Panang Curry Sweet Potato Soup

Sometimes I think I could survive on sweet potatoes if I had to. They’re available at the farmer’s market nearly year-round. We eat a whole lot of sweet potatoes since starchy white potatoes spike my husband’s blood sugar worse than table sugar does. We eat them at least once a week, sometimes more- mashed, baked, oven-fried, and in soups and stews. I like cooking a few extra sweet potatoes to have them on hand for biscuits, bundt cakes, gnocchi, and especially this light, simple, and slightly spicy soup.

Southeast Asian curry pastes are one of those ingredients I buy ready-made. Yes, I know they’re easy to make. Yes, I know all of the ingredients are available in Gainesville. Heck, I have most of the ingredients in my house. They might be easy, but they’re not simple, and they’re not easy to make well. I have tried to make Thai curry pastes from scratch a few times and they never comes out tasting as good as the little cans. I’m the only person in my family who likes this particular kind of curry, so buying the ingredients to make a big batch feels like a waste of time since a little $2 can makes 4 batches of soup. If you want to make the paste from scratch, here’s an authentic-seeming recipe.

Making your own coconut milk, on the other hand, is so easy that I rarely buy canned coconut milk any more. A $5 bag of coconut powder (not the shredded sweetened coconut!) makes many cups of coconut milk, and I think it tastes better. This is one of the many ingredients that it’s worth driving to the closest Asian or Indian grocery for, the only Western product that can be substituted is the unsweetened coconut in little bags by Bob’s Red Mill but it’s more expensive. Look at your local natural foods store and see if they have it in bulk. Blend one scant cup of desiccated coconut with 24 oz. of warm water on high for a full minute, then strain out the solid coconut fiber that’s left over. This makes rich coconut milk. The coconut “flour” that you can buy at the grocery store? That’s simply the pulp left over from making coconut milk, dried and finely ground.

Panang Curry Sweet Potato Soup

I posted about this on facebook a few weeks ago and several people requested the recipe. I make this soup all the time but last night I finally hauled out the camera and played around with photographing it. The photography took longer than making the soup! If you’re using leftover cooked sweet potatoes then this soup takes 10 minutes. 

3 medium sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled (about 2 lb)
1/4 can (about 2 tbl) Maesri brand Panang curry paste
1-2 c coconut milk
wedge of fresh lime

Place the peeled sweet potatoes in a blender. Add 1 cup of the coconut milk and the curry paste. Puree on low, adding coconut milk until the soup moves freely in the blender blades. Taste and add salt if necessary. Heat in a saucepan on low heat, stirring constantly, or in the microwave. Add a squeeze of lime juice right before serving.

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