Monthly Archives: December 2010

Lighthouse Tofu: Annandale, VA

I’ve always been a fan of restaurants that specialize in one or two things. Katsu restaurants in Japan that serve perfectly crisp pork, beef, and chicken cutlets accompanied by shredded cabbage dressed with bright ponzu sauce and grated radish. Tiny noodle joints throughout Asia where all the cook’s energy goes into turning out the most flavorful broth imaginable. A limited menu means cooks master dishes and the restaurant is forced to make its name (and income) on its specialty. For Lighthouse Tofu, soondubu jjigae (extra soft tofu soup) is that dish.

The Annandale location is nestled in a cluster of buildings on a small road off Columbia Pike, one block away from the wildly popular Annandale spot, Honey Pig. Like most ethnic restaurants, the attention here is focused on the food rather than the esthetics. Simple wooden tables, chairs and benches line walls that are covered in old Korean script. Service is friendly and prompt. Waitresses dressed in simple traditional outfits are proficient in English and happy to answer any questions or provide you with a second helping of your favorite banchan– Korean side dishes.

A meal always starts with a cup of roasted barley tea. I haven’t quite figured out the science behind when one receives hot versus cold tea, ice or no ice, but I’m pretty certain it has something to do with your waitress’ perceptions of your foreigner-ness. The whiter you are, the colder your tea.

Scanning the limited menu will take you all of one minute. Focus on the tofu soup first.  What do you want in the soup? Mushrooms? Beef? Pork? Seafood? Some kind of combination? Second, what level of heat can you handle? Two years of frequenting this spot and my choice is now consistent. Mushroom—spicy, spicy.

After deciding on the soup, build on to the meal by ordering one of the Korean style pancakes. The small is enough for two people to share; order the large if there are three or more dining with you. Both the seafood and kimchi with pork are good options. To be honest, I prefer the pancake at Honey Pig because their batter is lighter, resulting in a crispier edge. However, the pancakes here are still excellent although slightly denser.

Continue down the tiny menu and select galbi – deeply caramelized slices of marinated bone-in short rib. With its seared edges and meaty flavor, this succulent dish beats out the more ordinary bulgogi.

As with all Korean spots, meals at Lighthouse Tofu are accompanied by banchan.  Standouts of these side dishes include lightly pickled cucumber with chili paste, bean sprout salad with scallions and sesame seeds, and a cold cabbage and radish soup. The house kimchi is pickled with oysters; slightly slimy and flaccid—at the end of the every meal it alone remains untouched. The chopped clam with minced garlic and green chilies was my all-time favorite. The salty-spicy mix added an extra punch to each bite of the tofu soup. Unfortunately, the more expensive clam banchan has been replaced by boring chayote slices in a light dashi flavored marinade.

But never mind the small misses. Once you taste the hot tofu, you will be smiling once again. More of a stew than a soup, the soondubu arrives bubbling and steaming in a black cast iron bowl. Peek into the kitchen and you’ll understand why. Flames lap all around the individual bowls, heating the stew and bowl thoroughly so that it stays warm throughout the meal.

The tofu is soft, with a slight jiggle like that of well-made custard. Shiitakes impart an earthy flavor while enoki mushrooms grace the top of the stew waiting to be mixed in and enjoyed for their textural contrast. Crack in the raw egg that was brought to the table with the banchan, and mix it through. It adds a nice creamy touch and rounds out the flavors. The stew is hearty and spicy but also velvety from the silken tofu; a rare combination to find in a single dish.

Lighthouse Tofu may not be as popular as the more meat heavy Korean joints. Tofu isn’t typically the lead actor in our food fantasies. However, I urge fans of good food to head over to Annandale on a cold night and warm up with BBQ ribs and what is definitely some of the best soondubu around.

Ste 100, 4121 Chatelain Road, Annandale, VA 22003

Other locations include:

  • 6035 Centreville Crest Lane, Centreville, VA 20121-2346
  • 12710 Twinbrook Parkway, Rockville, MD 20852

 

Advertisements

Pork Belly: One Recipe, Three Dishes

I know some people are scared by the fattiness of pork belly, but I can’t resist it. I’ve been cooking pork belly for years and recently figured out a recipe that is perfect for three different dishes: buta kakuni, ramen, and the increasingly popular Vietnamese sandwich – bánh mì.

