The flavor base for this soup is a simplified nam prik, a Thai chile–based paste. To go old-school, make the paste with a mortar and pestle instead of using the mini food processor. The broiler method is a great way to cook a whole eggplant when it’s going to be pureed; it softens wonderfully and picks up slightly charred flavor notes. I encourage you to go with 2 chiles for the biggest flavor hit, but feel free to use less if the heat is too intense. Don’t forget to garnish with plenty of crunchy fried quinoa, cilantro and lime to take this satisfying bowl to the next level.
2 (1-pound) whole eggplants
1/2 cup chopped shallots (about 2 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons fish sauce
4 garlic cloves
1 or 2 Thai bird chiles, stemmed and coarsely chopped
Place eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet; pierce each a few times with tip of a knife. Broil eggplants 20 minutes or until skin is charred and flesh is very soft when tested with a knife, turning occasionally to cook evenly. Cool slightly. Remove and discard skin; set pulp aside.
Place shallots and next 4 ingredients (through chiles) in a mini food processor; process until minced and almost paste-like, scraping sides as needed.
Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallot mixture; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 3 cups water and uncooked quinoa; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 25 minutes or until quinoa is very tender. Pour mixture into a blender; add eggplant pulp, coconut milk, and 1/4 cup water. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth (about 2 minutes). Return mixture to pan; stir in lime juice and salt. Heat over medium- low heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Ladle soup into each of 8 bowls.Top each serving with Crunchy Fried Quinoa. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves; serve with lime wedges.
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Also appeared in:
Oxmoor House, March, 2016,Everyday Whole Grains: 175 Recipes from Amaranth to Wild Rice