Thai Coconut Soup Your Way
Thai Coconut Soup is one of my very favorite things to order at Thai restaurants. It has the perfect balance of sweet, salty, sour, and pungent/spicy tastes. But I have gotten to where I like the homemade version so much more, as you can customize it to your tastes and use high quality ingredients. If you like it more spicy you can add some Thai chili, if you like it vegan you can use mushrooms and veggie broth, or if you like it heartier you can use chicken broth and chicken pieces.
Tom Kha vs. Tom Kha Gai vs. Tom Yum
Perhaps you have seen “Tom Kha Gai” on the menu at Thai restaurants- “Tom Kha” means galangal (flavorful relative of ginger) soup and “Tom Kha Gai” refers to the chicken version of the soup. And “Tom Yum” refers to a different Thai soup that has a tomato base instead of coconut milk. I use “Tom Kha” to name this soup, as I give options of whether to use chicken or mushrooms, and it is coconut milk based.
Ingredients for Thai Coconut Soup
- Vegetable or chicken broth
- coconut milk
- fresh galangal (traditional) or fresh ginger
- kaffir lime or lime leaves
- red pepper flakes or Thai red pepper
- mushrooms and/or chicken
- fish sauce – Red Boat brand recommended (or lime juice + tamari)
- green onion, cilantro, lime
4 cups light vegetable broth or homemade chicken stock
14-ounce can coconut milk (full fat version)
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
8 round slices fresh galangal (or fresh ginger)
4–5 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
3 cilantro stems (leaf and stem intact)
pinch red pepper flakes or 1-2 red Thai chiles, bruised
1/4 yellow or sweet onion, sliced
8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
8–12 ounces (~2–3 cups) oyster, shiitake, or button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 tablespoon coconut aminos or 1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce, Red Boat brand recommended*
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped, for garnish
green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
1 lime, cut into wedges, for garnish
steamed jasmine rice
* Vegan option- substitute juice of 1/2 lime + 1 tablespoon tamari or shoyu for fish sauce
Using the back of a knife, lightly smash lemongrass to allow the flavors to infuse into the broth.
In large soup pot, heat vegetable or chicken broth and add coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal or ginger, lime leaves, cilantro stems, and red pepper flakes (or Thai chiles). Bring to a boil and then cover and let simmer on low for at least 20 minutes.
Using a metal skimmer or spider tool, take out solids from the broth. Or you can leave the solids in for extra flavor, and each person takes them out of their soup bowls (this is how it is often done at Thai restaurants).
Add yellow onion, mushrooms (and chicken, if using), coconut aminos (or coconut sugar), and fish sauce (or lime juice) and simmer about five minutes more, or until mushrooms and/or chicken are cooked through. Taste for seasonings. Add a little more coconut aminos, fish sauce, and/or sea salt if needed to balance flavors.
Divide soup among bowls. Serve with jasmine rice, and garnishes (cilantro, green onions, and lime wedges).