The Beer Lover's Table: Tom Yum Pozole and Utopian Brewing Small Pils

I think about pozole a lot for someone who doesn’t eat it that often.

This soup hails from Mexico and the southern US, and is notable for its starring ingredient: hominy, or extra-large, starchy, nixtamalised corn kernels. From there, its components vary. It can be made with chicken or pork or offal; it can be verde (made with tomatillos and green chillis) or rojo (made with dried red chillis).But what unites all pozoles is that irresistibly tender-chewy hominy, and their perfect balance between warming spice and citric brightness.

Pozole is easily one of my top-five dishes of all time and there’s no better antidote to the dour grey days of February. For years, I’ve cycled between pozoles verde and rojo, featuring chicken or pork. But one day recently, finding myself craving both pozole and Thai tom yum goong soup, a thought occurred: What if I made a tom-yum-inspired pozole? The premise is less out-there than it might sound. Both soups are brothy and spiced with chillis and bright with lime; both share ingredients like coriander and tomatoes. And once I did a little research on pozole de camarón, or prawn pozole, I knew the idea could work.

The result is a delicious hybrid. Like pozole rojo, this is made by mixing a concentrated base of blended dried chillis, tomatoes and spices into brothy hominy. But this time, that aromatic base also features bird’s-eye chillis and lemon-grass, ginger and dried prawns. Late additions of makrut lime leaves, fish sauce, brown sugar and oyster mushrooms further evoke tom yum; a finish of lime and coriander unites them both.

For a dish like this, there’s nothing more satisfying on the side than a lager – preferably one that isn’t just for thirst-slaking, but brings some personality and body to the table. Utopian Brewing’s new Small Pils might not sound like the right candidate at just 3.4% ABV, but it’s big on flavour, with its chewy, double-decocted Vienna malt profile and spiky, zesty Harlequin hops. Refreshing, tempering, and bright, it’s an unexpected but successful choice to go with this unexpected but successful dish.

Tom Yum Pozole
Serves 8

For the hominy:
500g dried hominy/maize kernels (easily found online)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste (or use black pepper)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 litres chicken or fish stock
2-3 bay leaves

For the chilli base:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 stalks lemongrass,
tough outer layers removed, minced
1-2 bird’s eye chillis, minced
100g frozen dried miniature prawns (optional; I found mine in a nearby Asian grocery’s freezer section)
500ml boiling water
2-3 dried guajillo chillis, stems and seeds removed
300g tomatoes, halved

 For the pozole:
5-6 makrut lime leaves
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
500g oyster mushrooms, stemmed, washed, and roughly torn
660g fresh, uncooked prawns
Juice of 2 limes
Large handful fresh coriander, to garnish
2 avocados, sliced, to garnish (optional)

1. The night before you plan to make your pozole, transfer the dried hominy/maize kernels to a large bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside and leave to soak for 12-18 hours.

2. The next day, begin by cooking your hominy (and making the broth base for your pozole). Place a Dutch oven or other large, lidded pot over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Once hot, add the onions, and season with salt and white (or black) pepper to taste. Cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, or until softened and translucent. Add the cumin seeds and cook for 1-2 minutes more, or until fragrant.

3. Next, add the chicken or fish stock. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil; once boiling, turn down to a simmer. Add the bay leaves and then partially cover the pot. Cook for 2–2½ hours, stirring occasionally, or until the hominy is mostly tender but still has some bite.

4. While the hominy cooks, prepare your chilli base. Place a medium, lidded saucepan over medium-low heat, and add the vegetable oil; once hot, add the ginger, garlic, lemongrass and bird’s-eye chillis. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the aromatics are slightly softened and have lost their raw smell. Add the frozen dried prawns, if using, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until warmed and fragrant.

5. Next, add the boiling water, dried guajillo chillis and tomatoes to the saucepan. Raise the heat to high to bring the mixture to a boil; then turn all the way down to a simmer and cover. Cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the guajillo chillies and dried prawns are fully rehydrated and softened. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then carefully transfer the mixture to a blender, and blend on high until smooth (take care when blending hot liquids, as they can burst out of the top of the blender; you may wish to blend in batches).

6. Add the blended chilli base to the hominy and broth, and mix through to combine. Cook for approximately 30 minutes more, or until the hominy is completely tender (add any additional water if the pozole is very thick).

7. To finish the pozole, add the makrut lime leaves, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Taste, and adjust the seasoning, or add any additional salt, if needed. Add the oyster mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Next, add the prawns and the lime juice. Cook for 1-2 minutes more, or until the prawns are just cooked through, before removing from the heat.

8. To serve, divide the pozole between bowls. Garnish with coriander leaves and sliced avocados, if using. Serve immediately.

Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus expert tasting notes, with 10 world-class beers like this one every month.