Leftover Wonderment: Vietnamese Noodle Soup with Squash, Coconut, and Curry (Video)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Vietnamese Noodle SoupI will never cease to be amazed by people who hate leftovers. No offense to them or anything, it’s just such a foreign concept to me, is all. As my regular readers know, I cook purposefully in large amounts to create leftovers for both fridge and freezer. It’s wonderfully efficient and ensures I always have healthy, homemade food on hand. (As I’ve mentioned, I do not cook hot meals from scratch every day for reasons related to both time and my love of big salads for supper.) As well, on many a happy occasion culinary creativity kicks in and my leftovers are morphed into something altogether new, like…

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I frequently have leftovers from the new dish I made from the original leftover, which always makes me smile. Thus far I’ve never morphed my secondary leftover creation into a tertiary concoction, in case you were wondering. Since often times sauces and such turn into soups, I’m not quite sure what the next step would be other than, say, blended baby food.

Additional Cooking and Nutrition Notes

Interestingly, you really can’t taste the squash all that much in this soup, and you should go ahead and vary the proportions of the liquids – squash, stock, and coconut – to suit your taste. But part of why I love my version so much is that by starting with squash soup you add thickness, body, and flavor via squash rather than solely with coconut milk. This addition decreases the energy density and increases the nutrient density of the dish, which is a key facet of healthful eating. And, because the roasted squash is so sweet, it’s a perfect complement to the coconut. (Note: I tried hard to come up with some clever “A squash walks into a coconut…” joke, to no avail.) Switching out brown rice noodles for nutritionally bereft refined also adds extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and you’ll never know the difference. (Incidentally, this soup ended up being both gluten-free and vegan, if that’s of concern, though it wasn’t designed as such.)

Also, while the soup is excellent as made in the video, when serving it I remembered a few things that complete the flavors that I failed to include in today’s version. Really, I just forgot. The soup was terrific but it’s even better with a few more ingredients. The first, tamarind paste (2-3 tsp or 1 tbsp) is not required but, like the fish sauce, creates an incredible party on your palate. Thai basil is another traditional ingredient that’s helpful, but not necessary. Finally, Kaffir lime and/or its leaves is another terrific ingredient you could add but I didn’t have any on hand; regular lime suffices. A garnish of chopped peanuts or cilantro (as pictured) makes a lovely optional garnish, but is not at all necessary.

So, if you enjoy Southeast Asian cooking, whether coconut-ty sweet or super spicy, this soup is for you. If you like squash soup, you’ll adore it. But I’ll also bet that if you served it to someone who didn’t like squash soup (!?) they’d be none the wiser and you could trick them into liking something good for them. Sure, coconut milk is high in calories, but my recipe cuts it down substantially without compromising flavor, and there’s a lot of other highly nutritious stuff in there to boot (veggies, high fiber garbanzos and brown rice noodles, etc.). So, whereas coconut-based soups are not something I eat frequently, as they are certainly higher in calories than broth- or vegetable purée-based soups, they are a luscious addition to a plant-based diet.

And do feel free to add a protein of your choice, if that makes you happy, like the shrimp and scallop variation, below.

vietnamese-soup-with-shrimp-and-scallops-2

Dig in.

And if you think of some good coconut-squash-curry jokes, do let me know.

2015 Update: Need more information? The written version of this recipe with specific quantities and directions is here.

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Dr. P.K. Newby is a nutrition scientist, speaker, and author with expertise in all things food, farm to fork, whether preventing obesity and other chronic diseases through diet or teaching planet-conscious eating. As a health expert and food personality, she brings together her passions for food, cooking, science, and sustainability to educate and inspire, helping people eat their way towards better health, one delectable bite at a time. Healthy Hedonism (TM) is her philosophy: Because healthy food shouldn’t suck.

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