Friday, October 4, 2013

Quick and Easy Fragrant Coconut Soup

Print Friendly and PDF

Time: Less than 30 minutes
Yields: 4 servings

We recently took a daytrip to Portland, Maine. In between rummaging around at Yes Books and The Green Hand, grabbing a beer at The Thirsty Pig, walking around The Old Port and visiting LeRoux Kitchen, we stopped at The Green Elephant (twice), a vegetarian bistro that I kind of want to curl up at and live in forever. I only order appetizers there because I want to taste a little bit of everything and, after two appetizers for dinner, I only had room for only one more item, which was their Fragrant Coconut Soup. It was simple, pretty and a wonderful end to a fabulous dinner. I loved it so much that I wanted to try to recreate it at home, and this version came pretty close to the original.

Although I've made a Tom Kha Gai-inspired dish before, I wanted to make something a bit less involved. I resisted the urge to add things like lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and vegan fish sauce to it, and forced myself to keep everything minimal and easy—and the results were fantastic. Once the coconut milk was added, the aroma of this soup triggered an immediate eyeroll accompanied by an uncontrollable dumb smile that was followed by complete happiness after the first bite. This soup is good because it's simple ... and simple is good.

1 TB toasted sesame oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
6-8 shiitake caps, thinly sliced
2 tsp brown sugar
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4 cups broth (homemade or Imagine brand)
small can of coconut milk (5.46 ounces)
juice from half of a lime
10 cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves

to serve
tofu cubes (cut into dice-sized pieces)
thai chilis or sriracha, to taste

Heat the sesame oil over medium low heat, then throw in the shallots. Allow them to soften for a minute or two, then gently stab the slices with chopsticks or a spatula to break them up. Throw in the shiitake caps, stir, and allow to soften for two minutes. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top, then stir again to combine. 

Increase the heat to medium, then throw in the chopped scallions and broth. Stir, then allow to come to a small simmer. Allow it to simmer for about two minutes, then remove it from the heat and stir in the coconut milk, lime juice and tomatoes.

Serve immediately with a few tofu cubes thrown in if you like. Garnish with hot peppers or sriracha and cilantro, if desired.


  1. My husband is from Portland and we go to the Green Elephant nearly every time we are there. It might be my favorite veg place! The Siamese Dream Curry Noodle is unreal but you are right...this soup is amazing! We also really love Silly's (not all veg but with lots of options, mostly comfort-y fast food type stuff).

  2. as someone who is really struggling right now with cooking, and the temps are throwing me for a loop, this soup is so what i need. simple is definitely good.

    1. Hope you like, Lan! Yes, the temperatures right now are so odd. I'm ready for it to be cold and stay cold!

      Congrats on your wedding!

  3. Ohhhhh my goodness! You have no idea how happy this is going to make myself and my husband! Thai is his favorite, and even here on island, we have a favorite Thai restaurant, Som Chai (a series of my Thai inspired paintings are exhibited there) in which we both always order the coconut soup. I have tried to make it a couple times and it is never quite the same. I can't wait to try this! Also, incidentally, my husband is from Maine, and we were married in Portland nearly 5 years ago:) Small world! I will stop by again after I have had a chance to make this recipe!

  4. Yes, small world! We just love Portland, and it has changed so much so quickly in the past 5 years, you may not recognize it anymore! Hope this measures up to the coconut soup at Som Chai -- and you have paintings in the restaurant -- how cool is that?!

  5. This looks so stunning and delicious that I can actually look past the beautifully arranged, but still stinkweed cilantro.

  6. Oh yum! That looks really good. I love that you focused on simplicity. Helps me out when I try to make it :)

  7. what kind of broth did you use? veggie or non chicken?
    I plan to make this very soon! thank you!!
    we are off to Boston in November. Any restaurants I should look for?

  8. maureen, I hope you enjoy. I used Imagine brand No-Chicken broth for this.

    My favorite spots in Boston are: Addis Red Sea (not vegan, but great vegan options), True Bistro in Arlington, Upstairs on the Square in Cambridge, Penang in Chinatown, Organic Garden in Beverly and Root in Allston. Other solid places I've never been to, but have a great reputation: Elephant Walk and Myers + Chang -- good luck!

    1. Good! I have carton of Imagine No Chicken in my pantry.
      We booked our hotel today and we are close to Newbury street. Any other suggestions? BTW, my husband and daughter (who turns 16 which is why we are headed to Boston) are huge red sox fans!

    2. I've don't eat out much around that area--I think there is a PF Chang's nearby, which has some good vegan options. But I am sure that you'll find most restaurants in that area will be accommodating. Good luck!

  9. Okay! I'm back. I just made this tonight alongside the panisse with garlic ginger sauce. They paired very nicely together. I was surprised at how well the soup came out too, because I am so spoiled by our local Thai restaurant. But it really was simple, delicious, and flavorful. I could not help myself by adding in some ginger medallions and lemongrass--only because I had them on hand and am used to tasting those flavors, but it still maintained the simplicity. Much enjoyed! My husband is eating it as we speak:)

  10. mmmm!!! My new favorite soup! Seriously, this was wicked good. Thanks (yet again) for such an amazing recipe.

    I made a couple of adjustments due to what I had on hand: I used chanterelle mushrooms because I went mushroom hunting and had a lot on hand, I used onion fried tofu (you can get in some asian food stores. It's really really good), I put the halved cherry tomatoes and tofu in to sauté a couple minutes after putting in the sugar because I like my tomatoes a bit wilted, oh and added salt and pepper to the shallots while they were cooking.

    Again, thanks so much! You're the best!

    1. So happy you enjoyed, and love your adjustments! Thanks for your kinds words.

  11. Yum! This looks so delicious and totally takes me back to my ma's Thai restaurant that I worked in during high school. The flavors in Tom Kha soup are my favorites and this looks like a simple version with similar flavors. There's just something special about the combination of sweet and tangy and spicy all wrapped in one.

    1. I agree--something about this combination hits the spot every time. Thanks for your kind words, Ketty!

  12. Wow, these sounds very comforting and perfect for cold night dinners :)


Thank you for visiting my blog and for your feedback!