Last year I discovered khanom jeen nam ya, a wonderful red curry with fish which is served atop thin rice noodles and accompanied by lemon basil and other vegetables. Since making this discovery, I’ve found that I’m constantly on the lookout for lemon basil, just so I can make this dish… Yes, it’s that good!
I’ve scoured local groceries, driven across the Bay to Thai specialty stores, and even planted my own (which is thriving, but unfortunately not big enough to pick yet!) This past weekend, however, I was lucky enough to find several bunches of lemon basil right down the street at my local farmer’s market. And you have no idea how happy I was to see them!
The boyfriend and I enjoyed batch after batch of khanom jeen nam ya earlier this week. But after making as much of this curry as we could eat and still having some lemon basil in sight, I decided to try something new.
I had heard that lemon basil is used in a lot of different Thai soups. It seems like the most common (or perhaps the most accessible to Americans) is gang liang, a spicy vegetable soup with shrimp and lemon basil. There are quite a few different recipes out there, so I ended up combining a few that looked the best to me, and came up with one seriously good soup!
This version is nice and spicy – it’s definitely one of those soups that will clear your sinuses. But it’s also light and fresh and something you can feel good about eating. There is an undertone of shrimp that brings unctuousness to the soup as well as some slight sweetness from the kabocha squash. And then, of course, there’s the lemony brightness that comes from the lemon basil.
I’m not sure that gang liang will replace my favorite khanom jeen nam ya, but I do know that whenever I’m fortunate enough to find lemon basil again, I’ll definitely be picking up an extra bunch with this soup in mind!