Thai Foods Ep.8
Kaeng Liang - Breast Milk Booster Shrimp & Veggie Soup!
Healthy Soup with a Bonus for New Moms.Since I became pregnant, many people have asked whether there is a dish in Thai culture that pregnant and new mothers are encouraged to eat. And this is it! Kaeng Liang or Gaeng Liang is a peppery, light, yummy vegetable soup believed to help boost breast milk supply in Thai culture. Whether or not it actually does, who knows, I don't think there's been a real study on it. But hey, it's delicious and healthy, so why not! Now, if you're not having a baby, you can still enjoy it! This is not something that is reserved only for new moms—anybody can enjoy it at any time, and people do have it at home regularly, but new moms are especially encouraged to eat more of it. This is a dish I grew up eating, and my grandmother makes it quite often because my mom loves it. It's also popular amongst the health conscious because it's full of nutritious vegetables!
An Interesting FlavourI have to say that the flavour of this dish is unlike any other dish in Thai cuisine. The combination of dried shrimp, shrimp paste and grachai in the curry paste creates an emergent aroma that is really unique to gaeng liang. It's a bit funky, and when I was a kid I didn't love it, and didn't understand why my mom loved it so much. But now as an adult I do and finally get it! So if you're new to it, it might take a bit of getting used to, I just wanted you to be prepared for it!
So Many Vegetables!As you can see, kaeng liang uses a ton of different kinds of vegetables, especially squashes. You don't have to have everything I used, as it can be a bit much and you'll have so much leftover veg, but I recommend having at least the following 3 vegetables:
- Kabocha squash - This will give a sweet, rich, creamy element which you will need to balance all the other lighter vegetables. If you don't have kabocha, any other sweet, creamy winter squash (like acorn) will do.
- One type of light summer squash - We traditionally use angled luffa or angled gourd (sing gua), but you can use zucchini, patty pans, cousa squash (shown in the video), chayote, or whatever lighter squash you have access to.
- One type of Asian mushroom - Oyster mushroom is my favourite, but you can do straw mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms, beech/shimeji mushrooms, or enoki mushrooms. Do not use dried mushrooms as they have a strong earthy flavour that will interfere with the soup.
Is it a Curry or a Soup?To Thai people, this dish is a curry (kaeng or gaeng means curry), but I understand that it's more like a soup in the Western sense of the word. This is because Thai people define curries differently from people in the western world. To us, a curry or a kaeng is any soupy dish that uses a "curry paste"—a ground up mixture of herbs and spices—as the flavour base. So that's why this is classified as a curry, even though to you it might be a soup. To us, the richness or consistency has nothing to do with whether it's a curry or not. Another "soupy curry" that's really popular in Thai cuisine is gaeng som, or a sour curry, you should try it out!
- 3 cups chicken stock or shrimp stock, unsalted, preferably homemade
- 1 recipe kaeng liang curry paste (recipe follows)
- 2– 3 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 cups kabocha squash, unpeeled, bite-sized pieces
- Half an angled luffa (sing gua) or half a large zucchini
- Half a chayote squash, peeled and cut into sticks (or sub more angled luffa or zucchini)
- 150g oyster mushrooms, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 6 ears baby corn, quartered (optional)
- 150g shrimp or chicken (if using chicken, cut into cubes and marinate in a bit of fish sauce)
- 1 cup Thai lemon basil or Thai basil (see note)
- Jasmine rice for serving
KAENG LIANG CURRY PASTE
- 1½ Tbsp dried shrimp
- ½ - ¾ tsp white peppercorns (see note)
- Heaping ¼ cup shallots, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp grachai (fingerroot), finely chopped (see note)
- 1-2 Thai chilies (optional, to taste)
- ½ tsp fermented shrimp paste (gapi)
For the Curry Paste:
Note: I make the paste in a mortar and pestle old-school, but you can also blend everything in the blender with a little bit of the stock.
- In a coffee grinder, grind the dried shrimp until shredded and fluffy; set aside.
- In the mortar and pestle, grind white peppercorns until fine.
- Add grachai and Thai chilies, and pound until fine, then add shallots and pound until fine. If at any point the mixture becomes too wet and slippery and is difficult to grind, you can add some of the shredded dried shrimp to help absorb the moisture and add friction.
- Add the shrimp paste and any remaining dried shrimp and pound to mix.
For the Curry:
- In a medium pot, bring stock to a boil, then add curry paste and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
- Add 2 Tbsp of fish sauce, then add kabocha squash and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add all remaining vegetables and simmer for 3-4 more minutes or until the kabocha squash can be pierced easily with a fork. (Timing depends on thickness of your kabocha.)
- Add shrimp or chicken and cook just until they’re done, about 30 seconds only.
- Turn off the heat and stir in Thai of lemon basil.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce or salt as needed. If you want it to be spicier, you can add more ground white pepper at this point.
- Serve with jasmine rice. I like to put a bit of rice into a bowl of kaeng liang to make a rice soup out of it!