Tom Kha is a highly popular Thai soup known for its intense and aromatic flavors in a rich and creamy coconut-infused broth. It’s a flavorful mix of sweet, sour and spicy
flavors that’s super satisfying.
I’m finally getting around to making some Thai recipes after my trip to Thailand last month.
Thai people love their food (and so do we!) and food is a central part of their culture. Soup is available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Traditionally the most common version of this soup involves chicken, (Tom Kha Gai) or shrimp, (Tom Kha Goong). I love all versions of this soup but here I’m making the vegetarian one with lots of nutritious vegetables.
The most challenging part of making Thai food at home is getting the right ingredients.
I wanted to create a version of this soup that was bursting with flavor, deliciously aromatic, and visually beautiful with ingredients that can be found in your local stores or easily ordered online.
Essentials Ingredients in Thai Cooking:
Thai Curry Paste – Curry pastes are one of the most ESSENTIAL components, or foundations of Thai cuisine; Pastes form the base of many dishes, from soups, to curries, to stir fries. There are many different types; red, green, yellow, Panaeng and Massaman.
In my Thai Cooling class we made many of the pastes from scratch. I thought about making my own red curry paste at home but I couldn’t get all the ingredients. It’s easier to buy one that’s already prepared. There are 2 brands I recommend.
In this dish we’re using Red Curry Paste.
Mae Ploy is the one with the most authentic Thai flavor. It’s made with all the essential ingredients including shrimp paste. It’s gluten free and there are no preservatives or artificial ingredients. I bought the package with green, red and yellow curry paste. It is spicier than the Thai Kitchen.
If you use Mae Ploy, I would suggest using 1/2 – 1 tablespoons to start and adding up based on what level of heat you’re comfortable with.
For Thai Kitchen use 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon to start, add more to your own taste.
Red Curry Paste packs a sweet heat that is incredibly delicious. If you’re not fond of heat, simply back off by adjusting the amount you use.
Lemon Grass gives a citrus-like aroma and zing to many Thai dishes. It’s available in many health food stores and supermarkets. Look in the section with herbs.
Tamarind used in Thai cooking is combined with coconut sugar creating a beautiful sweet-sour flavor. It’s most convenient to purchase already prepared bottled tamarind paste. In this form, it somewhat resembles molasses. Look for it in jars at your local Asian food store or online. It lasts a long time. If you can’t find it you can make the soup without it. The flavor will be a little different but still delicious.
Kaffir Lime Leaves are a key ingredient in Thai cooking as well as other Southeast Asian cuisines. They are probably one of the most aromatic of all herbs and a wonderful addition to many Thai soups, curries, and stir-fries. The thick leaves are dark green and shiny on one side, and pale-colored and porous on the other. They are sold fresh, frozen, and dried. I bought dried ones online. If you can’t find them use lime zest.
Asian Fish Sauce is sweet, salty, fishy, and funky all at once, bursting with flavor. I like Red Boat Fish Sauce. Read more about it here. It provides one of the driving flavors in dishes like fish larb, green papaya salad, Thai soups and stir-fries, as well as pad thai.(recipe coming soon).
All the other ingredients for the Tom Kha are ones you are familiar with and can be found in your supermarket or health foods store; coconut milk, coconut sugar, broth, shallots, ginger, cilantro and lime.
You can make this richly flavored Thai Coconut Vegetable Soup in under an hour. It’s hearty with butternut squash (or sweet potatoes), shiitake mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower all bursting with freshness.
This Thai soup gets its creaminess from coconut milk. Just enough to give a bit of lusciousness to the broth, without feeling heavy. Use vegetable broth for vegan. I use chicken bone broth for its healing qualities.
I love making this beautiful comforting soup, full of nutrients, sweet, spicy, sour, salty and lusciously creamy. It’s easy to make (once you get the ingredients).
If you want to add chicken, add it with the butternut squash. If you’re adding shrimp add it with the broccoli and cauliflower.
Serve this Tom Kha soup with fresh lime wedges, for squeezing over the top. Top with chopped cilantro and garnish with cilantro leaves. And if you like some color add a few thin slices of red Fresno or Jalapeno peppers.
“I love the food in Thailand because of the exotic spices they use. Their style of cooking is unique to their culture and always amazing.” ~ Venus Williams
A popular Thai soup with intense and aromatic flavors in a rich and creamy coconut-infused broth. It’s a flavorful mix of sweet, sour and spicy flavors that’s super satisfying.
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
- 1 tablespoon Thai red chile paste* (see notes for types of chili paste)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
- 2 fresh or dried kaffir lime leaves or 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
- 2 stalks lemongrass, bottom 4” only, crushed and left whole
- Two 14-ounce cans coconut milk (simple or full fat)
- 1 tablespoon tamarind concentrate (optional but recommended)
- 2 cups butternut squash or sweet potato cut into cubes
- 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, and caps sliced
- 1 cup cauliflower, cut into florets
- 1 cup broccoli, cut into florets
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (leave out for vegan)
- Celtic sea salt to taste
- ¼ cup packed cilantro leaves, chopped
- A few whole cilantro leaves for garnish
- 2 small red Jalapeno chiles, very thinly sliced on the bias, for garnish
- In a large pot, combine the stock with the sugar, chile paste, tamarind, ginger, lemongrass and lime leaves and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, turn down to simmer 5 minutes.
- Stir in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
- Add the butternut squash and cook 5 minutes
- Add mushrooms cook 3 minutes.
- Add broccoli, cauliflower and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is bright green, 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and discard the lime leaves and lemongrass.
- Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce if using, taste to adjust salt. (if you’re not using fish sauce add more salt to taste).
- Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle with chopped cilantro.
- Garnish with whole cilantro leaves and sliced chilies. Serve.
- Keeps 4 days in the refrigerator.
If you use Mae Ploy Red Curry Paste, I would suggest using 1/2 – 1 tablespoons to start and adding up based on what level of heat you’re comfortable with. (I use 1 1/2 tablespoons)
Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste is best if you want it to be 100% vegan. It’s also MUCH milder. I don’t find it hot-spicy at all, just flavorful. It’s available in most supermarkets, health foods stores or online. For Thai Kitchen use 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon to start, add more to your own taste.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 20
- Category: Soup, Entree
- Cuisine: Thai, Paleo, Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free
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If you like this recipe try these other delicious Southeast Asian Recipes
- Lao Fish Larb with Lemongrass Dressing
- Paleo Thai Red Curry Noodles with Vegetables
- Thai Spinach Detox Soup