As with all braised meat, cooling the pork belly in its braising liquid keeps the meat succulent. Refrigerating it makes removing the excess fat simple and slicing the belly a breeze. I like to use tsuyu (Japanese noodle dipping sauce) to jump-start my braising liquid, but you can also use a rich dashi stock instead. The pork will be lighter in color and flavor, but still unctuous and delicious.

Below is the basic recipe for pork belly and serving suggestions for buta kakuni. Click the recipe tab on the blog for the ramen and bánh mì recipes. When I make this I usually serve buta kakuni for dinner that night, then use the remaining belly for ramen and bánh mì later on in the week.

Ingredients:
½ large onion, diced
2 inches ginger root, sliced
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup tsuyu or dashi
1/3 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups water
2½ – 3 lbs pork belly, skin removed
Salt and white pepper

  • Sweat the onion, ginger and garlic in a small saucepot until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add tsuyu (or dashi), soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, sugar and water. Bring to a simmer
  • While the braising liquid is coming to a simmer, season the pork belly with salt and white pepper. Sear all sides in a hot pan. Once all sides are browned, place the pork belly in a deep baking dish. Pour the braising liquid on top. Cover and braise in a 325° oven for 2½ hours or until the pork is tender. Remove from the oven.
  • For buta kakuni serve the pork on top of a bed of unseasoned sautéed spinach, and finish the dish by straining some of the braising liquid over everything. Served with steamed rice, pickles and spicy Japanese mustard (karashi).
  • Cool the remaining pork belly in the braising liquid.  Then place it into the refrigerator. To reheat simply slice the belly as desired, and heat the pieces gently in some of the leftover braising liquid.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Fear, Anxiety, Pleasure and Pride of Making Staff Meal: Part III

Personal high and low points of my time cooking staff meal:

My biggest disaster was probably scalloped potatoes that suffered from too much liquid and too little time in the oven. When I served them they had an al dente quality (not what you’re looking for in potatoes), and had to be rescued with a slotted spoon from their milky grave. Another small miss was my five-spice rubbed salmon. I made a hot oil infused with ginger/scallion and light soy sauce based concoction that I drizzled on top but I knew I’d failed the seasoning test when chef reached for the salt after taking his first bite.

The slow-out-of-the-gate chili that I mentioned yesterday actually turned out to be a success. For some reason everyone was done prepping early that afternoon, and so in a rare moment our kitchen had a chance to sit down and enjoy a meal together. We each found a spot on carpet runners along the kitchen floor and sopped up the hot chili with thick slices of grilled garlic bread. We talked all things France: what it’s like to work in a French kitchen, the life of an apprentice and how and why the food in France has changed over the years. When Chef polished off his bowl of chili, he stood up and said “not bad”. That might not sound like praise to some, but Chef doesn’t normally comment on staff meal so for me that was a huge compliment. To be honest, I don’t know if Chef was commenting on my chili or my breadth of knowledge on the 2006 youth labor protests in France… I like to think it was the former.

The chili was a feather in my cap, but my pièce de résistance was probably a simple, but well executed beef stir-fry that I made towards the end of my stint as the staff meal cook. The flat-top in our kitchen (a very hot flat surface on which you can cook with multiple pots and pans at once) has concentric circles of steel. The center is the hottest, and each circle is cooler moving out from there. I removed the two center steel pieces and set two woks directly over the flames that were trying to escape out of the hole. It was like cooking in an old-school Chinese kitchen. I caramelized sweet onions and shiitake mushrooms, sweated garlic and tossed up some pre-blanched broccoli rabe. Then I seared thinly sliced strips of beef in small batches. Generously seasoning everything as it cooked with a sauce I had composed earlier (away from the critical eyes, opinionated minds and loud mouths of the other cooks). Finally, I tossed all the components together in the hot woks. Added slivered scallions, a drizzle of sesame oil and served it up with steamed white rice.

That night I had about 30 minutes to roll out ravioli so I disappeared pretty quickly after putting out staff meal. I ran into Chef about 15 minutes later. He paused and said, “really great stir-fry”. In my mind I saw a hundred balloons drop and heard confetti guns firing, covering me with millions of colorful sparkling pieces of paper. I felt like one of those girls who just won a freakin’ beauty pageant. Except instead of fanning a tear stained face, I think I mumbled a barely audible “oh thanks” and hurried off.

