This traditional soup is very easy to make. The best tip I can give is to extract as much flavour from the prawn heads as possible. Apart from giving it an amazing flavour, it will also give the soup its characteristic colour. In Thailand, I used straw mushrooms, but these are not available fresh in Australia and the tinned variety is not quite the same, so I suggest using oyster mushrooms instead.
- 2 tbsp macadamia oil (see Note) or vegetable oil
- 6 (about 270 g) unpeeled green king prawns, heads removed and reserved
- 5 cm piece galangal (see Note), sliced
- 1 lemongrass stalk, white part only, sliced
- 3 makrut lime leaves (see Note), plus extra, finely shredded, to serve
- 8 red and green Thai scud chillies (see Note), bruised
- 6 oyster mushrooms, torn into pieces
- 2 limes, juiced
- 60 ml (¼ cup) fish sauce
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Drink match Stone & Wood Jasper Ale, Byron Bay, NSW (500 ml, $7)
Heat oil in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. Add prawn heads and squash with the back of a ladle to release juices. Add 1 litre of water and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, peel and clean prawns (see Note).
Remove stock from heat and strain into a clean saucepan, discarding solids. Return stock to medium heat, then add galangal, lemongrass, lime leaves and chillies. Simmer for 5 minutes to infuse the broth. Add prawns and mushrooms, and simmer for 4 minutes or until prawns are just cooked. Stir in lime juice and fish sauce, then serve soup immediately.
• Macadamia oil is available from delis, specialist food shops and select greengrocers.
• Galangal, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves and Thai scud chillies are available from Asian food shops and select greengrocers.
• To peel prawns, first remove the head. Peel the shells with the legs and, if removing the tail, squeeze it and pull it gently from the body. To remove the digestive tract, using a sharp knife, score down the back to expose the dark 'vein' and pull it out (this is frequently described in recipes as 'deveining). To remove the digestive tract without cutting along the back of the prawn, carefully pull out the vein through the opening at the head.
Photography Brett Stevens