This rice soup, with the heady scent and flavor of garlic and ginger, is a perfect remedy for the common cold. It's ideal when family or friends need gentle, healing food, says Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen, a native of Phuket, Thailand. As a little girl, Pranee's kitchen chores included grating coconut, pounding curry paste and cooking rice. She now teaches Thai cooking classes in Seattle. In Thailand, kao tom (literally rice soup) is commonly eaten at breakfast, using leftover rice. The soup can be made with chicken or pork, but use a lot of garlic and ginger.
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (2 tablespoons)
4 ounces ground pork
1 cup spinach leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 egg (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
8 cooked medium shrimp, peeled
Chopped green onions
Chopped cilantro leaves
Ground white or black pepper
1. In a large saucepan, bring the stock, water and rice to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer while you prepare the other ingredients.
2. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until golden and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Don't burn them! Reserve half for garnish and add the rest to the soup.
3. In the same skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add the pork and stir and cook until it just loses its blush, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the partially cooked pork into the soup. Simmer until the rice grains have absorbed some of the stock and expanded about 1 1/2 times their original size. The texture of the rice soup should not be as thin as a clear soup, nor as thick as congee or cooked oatmeal, another 2 to 3 minutes, or about 10 minutes total. The final dish should comprise about one-third liquid and two-thirds rice grains. Dimmer for a few more minutes to reduce or add more water to reach the desired consistency.
4. Stir in the spinach, soy sauce, and salt. Return the soup to a boil and crack in the egg and drizzle with sesame oil. Give it one last stir, then ladle into individual bowls. Garnish with the reserved garlic and ginger, the shrimp, green onions, and cilantro. Sprinkle with pepper to taste.