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Shrimp in Oriental Broth
By Charlie Burke

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During the holiday season we are served rich and delicious foods, but there are
times when we want something light, flavorful – and healthy. I have always
found oriental soups to be perfect light meals: low in fat, flavorful and full of
vegetables.

Vietnamese phos (pho means noodles) are among my favorites because they are
served with fresh vibrant salads which are meant to be added by the diner.
Usually these include fresh basil and cilantro leaves, lime juice, chili paste,
sprouts, lemon grass and other savory additions, depending upon the chef’s
preferences. They consist of a flavorful broth and egg noodles or rice sticks and
contain beef, poultry or fish. In Vietnamese communities in California, pho
houses are ubiquitous, and the best often have lines out the door.

This recipe was put together with ingredients on hand and is reminiscent of
authentic phos we’ve enjoyed in restaurants. The broth was a lobster stock made
from the shells of two lobsters boiled with an onion, carrot and a stalk of celery,
along with pepper corns, a few fennel seed s and a bay leaf. Shells from a pound
of shrimp can be cooked the same way to produce a delicate shrimp stock

Add water to just cover the shells and boil for forty-five minutes, and then pour
the liquid through a strainer for a simple stock which keeps for at least two
months in the freezer. We always have a few bags of lobster or shrimp stock in
the refrigerator, but frozen stock is available in fish markets and some grocery
stores.

In this soup, chopped ginger and thin slices of scallion, along with a few drops
of soy sauce, gave it an oriental taste while grated lemon rind substituted for
lemon grass. With pre-made stock, it took only minutes to cook since the carrots
were sliced into fine sticks.

For two:

4 cups fish, lobster or shrimp stock
¾ pound uncooked shrimp, preferably U 16-20 or larger, peeled, de-veined and
sliced in half from head to tail
1 large carrot, sliced into 1/8 inch slices and then into 1/8 inch sticks
1 large celery stalk, sliced thin diagonally
2 ¼ inch slices of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
2 scallions, cut into 2 inch pieces, then thinly sliced lengthwise
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ teaspoon soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pinch of red pepper flakes, optional
¼ pound rice sticks, soaked 10 minutes in very hot water, drained and cut into 2-
3 inch lengths (precooked vermicelli or other fine egg noodles can be
substituted)

Bring the stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add carrots, celery, scallions,
ginger, lemon zest and soy sauce, reduce to a simmer and cook until carrots are
slightly softened. Add shrimp, noodles and pepper flakes, if using, and leave
over heat until shrimp are just opaque (2-3 minutes). Taste for seasoning and
serve in warm bowls immediately.

Like pho, there can be many variations of this recipe. Chicken and beef stock can
be the base for poultry and meats, and vegetables can be varied, using
mushrooms, spinach, Chinese cabbage or whatever is available.

Fresh basil leaves are served with any pho, and oriental seasonings such as chili
paste, toasted sesame oil and Chinese five spice can be added. A favorite
Vietnamese condiment consists of a teaspoon or two of lime juice on a plate
with freshly ground pepper on one side and sea salt on the other. The diner
mixes the salt and pepper into the lime juice according to taste and dips meat or
fish into the juice to add flavor.  A salad of shredded cabbage and carrots,
served with a dressing made with rice wine vinegar and peanut oil would go
well with any of these soups or you can serve a side plate with sliced lime,
basil, lettuce, cilantro or any of the sides listed above as in the pho houses.

So, when the heavy meals (and calories) add up during the holidays, concoct
your own favorite version of this soup for a refreshing and healthy change.

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the vice
president of the
New Hampshire Farmer's Market Association, president of the NH Farm
to Restaurant Connection and helps run the Sanbornton (NH) Farmers' Market.  Along
with his wife, Joanne, Charlie grows certified organic herbs, greens and berries at Weather
Hill Farm in Sanbornton, NH.  
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