What We Eat in Korea: Thai-style Corn Chowder
I am not an expert on Thai cuisine, but “Thai” and “corn” don’t seem to fit.
But, they do! Somehow. Pretty much anything can be paired with anything and be called “fusion” these days, but Tuesday night’s dinner actually gives credence to the idea of merging culinary concepts and coming out with something new and enjoyable.
From the original recipe on The Kitchn: “This late-summer soup has all the components of your usual corn chowder, but adds a tantalizing twist with some of my favorite Thai flavors, like lemongrass, chili peppers, and coconut milk. While it keeps the comfort food nature of the original, the extra additions keep things interesting.”
It’s interesting that I was about four spoonfuls in until I truly embraced this soup.
I am not sure what it was that had me hesitating at first. The broth seemed a bit too watery for my tastes when I added the coconut milk. I expected it to be of a milkier consistency. The recipe calls for four cups of broth. We started with a splash (as also was in the recipe), which had all the bouillon we had left in the pantry, and then later I added the remaining three cups, which was just water. That could have contributed.
When I first tried it, I thought it was fine. That wateriness was getting in the way in my head. But, like Korean pizza vs. other pizzas I prefer, when I stopped comparing this dish to others that utilize coconut milk (namely, our awesome Red Lentil Coconut Curry, which we make almost weekly), and I let the soup and the lime juice after serving coat the inside of my mouth, this chowder seemed to really open up. Somehow, what started as an “ehh” experience became a two-bowl experience, which goes back to the need for patience in everything in our lives, including in the kitchen. Or, in this case, “Kitchn”? Pardon my pun.
So, yeah, definitely try this one out. Almost all the ingredients are relatively easy to find in Korea. Coconut milk has become available in pretty much every major supermarket chain. Potatoes and corn are ubiquitous. Cilantro can be hit and miss but we’ve had general success at E-Mart and Kim’s Club (located in the NC department stores).
Lemongrass is a bit trickier. I have never seen fresh lemongrass (which the recipe calls for). We have a bag of dried lemongrass purchased in the Sasang section of Busan (home to several “Asia Mart” grocery stores, offering a variety of items from other parts of this part of the world). I soaked it overnight, Jen smashed some and threw it into the soup and we also added some of the “broth” that resulted from the overnight soaking. This could have made a big difference in the flavor of ours vs. the original. If you ever see fresh lemongrass in Korea, be sure to let us know where in the comments!
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.