When Lunchering with Lisa as CityWorkers, one of our favourite kitchens is at Chatterbox. Lately we've been gulping down the Tom Yum soup, made with huge chunks of fresh tomato, tofu and very orange indeed.
Chatterbox's Tom Yum
It was with great excitement that I seized this packet of Tom Yum paste at the supermarket, noting with glee that it was approved by the Vegetarian Society and displayed their tick. Further inspection proved it vegan friendly as well, which was miraculous given the ever-present fish sauce, shrimp paste or other fishiness in most Tom Yum sauces. In line with my policy of giving products which choose to present their veg credentials as a selling point, I chucked it in my trolley.
Although I'm generally loathe to resort to pre-packaged meals, which taste even more of plastic than the masses of it that they are covered in, a bit of ready-made sauce is hardly a Lean Cuisine. Having this packet on hand, for all of $1.99, allowed me to make something new very easily that I otherwise wouldn't have even begun. As far as a bit of a helping hand in the kitchen goes, I am choosing to place this sort of pre-prepared package on the same level as readymade pastry: a bloody useful convenience and a boon in the busy kitchen.
I assembled some simple ingredients, wary of my tendency to throw all my favourite ingredients into everything I make, regardless of cuisine, dish or intention. This is known as 'same same cookering' and it pervades my kitchen. To wit, I am quite capable of making tofu scramble, roast veggies, pasta, cous cous and a curry with exactly the same veggies and spices, rendering any difference between them negligible and me highly annoyed and eating the same dinner like Groundhog Day.
I selected some fresh chillis from the plant given to us by our friends Jess and Lachie at our housewarming; fresh tomatoes; fresh coriander; kaffir lime leaves (which I feel really uncomfortable about saying); rice noodles; red capsicum; lime juice (which didn't make it in after all); and field mushrooms. I left out the baby corn and bok choy of the Chatterbox version because they ain't much loved around these here parts (by which I mean my tummy). Next time I'd add some tofu and onion as well, but I'd probably ignore the broccoli and carrot of the Chatterbox version as they don't strike me as very Thai.
Although the sauce packet called for four cups of water for the stock, I used six knowing that I'd be adding rice noodles whereas the packet's recipe did not. This was an excellent amount and didn't dilute the sauce too much at all. I added Vegeta stock and dropped in the tomatoes so that they'd start peeling nicely. The tomatoes are the only vegetable that you actually want cooked; the rest should all be fresh and only a little soft. I let the stock come to a boil and then stirred in the the Tom Yum sauce. Taking it off the heat, I added mushrooms, finely chopped chillis, capsicum slices and some torn up lime leaves. I threw the rice noodles in at the last minute with a handful of chopped fresh coriander, letting them cook for just a couple of minutes. I garnished with some more fresh coriander, fresh chillis and lime leaves. You may discern a red-and-green theme here; I wonder if Tom Yum might replace biscuits and milk (or gin in my house) as the food left out for Father Christmas? Oh, facetiousness.
And here it is. No coconut milk, and less orangey and more browny than the Chatterbox version, but absolutely delicious nonetheless. The packet sauce was extremely well balanced and hugely easy to use. I can't really imagine preparing the sauce from scratch on a lazy Sunday or a frantic Thursday, but I can imagine tearing open the packet and adding a few readily available fresh veggies and noodles to some hot stocky water.
This one will go on regular rotation in our house, although I'll be careful not to remove my contact lenses while I still have chilli on my fingers (hours later, I might add)! It was a quick, easy and enjoyable meal to make, and I'm very pleased that I succeeded in not turning it in to my usual variation-on-a-theme cookering. In fact, there are now two more of these sauces in the pantry, along with a couple of other V-ticked sauces from the range.