Cambodian Curry Soup

Cambodian Curry Soup

God I love this plant! It's a kaffir lime tree that grows in Makara's living room in Portland, Maine. Tear a leaf, smell it, and the boundaries of All Possible Goodness expand by three feet.

Kaffir lime leaves are a key ingredient in the soup. They're put in the soup at three different times. First, whole leaves cook in coconut milk. Then a whole bunch get blended into the curry paste. Finally, once the soup is done, you add fresh shavings for an extra fresh burst of Good.
Makara made enough curry for like 40 people... she did multiple batches of paste in her food processor.

When cooking for celebrations, Makara's garage doubles as a second kitchen, where her friend, Saran Svey, is in charge of cooking noodles, curry, and spring roll dipping sauce. Here, Saran adds vegetable chunks to the chicken curry soup.

Adding noodles to water

So the noodles are in easy-to-grab portions for adding to soup bowls, Mom Hoeung (Mom's her actual first name!) makes these special bundles out of the mass of noodles.
These noodle bundles also make it easy to grab the perfect amount for stuffing spring rolls.

Doesn't the sight of this neat stainer full of formerly messy noodles just make you want to take chaos everywhere...and just wrap it around your fingers into something beautiful?

This is the quite strange looking banana flower.

Turns out the mandolin slices it faster and better. She sends the flower shavings right into water with lime juice.

Then she makes a bowl of green papaya and banana flower strips for soup garnish.

Soup's done! Makara's mom, An I, serves a bowl.

And then you pile the top with cool, crisp, raw garnishes.

Here we are...the whole team of us. We made 6 Cambodian dishes that day in a ten hour cooking session! What a day!

From left to right, the cooks: Mom Hoeung (holding Makara's daughter, Gwen); Saran Svay; Makara's mother, An I; me, Lindsay Sterling; and Makara Meng.

photos: Lindsay Sterling