Chef wasn’t the only one to compliment my food that night. Several of the other cooks told me how much they loved it, but in the end a word of praise from Chef is akin to finding the Holy Grail.

I haven’t made staff meal since I switched over to working dinner service on the weekends. Part of me is relieved to not be under that kind of pressure, but part of me misses it as well. I’ve found a new kind of challenge in the fast paced environment of dinner service. Being forced to remember orders as they come in, and plate those orders quickly and perfectly every time is tough enough. But I miss learning new dishes and cuisines. I miss being shown how to make the perfect plate of pasta from the sous chef who used to work in an Italian restaurant in NYC, and spent his summer vacation biking up and down the Italian coastline. I also miss scribbling down recipes like the one I got for flat bread, passed down to a young cook by his Armenian grandmother. Or watching our Colombian line cook make hominy cakes and chorizo. The best staff meals are those that are heavily influenced by the background of whoever’s preparing it. When the cook is not excited by the challenge it shows. However, when they are–and when they take pride in what they’re serving–it can be some seriously tasty food.

So now you all know. Most of us who work in kitchens around the city don’t take off our aprons and sit down at a table complete with napkins and stemware. We eat leaning against the stainless steel countertop or squatting down behind our station. Our napkins are rough paper towels we call C-folds. Stemware is usually a deli (those little containers your take-out soup comes in) or maybe a quart container filled with ice water that we’ll refill several times in an effort to stay hydrated during dinner service. We don’t eat what you’ll be enjoying in our posh dining room. Rather our dinner was prepared by a nervous noob, mad kitchen scientist or an exhausted prep cook—maybe someone who embodies all three, using scraps and hopefully a good dose of imagination.

Staff meal was first about the fundamentals of cooking and how to work with by-products, using scraps to make something tasty, eye-appealing, and satisfying. But the message underlying that was “Can you be passionate about cooking at this level?” Staff meal. Only the staff sees it. If you can make great food for these people, create that habit, have that drive, that sincerity, and keep that with you and take it to another level in the staff meal, then someday you’ll be a great chef. Maybe.

— The French Laundry Cookbook

 

 

 

 

The Fear, Anxiety, Pleasure and Pride of Making Staff Meal: Part II

Why is cooking staff meal important and whose job is it?

The responsibility of cooking staff meal typically falls on the lowest member of the kitchen hierarchy. Chef uses it as a way to test their palate and skills. Do they over or under season their food? Do they know how to cook meat and fish properly? How is their sense of timing? Can they deliver on a deadline? Chef can’t taste every dish, or cut into each piece of meat that comes off the line to be certain it’s cooked correctly. Staff meal thus becomes an ideal way to test someone’s skills and ensure they have what it takes before being put on a station.

You can imagine the stress that this put on any kitchen noob. For me the dreaded but inevitable day arrived two months into my stage. Chef pulled me aside after work and told me that he was making staff meal a part of my daily responsibilities. I went home and had nightmares. The next day I showed up and made a semi-decent version of fried rice (with slab bacon, the most popular ingredient in the kitchen) topped with an over-easy egg. My only real mistake, (well at least the only one Chef mentioned) was using oil to cook my eggs instead of butter or rendered beef fat. A useful tip to file away—use more interesting fats.

Staff meal sounds like a great opportunity, so why the anxiety?

You know the idiom “too many cooks spoil the broth”? I think the initial speaker was witnessing the making of staff meal—a kitchen full of cooks all too eager to tell you when you’re doing something wrong; e.g. the way they would do it, and therefore the way you should be doing it. Yes, learning from those more skilled than you is a good thing, but sometimes you’re better off trusting your own instincts. One clever stage managed to circumvent this issue by disappearing to some forgotten corner of the kitchen in the late afternoon. He would reappear 30 minutes before service with a completed staff meal. Pure kitchen genius!

