooked at home. Compared to our bland Western diet, it was hot, pungent, fragrant, sweet, salty, sour, tangy, an explosion of flavour in the mouth. I loved all that but loved it even more if there was coconut milk involved, its creamy sweetness balancing the heat. Fresh-pressed from the coconuts that grew all around, it took food from heavenly to sublime. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back.
Back here in Canada, I use canned unsweetened coconut milk, which is perfectly fine, adding it to curries and noodle dishes and soups like this Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup from Peter Berley’s Fresh Food Fast. While Berley leaves the soup chunky and adds greens and a spoonful of (cooked) jasmine rice, I simply purée the soup without the greens and garnish with cilantro and a swirl of plain yogurt with lime juice mixed in. By all means sweat down some chopped spinach or chard to add at the end, if you feel so inclined.
Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups diced onion (about 2 medium)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1 large sweet potato, or 2 medium, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 4 cups)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño pepper with seeds, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground, or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime, or to taste
½ cup plain yogurt
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish
In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the sweet potato, garlic, jalapeño, ginger, coriander, and turmeric, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, the coconut milk, and 1 teaspoon salt, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
Let cool slightly. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth. Add a bit of water if the soup is too thick.
Combine the lime juice and the yogurt and stir until smooth. Ladle the soup into soup bowls and top with a swirls of the yogurt, and some cilantro.
For more of Louise Crosby’s recipes and cuisine, please click here, or visit KitchenonFourth,com.
THE EX-PRESS, December 3, 2015