When your children finally give their vote of approval to Thai food, that’s a big day. At least at our house, because I LOVE Thai food. All of it.
I was first exposed to Thai food in my teens. I guess you could say it was my gateway food. It opened up my appetite for, dare I say it…exotic flavors. Flavors that were missing from my mother’s more traditionally Western, but nevertheless delicious cooking. Growing up in a South American family with German and Italian roots, our staples included pasta, a bit of meat, legumes and a few select vegetables – all prepared with typically more Western condiments and spices. But there, in that food-centered world of mine, the seed for thoughtfully and lovingly prepared food was planted. And from there it grew in many directions. Thai food and many other cuisines were just waiting to be explored, and the hunt for new and different foods continues.
To my delight, just a few blocks from my house sits an unassuming little Asian market. How lucky I feel to have this little gem, stocked to the gills with every type of ingredient necessary to create pretty much whatever obscure Asian dish comes to mind. I so enjoy walking about this market and seeing curious shoppers pushing their carts down the curious aisles, cookbooks open to their selected recipe, confusion written all over their faces (it’s my same face I see there), cautiously reading labels (the few that are in English). What I love most is how genuinely helpful the store employees are – never condescending, always excited to help adventurous cooks navigate and discover new flavors and ingredients.
This is where I find the cute little Indian eggplants pictured above. They’re also often called baby eggplants, and mostly I like that there is more flesh to skin ratio than you get with a traditional Italian eggplant. If you can’t find this variety, another good option would be Japanese and Chinese eggplant, and of course, Thai eggplant (which is a bit harder to find). The following Visual Guide to 10 Glorious Varieties of Eggplant by the Kitchn will help you identify the most common types of eggplants and their typical uses.
If you’ve ever made baba ganoush, then you know that roasting eggplants makes them taste smokey and rich. The added flavor and the changed texture (from almost rubbery to buttery) prepares them to both add flavor to the curry while absorbing the juices. Definitely don’t skip this step. My taste testers were impressed with this particular detail and the rich flavor it imparted to the soup.
Two other ingredients I’ve been able to source at my local Asian market that might be a little harder to find at more traditional grocery stores are Thai basil and Mae Ploy brand curry paste (made in Thailand – and doesn’t contain MSG). Vegetarians should note, however, that this curry brand contains shrimp paste – if you prefer a vegetarian version, I’ve had okay results with the more readily available Thai Kitchen brand curry paste, but I find it to be milder and not as pungent. Similarly, if Thai basil is hard to source, the more common, sweet basil, will work in a pinch.
A Note About Noodles
Thai curry is usually served over rice, but I took some liberties here and decided to make it into a soup.
Some things to consider when choosing and cooking your noodles: I used wide rice noodles, about the width of fettuccine, but the width is completely up to you. I simply like the fact that a wider noodle is easier to cut and scoop out of a bowl of soup chock full of veggies. The other thing to keep in mind is that it’s essential that you cook the noodles separately. I’ve tried cooking the noodles in the soup, but they ended up soggy and lumpy. Take the time to boil a separate pot of water and you will be rewarded with perfect noodles and better-tasting leftovers.
Well, my friends, are you craving a big bowl of warm Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup with Eggplant and Cauliflower right about now? I know I am. Better make a grocery list! Enjoy, and feel free to reach out with any questions or comments.
Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup with Eggplant and Cauliflower
- 5 shallots diced small
- 2 Tbs coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1- inch cube of ginger shredded
- 2 medium-size red bell peppers diced
- 1 small head cauliflower
- 8 small Indian eggplants read post for notes on varieties
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cans coconut milk regular, not light
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- ½ block of firm tofu cut into ½” cubes
- 4-8 Tbs red curry paste adjust up or down depending on the brand and your heat tolerance
- 8 oz. wide rice noodles
- Juice of one lime plus 2 limes, quartered (for optional garnish)
- Cilantro for garnish
- Thai basil for garnish
- Additional salt to taste if needed
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large pot, bring about 8 cups of water to a boil and cook the noodles until al dente. Drain noodles with cold water and rinse. Set aside.
- Cut eggplant into 1” cubes and place on baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tbs vegetable oil, ½ tsp salt and toss. Bake for 20 minutes, turning at the halfway mark.
- While the eggplant cooks, place stock pot on the stove over medium heat and add the coconut oil and shallots. Sauté onions until translucent and add the garlic and ginger. Sauté the onions garlic and ginger about for one minute. Add half of the curry paste to the onion mixture and sauté for another minute. Add the cauliflower, tofu and red pepper to the pot and continue sautéing another 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and broth to the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue simmering about 10 minutes, or until the cauliflower becomes slightly tender. Turn the heat to low, and once the eggplant has finished baking, add it to the soup and stir, simmering another 2 minutes. Add the rest of the curry paste a bit at a time, stirring and tasting after each addition until it suits your preference. Finish with the lime juice and add salt to taste.
- To serve, place desired amount of noodles into soup bowls and pour soup over the noodles. Garnish with chopped cilantro and basil leaves. Serve with a dollop of chili garlic sauce, for an extra kick. Serve with lime wedges for extra acidity, if desired.