However, the onslaught of unwarranted advice could occasionally be used to your benefit. I remember the afternoon that I declared I was making chili and grilled garlic bread for dinner. An animated discussion ensued over what belonged in a pot of chili. I ran through a list of ingredients, cooks nodded along… then I said garlic and jalapeños. “Sharon” Chef said bluntly, “you don’t put those in chili”. Wait, I don’t? But I do! And it’s quite delicious. (I should note that Chef doesn’t like spicy food. He thinks the cook is trying to cover up the fact that they don’t know how to develop flavors correctly). As I fumbled for the words to justify using garlic and jalapeños, someone else blurted out that they add a bit of chocolate. Immediately Chef’s critical gaze shifted away from me to the more egregious offender, and I quickly scurried off to collect the necessary ingredients for my chili… sans garlic and jalapeños, of course. You can ignore the tips of the other cooks but never, ever ignore what Chef says.

Everyone has their best recipes, why not just cycle through those?

When cooking staff meal, there’s an unspoken rule that you don’t repeat dishes. You want to challenge yourself by making new things and being creative. However, sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle when all you’ve got is root vegetables and 30 minutes to cook. Some thrive in this environment. We have one cook who I refer to as the little mad scientist. He can come up with the most creative staff meals, each one with multiple components. If it is something simple like sandwiches or hamburgers, he’ll bake fresh bread. He can make ingredients magically appear. I don’t know how—I’m quite certain I don’t want to know—but they do, and it is always interesting in the best sort of way.

However, if you ever find yourself extremely pressed for time (super “in the weeds”) go ahead and put out a rerun. The one thing to remember—the most important point of all—always serve something. If you’re on staff meal and don’t put anything out, you will be hunted with torches and pitchforks. Okay, maybe not the first time, but you will quickly make people’s shit list if you do it more than once.


The Fear, Anxiety, Pleasure and Pride of Making Staff Meal: Part I

“Babes, I can fend for myself if you want to stay at work and join the other cooks around the table for dinner”. Dinner around a table? What is he talking about? After racking my brain for a few moments it dawned on me that my husband was referring to staff meal.

Staff meal, sometimes called family meal, is food consumed by the kitchen staff, typically before dinner service begins. My husband isn’t alone in his misconceptions of kitchen life. There is a scene in the Catherine Zeta-Jones movie No Reservations where the cooks and wait staff are sitting around a large table in a bright dining room, laughing and passing around plates of pasta and sampling the day’s menu. Ah Hollywood, how you love to romanticize reality. In a real kitchen, the scene more often involves cooks hunched at their stations devouring a plate of food, or periodically picking at it (depending on what’s for dinner). While they eat, they continue to cut, blanch and whisk—making that final push before diners arrive and the orders begin to roll in.

I was part of the morning prep team when I first started out in the professional kitchen. I would work until about 7-8pm, and then hurry home where I would cook and eat dinner with my husband. If I ate staff meal at the restaurant I wouldn’t have the motivation to cook dinner, so I never ate at work (consequently Chef developed the belief that I was allergic to everything except air and water).

The preparation of staff meal terrified me from the get-go. The first time I met Chef he used the preparation of staff meal to explain how he expects the highest quality of work from his cooks at all time. “You need to be aware of details,” he said. “Yesterday we had BLTs for staff meal and the cook forgot to blanch and peel the tomatoes”. I could feel the blood draining from my face as my mind screamed, “Peel tomatoes for a sandwich or burger? I am going to be so screwed!!!!” Here I was begging to apprentice in a kitchen where cooks were expected to know that you always peel tomatoes, celery and remove the germ from garlic. And you’d better not just know—you’d better do so, no matter what you’re making.

My first week on the job I was so nervous, worrying that any day Chef would ask me to prepare that day’s staff meal. Naturally the news arrived in the most terrifying way. Staff meal Iron Chef style. A battle between the three stages. The one with the worst meal leaves the kitchen.

Do you know what an out-of-body experience feels like? That afternoon I had one that lasted the full 45 minutes that I was given to cook. I quite literally floated to the ceiling and watched myself fumble around the kitchen.

I got it in my mind that I would make Chinese fried noodles; always a crowd pleaser, and something that I’ve made a million times. Except in a professional kitchen you don’t make a grocery list and hit the super market. You use scraps, trim, and must-go items. And at the last minute I found out that we only had veal trim and fettuccini noodles. In hindsight, I should have changed my plan and served an Italian-American dish instead. Unfortunately, I was too frantic and couldn’t think straight, so Chinese fried fettuccini noodles with veal is what I made. Was it the worst? No. Did I get booted? No. Thankfully, no one ended up being forced to leave in shame, but it certainly wasn’t a proud moment either.


