My brother says the best cure for a hangover is to have another drink — known in some circles as indulging in “the hair of the dog that bit you.” A Bloody Mary loaded with Tabasco and horseradish is his tonic of choice.
A close friend advised me that her cure for a broken heart is noshing on cayenne-spiced toasted walnuts. The Omega-3 fats in walnuts keeps her depression at bay, and the red pepper jump-starts a better mood.
So what’s the best (excuse me while I grab a Kleenex…ah-choo!) cure for a bad cold? Mom’s Chicken Soup? Not for me. My cure for a cold is a well-constructed Thai soup; a provocative, haunting perfume of a brew born in the ancient and mysterious world of Thailand. A soup where each flavor sings its own melody, yet fuses together in the grand finalé, a harmonious rhapsody of flavor.
First comes the broth, a simmering coconut-milk concoction of concentrated spicy and sour flavors to clear my sinuses. Lemongrass provides the sour notes and is worth seeking out. Lime zest and juice is an acceptable substitute, but nothing compares with the herbaceous, tangy flavor of fresh lemongrass.
Curry paste — green, yellow or red — along with additional chopped fiery peppers lends the heat. Curry pastes are condiments loaded with mouth-watering medicinal properties used in traditional Thai herbal remedies. I repeat the ingredients found in typical curry pastes for a double-dose of flavor in my soup: garlic for the cough, lemongrass for fever and sour throat, galangal for digestion, peppers for congestion, and turmeric for every other ailment one can imagine.
To this broth may be added proteins such as seafood, meat, poultry or tofu; anti-oxidant rich greens such as broccoli or spinach; and a pile of noodles for heft.
The final nuances are added at the table — additional curries, hot peppers, chopped peanuts, fresh herbs and freshly ground nutmeg are personal favorites.
A wondrous soup of traditional remedies, all of the ingredients may be found at many local groceries, certainly the Asian markets in town; I shopped for this recipe at Tsai Grocery on Oak Valley next to the Target shopping center. If you can’t locate the Thai basil, substitute fresh mint. The soup comes together quickly, and the end result is a bowl of heavenly flavors with undertones of hellish fire, required to burn out the Devil.
Adjust the seasonings to your taste, but when I’m under-the-weather, I make Thai soups as hot and sour as my palate will allow. No run-of-the-mill cold can survive my brew; pass the Kleenex, please.