Spring Book Reviews – The Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers Cookbook

Tom Yum Soup

I received a review copy of The Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers Cookbook from Appetite by Random House Canada. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

It’s safe to say that soup season is a year-round phenomenon in Vancouver, even though we get long stretches of sunshine in the summer. There are gazpachos and chilled soups for hot weather, but there are also always rainclouds in our future, so stocking the freezer with comforting soups is a good practice.

One of the best ways to do that is to make a big batch of your favourite soup and then organize a soup swap with friends and neighbours. It’s a fun way to build community while providing one another with at least six meals’ worth of nourishing, delicious food.

(Inter)National Soup Swap Day is held in late January each year, but they provide great information and advice no matter what time of year you decide to hold your own swap. Next year will be the tenth anniversary, so I expect they will have even more recipes, stories, and advice to share.

Our co-op has been holding soup swaps for a number of years now. The regular participants enjoy it so much that we’re even talking about having them twice a year – once at harvest time and another in the coldest part of the year. One to celebrate late summer’s bounty and another to cheer us through winter’s last weeks.

Since I’ve been sharing soup with the same group of people over the years, I’m always on the lookout for new recipes that are delicious, reliable, and out of the ordinary. When I was given the opportunity to review The Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers Cookbook, I knew it was a book that I’d be making good use of for years to come.

The Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers Cookbook is full of flavourful soups borrowed from many cuisines and encompassing such a wide variety of ingredients that it could keep a soup swap group excited for years. The 114 soups are organized by season and the book includes stock recipes and advice on techniques and basics. The recipes come from the organization’s staff and volunteers, along with food writers, chefs, and even a sitting Mayor. Many of the recipes include stories about the soups, just as a soup swap gathering would.

But it’s more than a cookbook. It also tells the story of an organization that shares soup to help heal lives and to show support for people in crisis. The soups that Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers make together go to feed women and children who have suffered domestic abuse, or to youth exiting street life. It takes the concept of building community through sharing food beyond our personal networks and turns it into something that can be transformative.

It’s an inspiring thought. If you’d like to join them in their work, they have branches across Canada and even one in California.

In the meantime, they’ve been kind enough to let me share with you a soup for Spring, fragrant with lemongrass, galangal, makrut, and coconut milk. This Thai classic comes together quickly, but is richly flavoured. I made a vegan, gluten-free version for my partner, so traded fish sauce for a little gluten-free tamari and skipped the meat. I also used a vegan tom yum paste, versions of which are becoming more widely available now.

This soup was so good I wished I’d doubled the recipe. The only change I would make would be to add a dried chili pepper or two, for a little heat.

Tom Yum Soup

Sharon Hapton, Founder, Soup Sisters and Broth Brothers

Makes about 4 servings

4 cups (1 L) chicken or vegetable stock
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 thick slices fresh ginger
2 thick slices galangal (optional)
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed, gently bashed with a rolling pin and cut into quarters crosswise
1 to 2 tsp (5 to 10 mL) tom yum paste
3 to 4 kaffir lime leaves
1 clove garlic, minced
20 large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, or 1 lb (500 g) cubed or diced boneless, skinless chicken (optional)
1 can (14 oz/398 mL) unsweetened coconut milk, well shaken
8 oz (250 g) cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
2 to 3 tsp (10 to 15 mL) fish sauce (according to taste)
1 lb (500 g) rice noodles, soaked in cold water for 2 hours then drained (optional)
Finely chopped cilantro for garnish

1. In a large pot, combine the stock, onions, carrots, shallot, ginger, galangal (if using), lemongrass, tom yum paste, lime leaves and garlic. Bring to a boil.

2. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes for the flavors to develop.

3. Add the shrimp or chicken (if using). Simmer, uncovered, until the shrimp are no longer pink (about 3 minutes) or until the chicken is no longer pink inside (about 10 minutes).

4. Add the coconut milk. Bring the soup back to a simmer.

5. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes. Bring the soup back to a simmer.

6. Remove the ginger, galangal (if using) and lemongrass. Season with fish sauce to taste.

7. If using rice noodles, plunge them into a pot of boiling water to heat through, then drain well.

8. Divide the noodles among the soup bowls, then ladle the soup over the top. Garnish with a flourish of cilantro.

Come back next Thursday for a review of a book that will have you stocking your pantry with long-neglected ingredients.