Why I Love to Cook

I can’t remember the first time exactly. Rather than one instance, the memory is more likely a combination of several—a quiet house, the mellow morning sun glowing from behind Japanese paper doors, the clean woodsy smell of the soft bamboo mat flooring. As a child I would silently slip out of my warm bed, taking care not to wake any of my sleeping siblings. Tiptoeing down the narrow hallway, I’d make my way towards the kitchen. The light clanking of metal and the tic, tic, tic of the stove pilot light would tell me that my dad was putting the kettle on for his morning cup of coffee.

With ten children, my family can be accurately described as shockingly large. Our house was always filled with friends, visitors, sleepovers, and play dates. Naturally two things were in short supply and in constant demand—a peaceful room and the undivided attention of our parents. Maybe that’s why cooking became so important to me; it was a moment in which my dad or mom focused on me. Was I holding the knife safely? Cutting the vegetables the right size? Rinsing the rice correctly? The kitchen before everyone else rose for the day became my place to find parental attention and complete calm.

It was here that I learned to make my very first dish: scrambled eggs, a dish with the ability to be utterly pedestrian, or worthy of a place on the menu of a 5-star restaurant.

As a kid I remember the horror of showing up to my friends’ breakfast table, and seeing a pile of something that vaguely resembled food. A rubbery, overcooked grayish green mass where bits of whites and yolks could still be differentiated in the pile. A papery burnt film shuddering atop an oozing undercooked section. I recall being mystified as to how someone could both burn and undercook eggs at the same time.

Maybe it’s the adoration of a little girl towards her father, but I still believe my father’s scrambled eggs were perfection. He moved slowly, methodically through the steps. He would crack the eggs into a large bowl. Then slide the bowl over, allowing me to whip the eggs. He preferred to use a fork, but sometimes the volume of eggs would be too much for my little wrist and he would hand me a whisk. He showed me how the addition of a little milk would make the eggs creamy and fluffy, and the importance of salting them before cooking so that they didn’t taste of salt but rather fresh, rich eggs. A careful constant stirring over medium heat resulted in the fluffiest, most savory plate of eggs this little girl had ever tasted.

We would probably only have thirty minutes in that quiet kitchen—me intensely stirring the eggs, while my dad sipped his coffee and buttered slices of whole wheat toast to accompany them. By the time everything was ready, the house would be coming alive with the sounds of people eager for breakfast.

Last week at the 5-star restaurant where I now work, I learned how to make the ultimate upscale version of my childhood breakfast food. A few professional secrets elevate this simple dish—extra egg yolks are added to enrich the flavor, crème fraiche replaces milk and the eggs are cooked slowly in a saucepot, stirred constantly with a small whisk and finished with a round spatula. Of course, cooking them in truffle butter and garnishing with a generous shaving of white truffles from Italy doesn’t hurt. When it comes to the table the pungent earthy aroma of the truffles envelopes you and for a few blissful moments you are lost in the luscious, savory, buttery eggs. Simplicity elevated.

However, for me no amount of truffles, caviar, or smoked salmon will ever elevate anyone’s scrambled eggs over my dad’s. The simple joy of spending time with him, cooking in our tiny Japanese kitchen while the rest of the house slept. Quiet moments like this didn’t occur very often, making the times that they did all the more memorable.

If I close my eyes I can still feel the warm morning sun coming in the small window above the kitchen sink. A little girl is standing at the stove, dad close by—wisps of steam disappearing off the top of his mug, filling the room with the robust and faintly sweet aroma of freshly brewed coffee. For her, this is the best moment of her day and the most perfect plate of food she will ever eat.

When I tell people that I have started a new career in the food world the common reaction is a head tilt and an inquisitive “why?” Why? Simple—it makes me smile. Sometimes the quiet, simple moments in life resonate the loudest and the longest.

Hot Pot: Any Way You Like It

Hot pot is popular in many Asian countries including China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam. Each country’s version differs slightly but all are comforting, satisfying and healthy. It is the perfect winter dinner and the best recipe ever…  because there’s no real recipe to follow. Even better, it is a dish that requires very little prep or actual cooking time.

