Here is a recipe for Isan's most popular soup.
- 12 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 11 dried thai chiles or other dried hot red chiles, stemmed and crushed
- 4 shallots, peeled and chopped
- 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and chopped
- 1 (1/2") piece fresh or thawed frozen galangal, peeled and chopped
- 1 Tbsp. gapi (Thai dried-shrimp paste)
- 1 Tbsp. nam pla ra (Thai unrefined fish sauce)
- 4 Tbsp. nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, torn into large pieces
- 1⁄2 boneless skinless chicken breast (about 6 oz.), thinly sliced
- 1 boneless skinless chicken thigh, thinly sliced
- 1 small kabocha squash, stemmed, seeded, peeled, and cut into 1 1/2" pieces
- 3 makheua pro (Thai round green eggplants) or baby eggplants, trimmed and quartered
- 1 young sponge or ridged gourd, trimmed, peeled, and sliced
- 1⁄2 bunch dill, very coarsely chopped
- 5 scallions, trimmed and thickly sliced
- Leaves from 1/4 bunch bai manglak (Thai lemon basil) or sweet basil
Crush garlic, chiles, shallots, lemongrass, and galangal together with a mortar and pestle to a semismooth paste and set aside.
Heat a medium pot over medium heat until warm. Add 2 tbsp. water and garlic paste and cook, stirring constantly until water evaporates, 2-3 minutes. Combine dried shrimp paste and unrefined fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, and 1⁄2 cup of water and simmer for 5 minutes. Add chicken and 1 1⁄2 cups water and simmer until chicken is no longer pink 5-8 minutes.
Add sqaush, eggplant, remaining fish sauce, and 2 cups water; simmer until squash is soft 5-8 minutes. Stir in gourd, dill and scallions and simmer, stirring often, until gourd is soft, 3-5 minutes. Add basil and adjust seasonings.