golden thai coconut soup

golden thai coconut soup | The Clever Carrot

Everyone I know has been under the weather lately.

Since December, Dillon has had bronchitis, pink eye in both eyes and then the croup. Now my little Jake is sick. My husband is sick. I’m sick. All I want is a nice warm soup to soothe my aching throat (and for someone to feed it to me).

The soup that I’m craving is Tom Ka Gai (Tom what?!)

golden thai coconut soup | The Clever Carrot

Commonly known as Thai coconut soup, Tom Ka Gai is a fragrant blend of chicken and mushrooms, simmered in coconut milk with lemongrass, chilies and lime. If I could bathe in this soup, I would.

My version is a little bit different as I didn’t have chicken, mushrooms, chilies all of the ingredients on hand. I made it up as I went along, adding a couple of carrots for color and a new ingredient; roasted chili paste.

roasted chili paste | The Clever Carrot

Roasted chili paste or Nam Prik Pao is frequently used in Thai cuisine for its complex depth of flavor. It’s a magical combination of roasted chilies, sugar, garlic and shrimp paste (gasp!) cooked down to a jam-like consistency.┬áThe flavor is sweet and spicy, and it takes this soup to a whole new level.

You can find roasted chili paste in most grocery stores, usually in the international aisle. It’s funny, because I’ve walked past it a million times never knowing what it was. Now I know, and it’s delicious. Try it in stir-frys, curries and rice dishes.

golden thai coconut soup | The Clever Carrot

To me, a soup like this is heaven especially when you’re sick. I’ve been eating it for the past 3 days, and loving it.

* Any leftover ginger and lemongrass can be stored in the freezer. For the ginger, peel the entire root and wrap it in plastic wrap. For the lemongrass, wrap the stalks individually and freeze for up to 3 months.

golden thai coconut soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
The key to this soup is finding the right balance between salt, sweet, and acidity.
Serves: 2
For the soup:
  • 1x 14 oz. can of coconut milk, 2 tbsp. reserved
  • 2 c. organic chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large shallot
  • ginger (2 inch piece)
  • 1 tbsp. cilantro stems
  • 2 tbsp. roughly chopped lemongrass (about 2 stalks)
  • 2 limes
  • 1-2 tbsp. roasted chili paste (not curry paste) or Nam Prik Pao*
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • cilantro leaves
  • coconut milk
  • lime wedges
*For this recipe, I used Thai Kitchen brand roasted chili paste.
  1. In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat.
  2. Peel and slice the carrots into thin rounds. Add them to the pot.
  3. While the carrots are cooking, thinly slice the shallot and ginger (peeled).
  4. Clean and wash the cilantro. Roughly chop the stems.
  5. Remove the outside layer of lemongrass and roughly chop the stalks.
  6. Add the shallot, ginger, cilantro stems, and lemongrass and saute until soft but not golden, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently so that it does not burn.
  7. Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to make (2), 2 inch long strips of lime peel avoiding the inner white part as it tastes bitter. Skewer onto a toothpick (for easy removal) and add to the pot.
  8. Add 1 tbsp. of roasted chili paste and stir well to dissolve.
  9. Reserve 2 tbsp. of coconut milk for the garnish and set aside.
  10. Add the rest of the coconut milk and chicken broth, and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the lime peels.
  11. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree. At this point, the soup will not be completely smooth as the ginger and lemongrass fibers can be difficult to break down.
  12. Strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve, stirring with a small ladle to help guide the liquid through. Discard the pulp.
  13. Pour the soup back into the pot and simmer gently. If it's too thick, add more chicken broth. The consistency should be brothy.
  14. Add the fish sauce.
  15. Taste the soup and add more roasted chili paste if you like it spicy (I use the full 2 tbsp.)
  16. Add lime juice to taste. Adjust with extra lime and salt if necessary.
  17. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro leaves. Drizzle with coconut milk.
To make this soup vegetarian, substitute vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Note that roasted chili paste contains seafood products.


  1. says

    Emilie, I hope you are all feeling much better now! That soup looks lovely, defn one to try in the London winter chill. The nam prik pao is a great discovery. I will be seeking that one out at the Thai supermarket when I get back home ; )

    • Emilie says

      Thank you! I’m feeling a lot better now. The Nam Prik Pao is pretty cool and fun to experiment with. It’s great it stir-fry’s. Come back from London soon so you can do a post! You’re my favorite virtual tour guide ;)

  2. Ruby says

    I like the fact that you mention finding the right balance of sweet and acidity. I find it encouraging to add a little at a time to taste. While I love Thai flavors, I prefer them on the more subtle side, if that makes sense. And can we talk about your bowls?! Love them!!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Ruby! That’s what this soup is all about, adjusting the flavors until you find the right balance. You can always add, but you can never take away. Glad you like the bowls, I love them too. I have the matching plates! I’m obsessed…

  3. says

    I’m so sorry to hear you’re sick:( I can see why you’re craving this comforting and spicy soup.. the ginger would help you feel better for certain. I’ve never heard of roasted chili paste.. I’ll be looking for it the next time I’m in a specialty grocers! Get well soon!! xx

    • Emilie says

      I’m feeling much better now, thanks Smidge! The ginger and lemongrass in this soup are awesome- it’s just what the doctor ordered! The roasted chili paste is definitely fun to play around with, not only in this soup but in stir-frys and curries. A little goes a long way! I got mine in the regular grocery store (Thai Kitchen brand) but in your Asian market you might find it as Nam Prik Pao :)

  4. says

    I love all the flavor going on in this soup. We’ve all been sick too, and this soup sounds like it would be just the ticket. I just ventured into my local Asian market too, so all these new ingredients are at my fingertips here in the Boonies. Excited is an understatement!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Laura! I hear you- I too get excited when I can track down specialty ingredients. It’s the little things that make me happy… Hope you guys feel better soon :)

  5. says

    I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been unwell! Hope you’re well on the way to recovery by now! The soup sounds delicious – Tom Ka Gai is one of my favourites as well – much more interesting than the chicken soup that usually gets served up to the sick (although that is delicious too)! :)

    • Emilie says

      Thanks Celia! We’re all feeling a lot better now. You’re right- it’s nice to have something other than chicken soup when you’re sick. I could eat Tom Ka Gai everyday. I love the flavors :)

  6. says

    I’m so encouraged, Emilie! I haven’t had any “galangal” on hand, or Kaffir leaves (like some traditional Thai recipes call for), but hey, we can make do with what we’ve got, right? Looks so delicious. (Any excuse to have coconut milk!) Thanks for posting :)

    • Emilie says

      Hi Jennifer! I couldn’t agree with you more- I never have galangal or Kaffir leaves on hand. I can’t even find them anywhere! I love the taste of coconut too, especially combined with lime and spice. Hope you enjoy the recipe. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Anya says

    I love this recipe, I added some chopped up roasted peanuts and bean sprouts for some extra crunch! Delicious :)

    • Emilie says

      Hi Anya! That’s sounds fantastic. I’m going to have to give that one a try… I love roasted peanuts! Thanks for letting me know!!! :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>