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Thai style soup with fresh crab & tomatoes

4 tbsp. butter
one small onion, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 bottles clam juice (6 oz. each)
4 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. thinly sliced lemon grass stalks (use the base end)
1 tbsp. Fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 tbsp. Nam Pla (Thai fish sauce), optional
¼ tsp. Red chili flakes
¼ cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
½ cup scallions, thinly sliced
juice of one large lime
½ cup cilantro, chopped
4 cups whole milk
2 cups fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 medium fresh crabs (about 2 lbs. each), cooked, cleaned and cracked
Salt and pepper, to taste

Pull the legs from the bodies of the crabs and then cut the bodies into one-inch pieces. Cover the crab pieces and refrigerate until needed.

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Cook onion and celery until they begin to turn translucent. Add the clam juice and the chicken broth and turn flame to high. When broth begins to boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Add Lemon grass pieces to broth and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove lemon grass pieces and then add the ginger, fish sauce and chili flakes. Simmer another five minutes. Add all remaining ingredients and heat until just about to boil and crab is fully heated. Divide crab pieces among hot serving bowls; ladle broth and tomatoes over each serving. Serve immediately. Offer hot washcloths for guests to use for their hands

Makes 6 to 8 Servings. *

*This soup makes a wonderful main course for a light meal. Serve it with hot basmati or jasmine rice on the side.

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