All posts filed under “GINGER

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Curried Coconut and Lime Gourd Soup

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Curried Coconut and Lime Gourd Soup


Here’s what we learned about the Solomon Islands in  our research this week:

  • There are around 1000 islands that make up the country and over 70 unique languages spoken.
  • It is believed that people have lived on the Solomon Islands for over 4000 years.
  • Due to global warming, the sea level in the Solomon Islands has been rising by eight millimetres per year compared to the global average of 2.8 to 3.6 mm
  • The Solomon Islands gained independence from Britain in 1978 – making the country younger than me.
  • While very dark skinned, 5-10% of Solomon Islanders carry a gene for blond hair!
  • I really want to go there someday.



There is precious little to be found about soups from the Solomon Islands online.  I tried reaching out to resorts on the islands for guidance, but finally found what I was looking for by browsing the online menus of the various restaurants of the many resorts on the islands.  I saw a few soups repeated – vegetable curry and pumpkin curry – so I ran with that idea.

Since everything I could find about the cuisine of the Solomon Islands talked about fish, fish, and more fish, I used fish stock in my soup, but this could be vegan by using vegetable stock.  The real key to this soup is the Madras curry powder (which also happens to be SUPER good on popcorn).  I found it at Safeway, so I’m guessing it should be pretty easy to find.  It contains salt, so if you use a different curry powder, you’ll probably want to add some salt to your soup.


So, I worked sans sous chef today.  Here’s the math:

  • Sleepover + Sensitive/temperamental child= Sleep-deprived grumpy kid
  • Sleep-deprived grumpy kid + Homework packets = Epic battle
  • Epic battle + First time trying out the word “sucks” = Banishment to room until said homework packets were completed and a reflection about the kind of language we use in our family was written
  • Banishment to room until said homework packets were completed and a reflection about the kind of language we use in our family was written + Need to make/eat soup = No sous chef

He did, however, manage to smile just once yesterday… but only because I told him to do so and (for the only time yesterday) he did what I asked.   That smile, while it looks so genuine, disappeared immediately when I put down the camera and the “you’re the meanest mom in the world” routine continued.  Sigh.  His big brother, on the other hand, was thrilled with flying under the radar for the day, but not so thrilled with the soup.  As he put it, “Mama, I’m just not a gourd guy.”    Duly noted.

soop_solomon_nov14-5Okay, so parenting challenges aside, I thought this was outstanding.  By using Trader Joes’ pre-cut & pre-peeled butternut squash cubes the hardest part of this soup was mincing all the shallots & the ginger.  If I wanted to REALLY wanted to speed this up, I could use my mini food processor and throw everything in there to mince and this recipe would REALLY be a snap.  This took about 30 minutes from start to finish and hit every mark for me – comforting, bright flavors, ever so slightly spicy, healthy, quick, easy and unique.  We served it garnished with jalapeño and basil with grilled fish and jasmine rice on the side.  I could eat this for lunch every day and be a happy, happy camper.


Curried Coconut and Lime Gourd Soup
Serves 8


    • 2 tablespoons canola (or other neutral) oil
    • 1 cup shallots, chopped (approximately 4 large shallots)
    • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 4 lbs butternut squash, pumpkin, or other orange fleshed gourd, peeled and chopped*
    • 4 cups fish stock or vegetable
    • 2 cups water
    • 3 tablespoons Madras curry powder*
    • 1 can light coconut milk
    • juice of one lime


  1. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cool until softened- approximately 3 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant  being very careful not to allow the garlic to burn – approximately 1 minute.soop_solomon_nov14-2
  2. Add the gourd, stock, and water and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the gourd is tender when pierced with a fork – approximately 30 minutes.soop_solomon_nov14-3
  3. When gourd is tender, using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender puree soup until smooth.soop_solomon_nov14-4
  4. Stir in curry powder, coconut milk and lime juice.  Adjust seasoning – adding more salt if necessary – and serve topped with cilantro leaves, basil leaves, jalapeño slices or anything green and pretty.

Cook’s Notes

Trader Joes carries butternut squash already peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes.  Crazy convenient.

Madras curry has salt added to it.  If you use a different type of curry powder, you will need to add salt to your soup.

