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Review: Honga's Lotus Petal
Jan 12th, 2008



I love Asian food, especially Southeast Asian and Asian fusion dishes. But I own very few Asian cookbooks, really just a smattering of Thai, and I rarely pick one up from the library just to flip through. I don't know if it's the lists of ingredients that would necessitate a trip to a special store to procure, or the way the recipes all seem the same after a while (at least to my Western palate), but it's rare for me to find an Asian cookbook that I want to stay up late reading.

Honga's Lotus Petal: Pan Asian Cuisine, by Honga Im Hopgood is one of those rare finds. The photographs are beautiful, the narrative is entertaining & informative, and the recipes are inventive & diverse. It probably also helps that the recipes incorporate influences from multiple countries (including the US) rather than focusing on the cuisine of one valley in Southern Laos. Plus the author has a kickass name.

Honga's Lotus Petal is apparently a restaurant in Telluride. I've never heard of it, but I would definitely look it up were I ever to find myself skiing in Colorado. I see the location's influence in the book's focus on healthy, seasonal, organic ingredients.

I don't think I got more than a few pages in before finding the first recipe I wanted to try, a version of cream of tomato soup that substitutes coconut milk for the cream and adds a Thai flair with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. The local grocery that usually stocks lemongrass was mysteriously out, but I had some lime leaves in the freezer. I just bumped up the amount of lime leaves and never really missed the lemongrass. I think you could successfully make this recipe as long as you have at least one of those two ingredients (and some fish sauce of course, you can't do anything without fish sauce!).

I ate my soup for dinner with these Cilantro Noodles from Donna Hay, and enjoyed some even more the next day for lunch. The soup has a subtle, creamy, savory taste. I'll make it again and I look forward to trying many more recipes from Honga's Lotus Petal.


Tomato Coconut Soup

2 tbsp cooking oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 shallots, sliced
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp sake or white wine
28 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes
14 ounces canned coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 kaffir lime leaf
1/2 stalk lemongrass
2 tbsp B-Love's Hot Masala
1 tbsp honey


Heat the oil in a stockpot over high heat.

Add the onion, shallots and ginger.

Stir frequently, until the onions are sweating and translucent.

Add the sake, stirring quickly to deglaze.

Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, fish sauce, lime leaf, lemongrass, Hot Masala, and honey.

Simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lime leaf and lemongrass. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Serve hot.

-Honga Im Hopgood, Honga's Lotus Petal
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© 2006, Kimberly Cooperrider | kymmco@excite.com