Don’t be daunted by the ingredients list. This fragrant soup from Thailand is simple to make and delicious. The pumpkin works well in moderating all the contrasting elements—sweet, salty, sour and spicy—with a great waft of aromas. You can use a white fish such as hake alone or in combination with shrimp.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
½ pound white fish, cut in pieces (and/or shrimp) ½ red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cubed 14 ounces coconut milk (1 can)
Fresh basil leaves, cut across into chiffonade
In a fairly large pot, heat the oil and stir-fry the onion, garlic and ginger until their fragrance is released. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Pour in the chicken stock or water, bring to a boil and add the pumpkin. Lower the heat and cook until the pumpkin is tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix together the shrimp paste, fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. Stir these seasonings into the pot. Shortly before serving add the fish and red bell pepper; cook just until the fish is cooked through. Add the coconut milk and let it warm.
Taste carefully for seasoning, balancing sweet, sour, salty and hot, adjusting as needed. Serve the soup in bowls with a generous handful of fresh basil on top.