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COMOROS: Sweet Pea Soup & Le Me Tsolola: Goat + Plantain Stew

COMOROS: Le Me Tsolola: Goat + Plantain Stew

soop_Comoros_oct14-55Here’s what we learned about Comoros in  our research this week:

  • Comoros exists.
  • It is pronounced  KOHM-uh-rohs
  • It is a group of 3 (or 4 depending on who you ask) main islands in the channel between Mozambique and Madagascar.  The 4th island is Mayotte which voted to stay a part of France in 1975, but many Comorans still claim it as one of theirs.
  • It gained its independence from France in in 1975 and has had over 20 coups since then.
  • It is one of the poorest countries in the world where the average daily wage is just over $1.
  • Each island has it’s own cuisine.
  • There is very, very little to be found online about the food of Comoros, but what can be found suggests African, Arab, Indian, and French influences.
  • It is proper to say “bismillah” (thanks to Allah) before eating.
  • Though there is no legal drinking age in Comoros, alcohol is not considered proper according to Islam (the dominating religion), but it is served in most European restaurants.  (Note: If I ever go to Comoros, you’ll know where to find me.)

Here’s a fun video showing Comoros from a tourist’s perspective.  Check out that rain!



When we drew Comoros from the cup, I asked my Facebook community for a suggestion and my friend Joanne, a native South African now living in Australia, recommended Sweet Pea as a traditional Comoran soup (I hope I have represented it well Joanne!), but my research (what little of it there is to see) kept mentioning a stew called Le Me Tsolola (or Leme Tsolola).  As I’ve mentioned, James thinks of soup as an appetizer instead of a meal, so for Comoros, that’s exactly what he got… a soup appetizer and a stew meal.  SOOP-o-rama.

Our friends braved the bridge to join us, but not before I sent them on a wild goose chase for jackfruit on Clement street in San Francisco.  I had read that jackfruit was commonly eaten in Comoros and thought it would be fun for the kids to experience eating something that looks so, well, terrifying for dessert.  I had hunted all over the east bay – Oakland Chinatown, Koreana Plaza, Berkeley Bowl, 99 Ranch – without luck, so I sent our friends to scour San Francisco.  When their search left them empty-handed, we learned that jackfruit goes out of season in September.  Oh well.   To the right is what it would have looked like had we found it fresh (keep in mind that this is the size of a large watermelon covered with spikes.

Instead, our jackfruit looked like the below:soop_Comoros_oct14-53

Since it was a hot October (summer in San Francisco) night and we had TWO hot soups to eat, we cranked up the Nawal (the voice of Comoros) and hit the deck (not literally, of course).   I was quite nervous for this meal because not only was it utterly unlike anything I’d ever made before, but also our friends who joined us are outstanding cooks and I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of them.  I’d only found a couple of recipes on which to base my creation and I worried that it simply wouldn’t work.

I should not have worried.  This was FANTASTIC!  The pea soup had a nice refreshing gingery flavor and was a great foil to the coconut richness of the goat.   The only change I would make (noted in the recipe) is that the goat was a bit grisly, so next time (and there WILL) be a next time, I will grind the goat in my cuisinart to make it easier for everyone to eat.  Of course, this will be completely nontraditional, but it will taste very good.  soop_Comoros_oct14-58

Oh – do not make this without making the Poutou (chili relish) and do not fret when you make it that it is too spicy because the spice will mellow out considerably after a couple of days .  It really completes the flavors of the meal – the kick and the acid in the sauce take it over the edge into pure divine.  I can also happily report that the relish is fantastic on eggs, tossed in with quinoa and arugula as a fun side dish, and over pan-fried fish.  Say hello to your new little friend Poutou.

This was rich, flavorful, zesty, complex and just overall delightful.  I wasn’t sure about the cayenne pepper for the kids, but they all at it like crazy.  There may have even been some bowl licking….


…. which was a good thing because just as the sun went down, the lights went out and we cleaned up the kitchen in candle light.  The plates that were licked were a lot easier to clean.


