Good for 4 people,
4-6 cups good-tasting chicken stock
1 stalk lemongrass , minced, OR 4 Tbsp. frozen prepared lemongrass (available at Asian stores)
3 kaffir lime leaves (available fresh or frozen at Asian stores)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 red chilies, finely sliced, OR substitute 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili
3 Tbsp. fish sauce (available at all Asian/Chinese food stores and some supermarket chains
a generous handful of fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
12 medium raw shrimp, shells removed
1/2 can good-quality coconut milk, OR 1/2 can evaporated milk
1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), roughly chopped
Pour stock into a deep cooking pot and turn heat to medium-high. Add prepared lemongrass to the pot, including upper parts of the stalk you didn't mince. Boil 5 to 6 minutes, or until fragrant.
Reduce heat slightly to achieve a nice simmer. Add garlic, chili, lime leaves, and mushrooms to broth. Continue simmering for another 5 minutes.
Add shrimp, bell pepper, and cherry tomatoes (if using). Simmer 5-6 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and plump.
Turn down the heat to low and add 1/2 can coconut milk plus fish sauce. Test-test the soup for spice and salt, adding more chili and/or fish sauce (instead of salt) as desired. If too sour for your taste, add 1 tsp. brown sugar; if too salty, add a squeeze of lime juice. Add more coconut milk if you want your soup richer/creamier, or if it's too spicy for your taste.
Serve in bowls with fresh coriander sprinkled over. Enjoy!!