Friday, September 2, 2011

Pumpkin Thai Soup

I am obsessed with Thai food.  Unfortunately in the middle of Vermont there aren't many Thai restaurants around.  So I've taken upon myself to experiment to satisfy my Thai cravings!  This soup is so good you would think you were at a 5 star authentic Thai restaurant.  Better yet, you would never guess that most of the ingredients come from a can... and it is good for you!

This is a coconut milk-based soup.  As you probably guessed, it is the liquid that comes from the coconut and the coconut meat.  This is a basic ingredient in many Thai, Indian, Indonesian, and Caribbean foods.   We are most familiar when it comes in a can, and I prefer the Taste of Thai brand.  Usually there is a layer of the coconut cream, (the rich fatty part) on top of the can... shake the can before you open it to make the milk more homogenous.  FYI: It is also a great substitute for the vegans out there for milk, butter, yogurt, or ice cream!

Coconut: Friend or Foe?
There has been a lot of controversy about whether or not coconut oil and milk are bad for you.  Coconut milk contains coconut oil, which is a source of saturated fat and typically raises the LDL or bad cholesterol.  The first studies that came out about cholesterol and coconut oil showed that it raised the LDL levels, however we later found out they used hydrogenated coconut oil. Many of you may know....hydrogenated oil= trans fats, which would have increased the LDL levels even more than the saturated fats.    Some nutrition researchers say that Lauric acid, the saturated fat in coconut oil has some antiviral, antimicrobacterial properties and may actually increase both types of cholesterol.  I would not recommend switching to coconut oil as a standard because there are so many types of heart healthy oils available.  That being said, using small amounts of coconut milk every once in a while should not affect your cholesterol levels.  And it is delicious!

Pumpkin Thai Soup
Serves 6

1 can of coconut milk*
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (or squash)
2 Tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Tsp red hot Chili Flakes
1/2 cup cooked chicken, sliced (optional)
2 Tbsp scallions

In a saucepan combine all ingredients except scallions and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Pour into dishes and top with 1 tsp of scallions.  Enjoy as an appetizer before dinner or with a salad for lunch!

*Low-fat versions are available, but from my experience they don't give the dish as much flavor as most of it is extra water.

Nutrition Facts: 3/4 cup
~170 calories, 4 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 15.6 g fat (13.6 g sat), 1 g fiber, 200 mg sodium,

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