I forgot to take any photos of the Coconut Punch (probably because of the Coconut Punch), so I can’t show you how pretty it was, but imagine a nice glass of eggnog that with a bright yellow rim and a stick of vanilla in it.  At first sip, our friends shouted out “Tropical Eggnog!”,  I may make this at Christmas this year instead of traditional eggnog.  It is quite thick and very sweet, so it was maybe not the best drink for a hot night, but regardless, nary a drop was left by the end or our 90 degree day.  8 thumbs up.

soop_Comoros_oct14-32Sweet Pea Soup
Serves 8 as a small appetizer


    • 4 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 small yellow onion, minced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 pound frozen peas (thawed)
    • 1/2 pound tomatoes chopped
    • 3 teaspoons ginger, finely minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 can light coconut milk, 3 tablespoons reserved for garnish
    • 4 cups water
    • thinly sliced lime wheels for serving


  1. Remove peas from the freezer and place on a plate on the counter to thaw while you do your chopping.
  2. Meanwhile, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil in a large pot a 4 quart saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Gently cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until onions have softened.soop_Comoros_oct14-33 soop_Comoros_oct14-38
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the coconut milk) and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  soop_Comoros_oct14-39 soop_Comoros_oct14-40soop_Comoros_oct14-41
  4. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), blend soup until smooth.soop_Comoros_oct14-52
  5. Add the coconut milk,raise to a simmer just to warm coconut milk.  Do not allow it to boil.


    Calvin – today’s sous sous chef.

  6. Serve by drizzling reserved coconut milk over the top in a spiral pattern and adding a lime wheel. (Or you can use a small medicine syringe to make intricate patterns and decorate with basil leaves and flowers torn from the garden.)soop_Comoros_oct14-57

Le Me Tsolola: Goat & Banana Stew
Serves 4


    • 2 teaspoons canola oil
    • 1 1/2 lb goat stew meat, cut into 1″ pieces (next time I would grind it in a food processor as it was fairly grisly)
    • Salt
    • Cayenne pepper
    • 2 onions, finely chopped
    • 4 tomatoes, chopped
    • 2 medium green plantains, peeled cut into 1″ pieces
    • 1 can coconut milk + 1 can full of water
    • salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
    • 1 lime, cut into wedges for serving


  1. Season goat with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.  Heat pan to medium high and fry the goat in a little oil until well browned on all sides.  Remove from the pan and set aside.soop_Comoros_oct14-46 soop_Comoros_oct14-43
  2. Add the plantains, onions and tomatoes to pan and stir until softened.soop_Comoros_oct14-48
  3. Return meat to pot. Pour-in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer.soop_Comoros_oct14-49soop_Comoros_oct14-50
  4. Cover and allow to simmer for an hour (add a little water or more coconut milk if it becomes too dry).soop_Comoros_oct14-51
  5. Season to taste with additional salt or cayenne pepper.
  6. Serve immediately on a bed of white rice with pepper sauce (recipe below) and lime wedges on the side.


Poutou (Comoran Pepper Relish)
Makes approximately 3 cups
Recipe adapted from The World Cookbook: The Greatest Recipes from Around the Globe, Revised Edition
By Michael Ashkenazi
    (Dear Santa, this book, a vitamix blender and world peace is all I want this year!)soop_Comoros_oct14-30


    • 1 small fresh red chili (habañero is traditional – I used a red jalapeño), roughly chopped
    • 3 medium tomatoes, quartered
    • 1 organic* lemon, quartered
    • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
    • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled, halved
    • 2 tablespoons salt


  1. Place all ingredients (including the peel and pith of the lemon) in a blender or food processor and blend until ingredients form a chunky salsa.
  2. Refrigerate at least 24 hours to allow flavors to blend.  Fear not, the spice will mellow out considerably after a few days.

*An organic lemon is important becaue you will put the peel into the relish.  Standard lemons are often coated with wax and pesticides.soop_Comoros_oct14-31


Comoran Coconut Punch (Punch Coco)…. Tropical Eggnog
Serves 4 
(Again, alcohol is not allowed according the the laws of Islam, so this would most likely be served sans alcohol in Comoros.  Feel free to use the rum or not according to your own desires. Also – apologies… I completely forgot to take any photos of this, but it was very pretty and very delicious)


