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Chili peppers have been stalking me.

They found me first in Africa in most soups and savory dishes. African chefs use hot peppers, just like Latin chefs, to boost comfort in hot climates: peppers help stimulate sweating and salivation which keep our bodies cool. I found that the warmth from the chili peppers lingered, not quite in my mouth not quite in my belly but somewhere in my system for hours. Like Motel 6, they kept a light on.

Chili pepper powder is the florescent pink. It's as vibrant on the palate as it is in the powder.

At the spice market in Mombasa, bags of ground chili pepper and other spices are sold by the gram. Off the coast of Mombasa, there is an island Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean that produces most of spices for Africa and beyond. We brought home eight different spices including the chili pepper – surprising, they were not a bargain, but worth having for the authenticity and I suppose so I can say without shame this was made with curry from Mombasa.

Thai chili peppers from our CSA box of produce.

The next week, while the spicy heat and memories simmered, our CSA delivered a bag of seasonal fresh hot peppers with the standard produce.

Again, those hot stalkers were begging me to take notice. I did. Chili peppers containcapsicum which has been shown to be an anti-oxidant, an anti-carcinogenic, to reduce bad cholesterol, and to offer antibacterial properties. I can take the heat, so I got into the kitchen and made one of my favorite soups –Tom Yum it’s sometimes called, but it’s just Thai shrimp soup to me.


thai coconut shrimp soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

3 stalks fresh lemongrass (3″ pieces, ends smashed)*

3 T chopped peeled and chopped fresh ginger

3 – 5 small Thai chiles, stemmed and lightly crushed (adjust according to your heat preference – use chili flakes if you don’t have fresh peppers)

4 c fish or chicken stock

2 c fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/4 lemon juice

2 T lime juice

3 T fish sauce

1 lb medium shrimp roasted (see When in Doubt, Roast)

1 1/2 c light coconut milk (optional)

Cilantro – fresh, chopped


Combine stock, peppers, lemongrass, fish sauce and ginger and bring to a boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Add in mushrooms, shrimp, 2 T cilantro, coconut milk and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Remove lemongrass stalks and peppers. You can chop the peppers and add into the soup if you desire.

Serve and garnish with additional cilantro.

*lemongrass and fish sauce might not be ingredients you have on hand. I believe that the lemongrass especially adds a delectable essence to soups and dishes, but you can make this soup without it.


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