I’m dreaming a lot right now, during my Whole30. My dreams are filled with reinventions of my best food memories, like the time I drank icy, freshly-whipped Pisco sours (a cocktail made of Peruvian pisco liquor, foamy egg whites, lemon juice and bitters) while watching the sun set on the Peruvian coastline. As the yolk-colored sun dipped itself toward the ocean, I, too, dipped tortilla chips, hot from the fryer, into an icy bath of ceviche. The ceviche was made of just-caught fish bathing in lime, salt and cilantro. I was 21 years old at the time, and I remember feeling like such a grownup. All wrapped up in each crunchy cool bite of ceviche was my future, and I was full of possibility and hope and invincibility.
As soon as I wake up from these sunny dreams of glorious food and better times, I realize what I’m actually doing these days, and I get a serious case of the sads. For those of you just tuning in, I’m halfway through a Whole30, which is a “clean eating” program that prohibits consuming processed grains, dairy, beans (including soy) and processed sugar for 30 days. I’m doing Whole30 to increase my energy levels, to kick start myself back into a healthier lifestyle and to make sure I don’t die in a vat of cheese fondue. My heart clearly wants to go back to that happy place with the cocktails and the beach and the chips, but my brain knows better.
This leads me to today’s point about Whole30 — you need to plan for it. Plan like you’ve never planned before. Plan like it is your wedding and that there is a very hungry bridezilla who will eat you if you don’t plan right (that hungry bridezilla, by the way, is most likely you). Like I’ve mentioned before, I started reading about Whole30 on their website and planning recipes way ahead of time. This is not a time to improvise. Whole30 is not conducive to texting your significant other at 5:30pm to tell him that dinner tonight is “chicken something.” Trust me. You’ll end up standing in front of your refrigerator at 8:00pm, eating a cold (but Whole30 compliant) chicken sausage, wondering when your life went wrong to lead you to this indignity. That’s why you plan, and that’s why you have me, to light the way and to give you some ideas on what you can eat, like this Whole30 Thai seafood coconut soup.
The base of this soup is easy peasy – just a can of coconut milk and some chicken broth. For our soup, I layered in slices of carrot and zucchini noodles, then lightly poached some chunks of haddock fish and shrimp in the broth. With the addition of lime and cilantro, the soup was warming, flavorful and filling. I planned for this recipe by purchasing a bunch of raw shrimp (five pounds, to be exact) and haddock (about two pounds) to freeze before we started Whole30. My thought was that frozen fish and shrimp are very easy to defrost in a relatively short amount of time, so I could grab either or both out on short notice and pull together something quick and easy.
This recipe also incorporates five other ingredients that I consider staples to make it through Whole30 — jalapeno peppers, lime, coconut milk, chicken broth and zucchini. Jalapenos (or any other pepper that brings heat, for that matter) are essential, because you’ve stripped away so much from your regular diet that you need the spicy heat to keep things interesting. I’ve also added lime to just about everything — a squeeze in my sparkling water, with ice, so that I can feel like I’m having a cocktail (note: this does not work 90% of the time, but hey, it’s fun to play) or a dash of it in homemade salad dressing. Coconut milk is part of Whole30 everything — breakfast included (to make chia pudding). Chicken broth is always a pantry staple for me, but it’s especially important now because I can’t cook with wine, which I used to do often and in place of chicken broth. Lastly, there’s zucchini. Of all the spiralized (i.e., finely cut) vegetables I’ve tried, our hands-down favorite is spiralized zucchini. It’s taken the place of the noodles we used to inhale.
Anyway, by storing these ingredients in your pantry in advance, you can whip together this Thai coconut soup on nights that you just can’t think any more about Whole30. Based on my experience so far, that might happen a lot, followed by some tears. Trust me. Make this soup. It will be okay. You’ll pull through this.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
For more about Whole30, start here.
- 2 14-ounce cans full fat coconut milk
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or seafood stock
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced or minced
- 2 limes
- ¾ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 pound haddock filet, cut into 1.5-inch chunks
- 2 zucchini
- 1 carrot, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup chopped basil
- optional: chopped mint and chopped Thai basil, for serving
- Zest one lime and cut in half. Set aside. Spiralize zucchini with the smallest blade setting and set aside.
- Heat a Dutch oven or deep, large stockpot over medium high heat. Add coconut milk and chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring. Add carrots, fish sauce and lime zest and squeeze the juice from the zested lime into the soup, stirring.
- Reduce heat to medium low. Add haddock and stir gently. Let simmer for approximately 3-4 minutes, until fish is almost done. Add shrimp and stir gently. Allow soup to simmer for about 2-3 minutes more until seafood is cooked through (shrimp should be pink and firm to the touch, and the fish should be opaque and flake easily with a fork).
- Drop a nest of zucchini noodles in the center of four large soup bowls (approximately ½-3/4 cup of zucchini noodles per bowl). Ladle soup over the noodles and let stand for approximately 2-3 minutes so that zucchini can soften a little. Slice the second lime into wedges and garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately.