Thai Coconut Milk Shrimp Soup (Tom Kha Gai/Gung)

by lisa | 15 February 2013 12:25

We took a wonderful trip to Thailand and Cambodia 3 years ago. We saw some amazing sights…

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We rode on beautiful elephants through the jungle…

Beautiful and gentle elephants

We kayaked down a river out to the ocean…

Exercise the fun way

And, we ate some absolutely delicious food! I don’t think I had ever taken a picture of my food before this trip, but I took pictures of several of my meals. One of our favorite dishes was Tom Kha Gai soup. We each ordered it every chance we got and nick named it “the magical soup”. I should add that this photo was pre-paleo, hence the diet coke, rice and fries.

The “magical” soup

We liked it so much that we stopped in some random book store in Thailand and copied a recipe out of one of the cookbooks there. Here are my recipe notes in my travel journal.

I have since altered this original recipe

I also bought these beautiful bowls during the trip for the soup I was planning to make.

My special soup bowl

A note about some of the ingredients

We’ve made this soup numerous times over the years since our trip and I am thrilled that it’s also paleo! There are a few ingredients (like galangalkaffir lime leaves, and lemon grass)  that I have to buy from an Asian specialty market. They usually sell them in quantities greater than what I need, but I just freeze the rest (all of those special ingredients freeze really well) for the next time I make soup or a curry. If you can’t find galangal at a store near you, you could substitute ginger. I’m afraid there just is no substitute for the kaffir lime leaves—they give this soup a real authentic Thai flavor that I don’t think you can get from anything else. If you are allergic to shellfish or don’t like shrimp, you could easily use chicken in this soup instead.

Flavorful ingredients


What to do

  1. Prepare your galangal by peeling it and slicing it into coin shaped pieces.
  2. Cut the woody end off of your lemon grass and discard. Now smash the the remaining stalk to release the aroma and juice and cut it into pieces.

    Smashed lemon grass stalks

  3. Pour your coconut milk and broth into a soup pot along with your lemon grass and galangal.
  4. Tear up your kaffir lime leaves and throw them into the pot as well.

    Bring to a boil and then simmer

  5. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. While that is simmering, chop your mushrooms and shallots.
  7. Cook the mushrooms and shallots in a frying pan with some coconut oil until the shallots start to caramelize and then set aside.

    Mushrooms and shallots

  8. Once your soup has simmered for 20 minutes, pour it through a colander and discard the lemon grass stalks, galangal and lime leaves. Return the liquid to your soup pot.
  9. Now add in the cooked mushrooms and shallots and the rest of your ingredients.

    The shrimp

  10. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until your shrimp has cooked (turned pink).
  11. Garnish with fresh cilantro and pretend you are in Thailand!

    Just like in Thailand

This really is my all time favorite soup and it deserves the nick name “magical”. Don’t let the instructions intimidate you. It really is very easy and quick to throw together.


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