Thai Coconut Milk & Ginger Soup with Shrimp & Mushrroms

First of all, I have no idea what it’s actually called in Thai, because there are so many variations on the Tom, Dom, Con, Gai, Yam, Yum, Kha axis of Thai soup that I simply don’t know.

But luckily, you don’t have to in order to make one of the most exotically tasting things ever.

I used this recipe at all Authentic Thai Coconut Soup.

(click for hi-res)


1 pound medium shrimp – peeled and deveined
2 (13.5 ounce) cans canned coconut milk
2 cups water
1 (1 inch) piece galangal, thinly sliced
4 stalks lemon grass, bruised and chopped
10 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
1 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon green onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil the shrimp until cooked, about one minute. Drain shrimp, and set aside.
  2. Pour the coconut milk and 2 cups of water in a large saucepan; bring to a simmer. Add the galangal, lemon grass, and lime leaves; simmer for 10 minutes, or until the flavors are infused. Strain the coconut milk into a new pan and discard the spices. Simmer the shiitake mushrooms in the coconut milk for five minutes. Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Season to taste with curry powder.
  3. To serve, reheat shrimp in the soup, and ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with green onion and red pepper flakes.

I did a few things different. First of all, on short notice late yesterday afternoon when I finally decided what I was going to do with a pound of wild, uncooked Argentinian red shrimp, it was tough to source all the exact ingredients. But I’m happy to report that fresh ginger root works fine in place of the galangal, and the zest from two medium sized limes seemed to work fine in place of the kaffir lime leaves. I used chicken stock in place of water. I ditched the sugar, and instead of the unspecified “curry powder” (there are a million kinds), I used authentic Tom Yum paste. I added a handful of quartered fresh gerry tomatoes. Finally, instead of green onion and red pepper flakes as garnish, I used fresh cilantro.

(click for hi-res)

This was the first time I’ve made a Thai soup of any kind, but have had their coconut milk soups many times. I’m happy to report that it came out tasting very authentic with that kind of sweet, hot, sour flavor all rolled into one.

This was dinner. It could also make a great accompaniment to dinner, but in such case I’d cut down on the heartiness of it by using about only 1/4 pound of shrooms and maybe half the shrimp. That would make it a little more “brothy,” but retain all the exotic taste.

Go give it a try.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. Ian on November 12, 2011 at 11:26

    This looks absolutely amazing. I’m a college kid, so insert the typical “I’m broke” notation here. I’m able to eat pretty damn close to exclusively real food, but lack a kitchen full of spices and nonessentials. Out of curiosity, if I wanted to attempt to replicate some of your food porn, what would be your quick and dirty list of essential spices, oils, condiments, etc?

    Thanks and good luck with your 30 squeaky-clean days,

    • Richard Nikoley on November 12, 2011 at 11:53


      Herbs & spices: garlic powder, thyme, oregano, paprika, chili powder, curry powder, basil, cumin.

      Condiments: dijon mustard (and yellow if you like), gluten free soy sauce, red wine and/or apple cider vinegar, a good quality catsup like the one Trader Joe’s sells, hot sauce, chicken & beef stock (I think Kitchen Basics brand is about the best store bought stuff).

      Oils: save your bacon drippings, EVOO, unsalted butter or ghee (expensive, buy you can make your own from unsalted butter), coconut oil, red palm oil (you can source on the internet).

      I never cook with either the EVOO or palm oil, so they kind of go in the condiment category. The EVOO I use for salads and sometimes to drizzle on stuff. The red palm oil goes excellent as a drizzle on a lot of stuff, including an omelet or scrambled eggs.

  2. val on November 12, 2011 at 12:00

    I use homemade chicken bone stock in mine. This is by far one of my favorite comfort foods, my go-to soup when i have a cold.

  3. Paul Halliday on November 12, 2011 at 13:04

    Urgh! Coconut milk proper sets my teeth on edge 🙁

    I know … I know … it’s the darling of paleo, but really, it’s pretty nasty.

    I made up much the same … high hopes, left it all. Cooked myself something else. My Mrs left it and went to bed. Yeah!

  4. Primal Toad on November 12, 2011 at 13:28

    Looks delightful. Anything new?

  5. Uwe Nikoley on November 12, 2011 at 15:30

    Would you have kept the brown sugar in if you weren’t in you 30 day strict Paleo regimen?

    • Richard Nikoley on November 12, 2011 at 15:41


      Perhaps; that is, if I had any in the house. But I don’t think I do.

      But to the larger point, no, I do not think it makes for a big deal. It’s a far cry from a drink with 40g of sugar in it.

  6. Sonagi on November 12, 2011 at 17:31

    I’m sure the curry tasted as delicious as it looked, but pungent ginger root does not truly replace the clean citrus notes of galangal. I drive to a supermarket an hour away to get the stuff and then freeze what I don’t plan to use right away.

  7. Steve (the other) on November 12, 2011 at 18:08

    Man.. I don’t know how difficult it is for others to be “strict” paleo, but I can tell you what would make it a hell of a lot easier for me. Do you consider positions for “chef”?

    I tried the sweet potato pancake thing the other day. That was awesome. Too awesome. Felt like cheating. I have to assume there’s something wrong with eating those 🙂 That had a strangely high “reward value” for non junk food.

  8. Bodeman on November 13, 2011 at 10:17

    Oh lordy! I have been sick since thursday last week, and have been chowing down on the coconut soup from the local thai place. This looks WAY better. If I had a working stove I’d make this asap… 😛

  9. Margaretrc on November 13, 2011 at 11:05

    A simple version of this is my go to soup whenever I am sick or think I might get sick: I just simmer equal parts of home made chicken broth and coconut milk with some fresh ginger, salt and pepper to taste. But your version looks almost as easy to make and has more of the authentic Thai flavors (which I love love love) so I am recording it in my frequently used recipes notebook. I keep fresh sliced ginger in the freezer (for this and for Chai), but I expect one could similarly keep sliced galangal in the freezer for the more authentic Tom Ka Gai flavor. Any way you make it, this is one delicious soup.

  10. BabyGirl on November 13, 2011 at 18:02

    One of my most pungent food memories is my first taste of Tom Kha in a little Thai place in Atlanta, it was about 1991.

    It’s still my almost favorite thing to eat. Any time, any where. I’ve made several different version at home and loved them all, but nothing ever beat that first bite of Tom Kha in in Atlanta.

    Thanks for reminded me of that!

  11. Clean Paleo Food Pics | Free The Animal on November 18, 2011 at 12:01

    […] one is leftovers from this, because we only ate half. As I'd mentioned, I think, the full pound of shiitake mushrooms was a […]

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