The one catch… you’ll need a “hot pot”. I purchased an electric pot at H Mart, and it works like a charm. Another option is to use a propane camping stove and mid-sized pot.

This is the perfect meal for families—kids will have fun adding their favorite items to the pot, watching them cook, dipping them in the sauce and devouring them seconds after they’ve finished cooking.

Here’s a list of some of my favorite hot pot items but you can add whatever you like.

  • Thinly sliced beef, pork, lamb, chicken
  • Seafood: shrimp, slices of fish, clams
  • Fish balls
  • Dumplings
  • Taro (rather than eating it I prefer to let it break down and thicken the soup)
  • Shitake, enoki, oyster mushrooms
  • Leafy greens: snow pea shoots, napa cabbage, bok choy, tatsoi
  • Noodles: Korean sweet potato noodles are my current favorite, but udon noodles also work well

Condiments: Mix and match. The perfect sauce is one that tastes good to you!

  • Soy sauce
  • Pon Shabu
  • Sha Cha, Tuong Sate Dac Biet
  • Black vinegar
  • Creamy sesame sauce (look for a light brown shabu shabu sauce at your Asian grocery store)
  • Chili oil (la-yu)
  • Cilantro
  • Scallions
  • Raw egg yolk

A few basic steps to get you started:

You can either use a stock, or just make a simple soup with water, hon dashi, and a little soy sauce. Bring to a boil on the kitchen stove. Once it boils, add the noodles and cook half way.

Put the hot soup base and partially cooked noodles into your tableside cooking device. Bring the soup back to a boil, and start adding items. Frozen dumplings and fish balls will take a little longer to cook, so put them in first. Add your mushrooms, vegetables, seafood and meat. Don’t dump everything in at once; rather add the ingredients into the soup in batches. This insures that nothing gets overcooked. The thinly sliced meat is best eaten within 20-30 seconds. Once something is cooked, swirl it around in your dipping sauce and enjoy.

*Hot pot lovers, did I leave out a secret ingredient or your family’s favorite add-in? I’m curious to learn about tasty variations and to try new items, so let me know.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Spicy Coconut Milk Soup with Chicken: Tom Kha Gai

Arguably one of the most flavorful soups you’ll ever taste. Bold flavors perfectly balanced – richness from the coconut milk, heat from the chilies, depth of flavor from the fish sauce, and acidity from the lime juice.

I adapted this version from a recipe I used at the Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts in Koh Samui. It is hands down the best Tom Kha Gai I’ve ever tasted.

Ingredients:
2 cups coconut milk
½ cup water
1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, bias-sliced *
2 fresh kaffir lime leaves, stems removed and torn in half **
2 inches fresh galangal, thinly sliced ***
3 fresh red chilies, bias-sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 crushed coriander root or 2 full sprigs chopped
1 tablespoon chili paste, tom yum paste or Thai chili paste
1 cup fresh oyster, straw or button mushrooms, sliced or quartered ****
3 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ a chicken breast, cut into bite size slices
1 tablespoon fish sauce
¼ cup scallion, bias-sliced
¼ cup coriander stems and leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
6 small dried red chilies

  • In a pot (or wok) heat the coconut milk over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Add the lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, red chilies, shallots, coriander root, and chili paste. Boil until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add the mushrooms and tomatoes. Boil another minute
  • Add the chicken, without stirring boil for 30 seconds. Stir and boil another 40 seconds.
  • Add the fish sauce, scallion, and chopped coriander. Boil another 20 seconds
  • Remove from heat. Add the lime juice and taste. If necessary add more fish sauce or a pinch of salt
  • Garnish with dried red chilies and fresh coriander leaves.
  • Serve immediately

Cook’s Tips:

*Bias-sliced: cut at an angle so that you end up with oval rather than round pieces

**If you can’t find fresh kaffir lime leaves you can use 3 dried leaves instead. Soak in room temperature water for 5 minutes before using

***You can substitute the fresh galangal with ¼ cup of dried. Soak in room temperature water for 5 minutes to reconstitute

**** It’s best not to use dark mushrooms in this soup, their favor is too rich and will overwhelm many of the other ingredients

You can use a white fish, shrimp, mussels, or squid instead of chicken if you’d like (the version in the photo). Or make it semi-vegetarian by adding tofu (remember it will still have fish sauce).