This soup was inspired by trips chef Judy Wicks took to Vietnam. "All the main ingredients in this soup—ginger, lemongrass, cilantro and sweet potato—grow there, and the food markets are filled with their flavors and smells," she says. Adapted from White Dog Cafe Cookbook (Running Press).
Servings: Serves 8
Peanut pesto:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes , peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks lemongrass , outer layers removed, bulbs split open
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced white onion
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 jalapeno pepper , seeded and minced
  • 1 piece (2 inches) fresh ginger , peeled and minced
  • 1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
To make pesto: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread peanuts on a small baking sheet and bake until toasted and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes; cool. Place peanuts on a cutting board and set a heavy saucepan on top. Press down on pan to break peanuts into small, irregular pieces. In a small bowl, combine peanuts with remaining ingredients. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

To make soup: In a large saucepan, combine sweet potatoes and lemongrass with enough cold water to cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove lemongrass. Drain potatoes; reserve 3 cups cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute. Add jalapeño and ginger; cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.

In a blender or food processor, process potatoes, onion mixture, coconut milk and 1 1/2 cups reserved cooking liquid in batches until smooth.

Return soup to same saucepan and stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups reserved cooking liquid; bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in lime juice, salt and cayenne pepper. Serve immediately with peanut pesto or cool to room temperature and chill at least 1 hour.


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