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Coconut Curry Soup

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)

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Essentially Hot and Sour Soup with coconut milk thrown in, this is a rich, versatile soup that can be configured any way you like. Go with chicken stock and chicken, and you've got tom kha gai. Use fish stock with shellfish and/or fish for a seafood version. And for vegetarians, you can either use vegetable stock and tofu, or soak dried shiitakes in hot water, use the soaking liquid as the soup broth, and add the chopped mushroom caps. Finally, if you cut back on the stock and serve it with fresh rice, you'll have a dish that's similar to, but much easier than, Thai Curry Gaeng Koa.


    1. 1 Tbsp. peanut oil or coconut oil
    2. 1 medium onion or a few shallots, diced
    3. 2 garlic cloves, diced
    4. 1 knob (1 inch long) fresh ginger, diced
    5. 6 cups stock (chicken, fish, vegetable, or mushroom, depending on the overall soup flavor you want)
    6. 1 to 2 cans (about 14 ounces each) coconut milk
    7. 1 Tbsp. nam pla (Thai fish sauce) or soy sauce
    8. 1 to 2 lemongrass stalks, outer leaves discarded, sliced in 2-inch long sections
    9. A few kaffir lime leaves (optional)
    10. 1 tsp. Thai red curry paste
    11. 1 tsp. tom yam paste
    12. 2 to 3 Tbsp. minced palm sugar or brown sugar
    13. 1 lb. already-cooked or quick-cooking vegetables; try cubes of cooked squash, chopped green beans, bamboo shoots, straw mushrooms, or sliced shiitakes (either fresh or reconstituted, stems discarded)
    14. 1 lb. protein, if using: skinless and boneless sliced chicken breast or chicken thighs for tom kha gai, shrimp and/or cubes of firm fish such as salmon, black cod, or halibut for a seafood curry soup, or tofu cubes for a vegetarian soup
    15. Juice of 1 lime
    1. Fresh cilantro and basil sprigs (use Thai basil if available)


    1. Put the oil in a large stockpot and heat to medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for a minute or so, then add the garlic and ginger and stir for another minute or so.
    2. Add the stock, 1 can of the coconut milk, fish sauce or soy sauce, lemongrass, and lime leaves (if using). Add ½ teaspoon each of the red curry paste and tom yam paste, as well as 2 Tablespoons of the sugar. Stir to dissolve the curry pastes and sugar in the broth, then bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes.
    3. Sample the broth and decide: Do you want to add more coconut milk, for a richer soup? Do you want to add more curry and tom yam paste, for a spicier soup? Does the soup need a bit more sugar? Add accordingly.
    4. Add the vegetables you've chosen to use, then the protein. Simmer for a few minutes until the vegetables and protein are cooked through, then add the juice of the lime.
    5. Ladle the soup into bowls, then top with the cilantro and basil sprigs.