When I was in Thailand many many years ago I took a cooking class in Chang Mai. This is one of my favorite recipes that I learned from that class. I used to eat this all the time in Thailand and by the end of my trip I was so used to chiles that I would tell the waitress-"I want it very spicy, as spicy as you would serve to a thai person". One night, that soup was served to me and it was bubbling red with all the chiles they had added to it. I enjoyed it thoroughly sitting on a pillow by the ocean, and the soup was chock full with wonderfully fresh seafood. Unfortunately, my stomach did not share my enthusiasm and it punished me with a vengeance later on that night.
Anyway, you don't need to add that many chiles to this soup, when it's almost done you can adjust for spiciness, sourness, sweetness, and saltiness with the different ingredients. If you follow this recipe with the right ingredients (found in every asian grocery store) it will taste just like you've been transported to Thailand.
2 cans coconut milk
2 cups veggie stock
1 piece of galangal cut into 5 thick slices (substitute ginger if you want)
5 kaffir lime leaves (tear out the stem)
2-3 stalks fresh lemon grass (remove the outer shell and cut off the tough stems, then cut the stalks in half and bruise them-yeah baby!)
raw shrimp (about 20 to 30 shrimp)
Juice of one and a half limes (to taste for sour)
2 tbsp fish sauce (to taste for salty)
2 tbsp brown sugar (to taste)
A bunch of mushrooms chopped (button or oyster)
a bunch of coriander, chopped
a handful of baby tomatoes, halved
1 tsp or more if you like it hot of sambal oelek (a thai chili sauce)
Simmer 1 cup of the coconut milk on medium high heat, wait till it's bubbling, then add the lime leaves, galangal, and lemongrass. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, this will make the stock. Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp is pink. Add the veggie stock, the coconut milk, the mushrooms, and the sugar and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Then add the fish sauce, lime juice, and chili sauce tasting as you add and adjust the flavors if necessary. Then, just before serving, add the chopped coriander and tomatoes. Serve with jasmine rice and a mango salad.
My sister always asks me to make this for her.