Coconut milk is a key ingredient in my two favorite Thai dishes—curries and soups. It gives Thai curries their unique creaminess and richness, which are lacking in some curries from other countries. And it gives soups an interesting base—great for vegetarians bored with starting off every soup with just vegetable broth.
A variety of Thai soups can be made with coconut milk (I featured a carrot-coconut soup a while back), but my favorite is the classic coconut milk soup. The milk, made from the meat of the coconut and not the liquid inside, blends perfectly with the light and fresh flavors of lime, lemon grass, and cilantro. You can throw in any veggies you like, as well as tofu, to make a more filling soup that can act as a meal.
Be careful when ordering this soup at restaurants! Many Thai places make theirs with fish sauce. Some Thai restaurants offer a vegan version, but not all, so be sure to ask. Now if only we could get all Thai restaurants to offer a veg version and to stop using those crazy names, like Thaicoon and Thai Me Up (just a couple in my area), we’d be all set.
Thai Coconut Milk Soup
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1-2 red Thai (or jalapeño) peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 12-oz. can coconut milk
1 Tbsp. grated ginger
1 4-inch piece of lemon grass, cut into very thin (1/16 inch) slices on the diagonal
1 tsp. grated lime zest
Juice of 1 lime
1 16-oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, raw, fried, or baked, and diced
2 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
- In a medium saucepan, bring the oil to medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and shiitake mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and peppers and sauté for another minute.
- Pour in the vegetable broth and coconut milk. Stir in the ginger, lemon grass, lime zest, lime juice, and tofu, then bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and season with salt, if desired. Add the cilantro, then serve.
Makes 4 servings