Today’s recipe is a pretty piece of fusion. Yes, I know, what a surprise. This Lobster Curry Noodle Soup is yet another product of simultaneously food cravings. In this case, my brain zeroed in on the seafood chowder of my youth and curry laksa. To my mind, this is almost poetic. The chowder is a taste of my childhood, while the laksa represents all the dishes I was introduced to when I moved to Toronto. My past and present are contained in this soup. But that’s not particularly important to you. What is important to you is how this soup tastes. And I can assure you, it is beyond divine.
I’ll always count myself as lucky because I grew up next to the ocean. My childhood in Nova Scotia was awash with seaside picnic tables lined with newspaper and piled high with crustaceans. We ate oysters on the half-shell as pre-cursers to family meals rather than at fancy restaurants. In fact, I was deep into my twenties before I actually ordered an oyster in a restaurant. I still have yet to order a lobster.
So many of the prized seafood delicacies that I see on smart Toronto menus, were celebratory but casual fare when I was growing up. Fannel and lobsters just make good sense because lobster is too messy to eat indoors and you need quality mosquito protection. The idea of doing anything to an oyster or lobster other than adding horseradish or dunking it into butter was borderline criminal. But as a family, we always had one blind spot to this rule – chowder.
True, we never made chowder from choice cuts of fish or premium lobster meat, but we would happily sacrifice a small fortune of off-cuts to a pot of humble chowder. If I could choose such a thing, I would choose my grandmother’s fish chowder as my last meal. So when I got my hands on a couple of split lobster halves from Digby, chowder was the only thing on my mind.
You might think this is silly. Why introduce premium seafood to a stockpot at all? Well, lobster is expensive here in Toronto and I’m not sure when I’ll get more. So when I happen across lobster, I want to get as much mileage out of it as possible. Yes, this Lobster Curry Noodle Soup makes use of every part of the lobster. Plus, it has noodles – hard to argue with that.
Now, we obviously don’t want to cook the heck out of the lobster. So it’s important to separate the meat from the shells before doing anything else. The lobster I used had had its meat removed from the shell using pressurized water before being cryogenically frozen. So once I thawed the lobster, it was easy to remove the meat. If you’re starting with fresh lobster, kill the lobster humanely, then quarter it and place it in a steamer. Cook the lobster about halfway, then remove the meat from the shells. It’s almost impossible to remove uncooked lobster meat from its shell, so don’t try.
Once the meat and shells have been separated, it’s time to tackle the stock. This is the most crucial component of any seafood soup and it starts the same as any stock. It starts with a mirepoix. But this mirepoix also has ginger, garlic, and lemongrass if you can track some down. And once the veggies are happy, add the lobster shells. I also added a stash of shrimp shells I’d been hoarding in the freezer. It always pays to buy your shrimp with their shells on. Finally, reinforce the flavors of the shells and the mirepoix with shrimp paste and red curry paste. These two ingredients take the soup in a distinctly laksa-ish direction.
Once the stock is ready, the bulk of the work is done. From here, you simply strain the stock and stir in coconut milk and evaporated milk. Yes, evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is essential to seafood chowder in my opinion. I’ve met numerous East Coasters who told me their grandmothers also added evaporated milk to their chowders. This is probably why I struggle to find a seafood chowder that is familiar to me in restaurants. They probably opt for fresh cream, rather than the canned stuff. But there is something about evaporated milk. It brings a lighter body and a touch of sweetness that cannot be beat. So please, don’t leave it out.
And that about covers all the tricky bits. All you have to do at this point is gently poach the lobster meat in the stock and serve it over noodles. Add a few quick garnishes and you have Lobster Curry Noodle Soup. It may seem decadent and elaborate but this soup is actually fairly straightforward. I’m pretty proud of this one, so I hope you give it a go.
Lobster Curry Noodle Soup
- large stock pot or dutch oven
- Steaming basket
- 1 (1½ lb) live lobster** killed humanely, quartered
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 4 shallots halved and sliced
- 3 carrots peeled and chopped
- 3 stalks celery leaves removed and reserved, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 (1½-inch) knob ginger sliced into medallions
- 1 cup frozen shrimp shells optional
- 3 tbsp red curry paste
- 1 tbsp shrimp paste
- ½ cup dry vermouth
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (400ml, 13.5 fl oz) can coconut milk
- 1 (354ml, 12 fl oz) can evaporated milk
- 400g (14oz) fresh wheat noodles
- 1 lime juiced
- beansprouts to serve
- fresh cilantro to serve
- radish microgreens to serve
- lime wedges to serve
- Pour 1 inch of water into a large stockpot or dutch oven and place over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, place a steaming basket on top of the pot and place the lobster parts in the basket. Cover and steam for 3 minutes.
- Remove the lobster from the basket and crack the shells to extract the meat. Kitchen shears and crackers are handy to have for this task. Once the meat is extracted, set the meat aside. Break the tail, claw, and body shells down into smaller pieces and set them aside as well. Pour the lobster steaming liquid into a bowl and set it aside as well.
- Add the butter and olive oil to the now-empty pot and place over medium heat. Once the butter is frothy, add the shallots, carrots, celery, and a healthy pinch of salt. Sauté until the shallots are just translucent.
- Add the garlic, ginger, lobster shells, and shrimp shells if using. Sauté until the shells turn bright red. Stir in the red curry paste and shrimp paste and sauté until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes more.
- Deglaze the pot with vermouth and pour in the stock and lobster steaming liquid. Add the bay leaves and bring everything up to a boil before reducing to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 1 hour.
- Strain the stock through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing the shells to release any excess juices. Return the stock to the pot and pour in the coconut milk and evaporated milk. Bring the soup back up to a simmer. Let cook for 10 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, cook the noodles according to the package's directions. Drain and rinse the noodles, then divide them among 4 bowls.
- Toss the lobster meat into the simmering soup and add the lime juice. Take the pot off of the heat and stir until the meat firms up and cooks through in the hot soup. Ladle the soup and lobster meat over the noodles and garnish with beansprouts, cilantro, reserved celery leaves, and radish microgreens. Serve the soup immediately with lime wedges on the side.