    • 2 cans light coconut milk
    • 1 small can (5.8 oz) condensed milk
    • juice and grated zest of 2 large limes, rinds saved
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    • 3 tablespoons honey
    • 1 pod vanilla, seeds scraped out and reserved, then split lengthwise into four long sticks
    • 1 package Trader Joes dried jackfruit, ground to a powder in a spice grinder or food processor, divided (2 Tablespoons goes in the punch, the rest goes on the rim)
    • 4 ounces dark rum, optional


  1. Place all ingredients (including the vanilla seeds, but excluding the vanilla sticks)  except the rum in a blender.  Blend well until smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, run emptied lime rinds along rim of 4 glasses to wet rim and dip rim in Jackfruit powder
  3. Pour punch into glasses. Top with a float of 1 oz rum (or more if you’d like)  in each cup (if using) and garnish with vanilla sticks and a sprinkling of cinnamon
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NEPAL: Chicken Thukpa

NEPAL: Thukpa


Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.21.51 PM  When my husband and I spent a dreamy month in Nepa before we got married (15 years ago!), our favorite meal was also (luckily) the meal we ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner: Dal Bhat*.  Dal Bhat, a lentil stew served with rice, is every backpacker’s staple fare and the national dish of Nepal.  Hearty, filling, and warming, it hits the spot after a long day of trekking.  We love(d) it so much it also hits the spot about once a month in our house.  SO, for our SOOP project this week, S is in charge of picking the soup and when I suggested Dal Bhat, he said “No way!  We have that allllllll the time.  I want to pick something different.”  Per the rules I made for myself for how this whole project will work, the boy who picks the country out of the cup also gets to pick the soup.  And pick he did.  The boy loves spring rolls and picked Thukpa because he says it sounds like spring roll soup.

*Dal Bhat is insanely delicious and Sasha over at Global Table Adventure has a fantastic recipe that is quick, CHEAP, really close to how it tastes in Nepal and vegetarian.  We eat it with basmati rice, roasted cauliflower florets that have been tossed in olive oil and curry powder, and usually a green salad.  Mmm.  Now I’m hungry.  Might have to make this for dinner tomorrow!

Thukpa, traditionally a Tibetan soup (the name translates from Tibetan as ‘noodles’),  has crossed the border into Nepal with wild abandon and is now popular all over Nepal as well as northern India.  It consists of spicy broth, long thin noodles, vegetables, spices, and is found vegetarian and with every meat you can imagine (in fact, I think we may have eaten this with yak meat in Kathmandu).  For our version, S chose chicken, rice noodles (to remain close to his spring roll vision), and carrots and cilantro.  I threw in the red pepper and bean sprouts (both traditional additions) for color and texture.  A few of the spices are a little hard to come by, but we’re fortunate to have many places to scoop up ethnic goods around us and we grabbed asafoetida and szechwan pepper at Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland, but you can also find the spices online at Penzeys and Kalustyan’s.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.23.22 PM

1999 Mustang, Nepal Trek Day 7: Marang (Chogo) La Pass – 13,878 feet / 4,230 meters. I hiked in a skirt to be more respectful of the local culture. I looked goooood didn’t I?

During our month in Nepal, we spent many long hours with our guides learning about Nepali cuisine, culture and language and teaching them important things like the game of spoons and various card tricks.  A few of the phrases we learned have stuck with us through the years and my husband is known to say to me as I approach some arduous task (hiking up a steep trail, folding the week’s laundry, getting the kids in the car on time in the morning), “Lahk bahk, didi.  Lahk bahk!”  (Translation almost there, big sister.  Almost there!).  Another phrase we use all the time is “Ookus mookus”.  It means, essentially, I am so full I am about to explode.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.18.01 PM

From the left, the King of Mustang, our government liaison, us, and our guide Bhim Bahadur Lama. Jigme Palbar Bista, the last king of the remote kingdom of Mustang in Nepal’s Himalayas, was born around 1930 in Lo Manthang, once the capital of the former Tibetan kingdom of Lo. The youngest son of King Angun Tenzing Tandul, he inherited the throne in 1964. He likes orange Tang and is most grateful if you bring him some when visiting.

So, friends, with that we’ll get to cooking and (hopefully) by the end we will all be Ookus mookus!  To really get in the mood, create a Pandora station with the artist Udit Narayan or download THIS album.  We bought this album on the streets of Kathmandu and listened to it during both of our boys’ births and groove out to it all the time.  I hope you like it as much as we do.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.24.56 PM

1999 Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu and rain clouds in the background. We got very wet that day.


Nepalese Thukpa
Serving: 4-6

Spice paste

    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • ½ tsp ground turmeric
    • ¼ tsp ground Szechwan pepper
    • 1 pinch asafoetida powder
    • 1-3  jalapeño chili, deseeded, chopped (depending on how spicy you want it)
    • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
    • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
    • 1 large tomato, chopped


      • 1 tbsp ghee
      • 8 cups chicken stock
      • ½ lb skinless/boneless chicken thighs
      • 300 g rice noodles
      • 1 large carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
      • ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
      • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
      • 1 tbsp lemon juice
      • salt and pepper, to taste
      • chopped cilantro, to serve
      • nepali chili sauce, to serve (recipe below)


      1. To make the spice paste, combine all the ingredients, except the tomatoes, in a blender or food processor and process until minced. Then add the tomatoes and process again until combined into a rough paste.soop_nepal_sept14-21soop_nepal_sept14-28
      1. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, until quite aromatic and the paste becomes soft.soop_nepal_sept14-29
      1.     Carefully pour in the chicken stock (it may sizzle at first) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chicken thighs and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the stock and roughly shred.soop_nepal_sept14-35
      1.  Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to boil. Add rice noodles and cook for 2 minutes or until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water. Drain again and set aside.soop_nepal_sept14-32soop_nepal_sept14-34
      1. Add the carrot, bell pepper, and mung bean sprouts to the soup and simmer for 2–3 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender.soop_nepal_sept14-39
      1. Add lemon juice and season to taste – adding more salt or pepper as necessary.
      1. Divide the noodles between bowls (for pretty presentation, mound the noodles all on one side of the bowl) and top with the shredded chicken. Ladle the stock and vegetables over the noodles and top with chopped cilantro. Serve with chili sauce.soop_nepal_sept14-38

* Asafoetida and Szechwan pepper can generally both be found in spice stores online as well as local Indian markets. The traditional pepper used in Nepali Thukpa (timur) is currently unavailable in the United States, but Szechwan pepper provides a similar tongue tingling spice. Traditionally, it is served with a vinegary chili sauce.  Here is the one we made and used:

Garlicky Red Chili Hot Sauce (pictured above with the ingredients for Thukpa)
Yield: 2 cups (aka: enough to last you a very, very, very long time)
Recipe by Melissa Clark printed in the NYTimes 8/25/10

    • 4 hot red or orange chili peppers, such as habañero
    • 2 red bell peppers (3/4 pound), roughly chopped
    • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
    • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
    1. Wearing rubber or latex gloves, roughly chop the chilies. Combine all ingredients in a small pot over medium-high heat. Once mixture is simmering, reduce heat to low, cover and continue to simmer until peppers are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Do not inhale vapors; they will sting.
    2. Transfer mixture to a blender and purée. Pour into a medium jar and allow to cool uncovered. Cover tightly and refrigerate for three days. Keep stored in refrigerator; sauce will last for several weeks or months.


This is officially my first favorite soup.  It was quick, flavorful, filling, inexpensive, and fun.  We found that the Chili sauce was absolutely necessary for the tongue tingling fun.  If you don’t have the time or the desire to make your own, sriracha would be a nice option.

Our good friends joined us as we blasted Bollywood tunes, and slurped noodles to our hearts content.  Our thukpa was served on the metal plates we picked up years ago in India with basmati rice, melon, and a chopped cauliflower that we roasted in the oven with a couple boxes of Trader Joes’ frozen chana masala (chickpea curry).  It’s one of my favorite Trader Joe’s dinner hacks.  Our meal got 3 thumbs up and one medium thumb (perhaps because it was his brother who made it and he simply can’t approve of anything his brother does right now) so I’m going to say it was a success!



soop_nepal_sept14-44After dinner, we pulled out our slide projector and, once we finished answering the questions about what a slide projector is and how our photos are on the little pieces of plastic (called film),  ran through some of the hundreds of slides we took in Nepal.  What a wonderful way to cap off the night – the boys learned more about Nepal, about our trip, and about the history of photography.


Oh, the irony. We covered our TV with a white sheet to be able to show our slides. We are so retro that way!