thai pumpkin soup with tangled scallions + crispy rice cake croutons

thai pumpkin soup with tangled scallions + crispy rice cake croutons |

Fall is nostalgia.

The change of seasons ignites a flurry of wistful memories. I think back to 4th grade, waiting for the bus sporting brand new Keds, scrunch socks, and side pony tails. Comfort meals such as pasta and lentils would frequent our dinner table. Red candy apples and costumes (I was a Hershey Kiss one year- thanks mom) also come to mind.

For now, winter will be tempered by colorful autumn leaves. But it’s hard to ignore that feeling in the air… along with the familiar smell of pumpkin soup.

thai pumpkin soup with tangled scallions + crispy rice cake croutons |

This year I’m going Thai with creamy coconut milk and tangled scallions.

Yes, tangled scallions.

All you have to do is slice or julienne your scallions into very thin strands. Plunge them into an ice bath. After about 10 minutes they will begin to change shape. Don’t be disappointed if they do not curl at first, it takes a couple of minutes to get going. Allow them to bathe in their polar pool until ready to use. That’s what the fancy restaurants do. Combined with cilantro I use this to garnish the soup.

tangled scallions |

Lentils are the ‘it’ thing in my kitchen at the moment.

Oddly enough, I grew up hating them. My mom prepared them in the cold winter months, with pasta and broccoli rabe topped with hot red cherry peppers. If you are a small child that is the worst possible combination of your life; earthy, bitter, and flaming hot. All I wanted was plain pasta with butter and parm!

I use the convenient steamed French lentils from Trader Joe’s. A reader turned me onto them. They are small, firm, and ready to use. Add them to your soup right before serving for a quick dose of protein.

thai pumpkin soup with tangled scallions + crispy rice cake croutons |

And finally, rice cakes.

Stuffed into my lunchbox and usually in a million pieces by snack time, I ate these as a kid. Rice cakes were not planned to function as a ‘crouton’ but this soup needed crunch. I had nothing. Nothing that even resembled crunch. On a whim I crumbled some of my own kids’ rice cakes over the top. So good! (and I’m not just saying that). They’re instant texture, salty, and do not become soggy. I’m going to do this with tomato soup…

Is it just me, or are you feeling fall nostalgia too?


  • This recipe is reminiscent of Thai coconut soup, Tom Ka Gai. The key is to achieve a good balance of salt, sweet, and acidity. Make adjustments as you go. In a pinch, I’ve prepared this with only coconut milk and lime juice ( no ginger, roasted chili paste, lemongrass, and fish sauce). It produced a bright and fresh alternative to the original version.
  • Pumpkin soup can be made with either fresh pumpkin, pumpkin puree, or butternut squash and these names are used interchangeably. I’m using butternut squash here, however any of the above will work. I went with ‘pumpkin’ to avoid a really long title!
thai pumpkin soup with tangled scallions + crispy rice cake croutons
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp. roughly chopped lemongrass (about 2 stalks)
  • 1-2 tbsp. roasted chili paste (not curry paste) or Nam Prik Pao**
  • 2½ c. butternut squash, peeled + cubed into ½-inch pieces
  • 1x 14 oz. can of coconut milk
  • 2 c. organic chicken or vegetable stock, + more as needed
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 1 c. prepared French lentils*
  • olive oil
  • salt + pepper
  • 1 scallion
  • handful of fresh cilantro
  • 4 brown rice cakes
  • lime wedges
*I use Trader Joe's steamed lentils. Canned will work too.
** Look for Thai Kitchen brand roasted chili paste or traditional Nam Prik Pao sold in Asian grocery stores.
  1. In a large, heavy bottom pot warm a splash of olive oil over moderate heat.
  2. Add the onions, ginger, lemongrass, and 1 tbsp. of chili paste. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash.
  3. Pour in the coconut milk and just enough stock to cover; start with 1 cup of stock and increase as needed.
  4. Bring the soup to a gentle boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the squash is tender.
  5. Ladle 1 cup of the cubed squash (no broth) into a bowl and set aside to add back to the soup later.
  6. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender with the lid vented so that the steam can escape. Add more stock if it's too thick.
  7. Pour the soup back into the pot and warm over low heat. Taste, add more chili paste (if you prefer), fish sauce, and the juice of 1 lime.
  8. Add the reserved cubed butternut squash.
  9. Add the lentils.
  10. To prepare the garnish, trim the scallion into one 5-inch piece, reserving the white and light green part only. Thinly slice or julienne lengthwise into very thin strands. Plunge into an ice bath. The scallions will begin to curl, about 10 minutes.
  11. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Top each portion with tangled scallions and fresh cilantro. Crumble the rice cakes over the top. Serve with lime wedges on the side.


    • Emilie says

      Hi Celia! First of all, I love your blog name. I had a chance to check it out and I think it’s a great story :) And secondly, you’ll love these tangled scallions! They look all fancy, but they’re really easy (I don’t do fancy food). You can add them to just about anything for a spunky touch.

  1. says

    I still have two giant squash in the backyard that would be perfect for this! Love the curly scallions – my mum used to do that when she was cooking fried noodles and needed a garnish. And the rice cakes are a stroke of genius! :)

    • Emilie says

      Don’t you love when that happens? If you make this soup definitely let me know! Try the rice cakes too- unexpectedly fun ;)
      I love that your mum used curly scallions for fried noodles. I always have random scallions in my fridge that need to be used so I’ll have to remember that one. Thanks Celia!

  2. says

    Your food photography is just stunning, and this soup sounds right up my alley. I can’t wait to try it out! (Also, any tips for cooking raw lentils? I used them in a recipe a while back but they weren’t quite as tender as I would have liked) Thanks!!

    • Emilie says

      Oh you are so sweet! Thank you so much!! You know, I don’t have any good tips on cooking raw lentils. Mine always come out overcooked and mushy. However, when I do cook them from scratch I find that the small French lentils (Du Puy) hold their shape a lot better than some of the larger lentils. What kind are you using? If you can get your hands on some already prepared lentils I say go for it. I love them :)

      • Marilyn says

        Lentils are super easy to sprout and only take 24 to 36 hours. They are nutritious and the crunch is built in! Sprout just until the tails are the length of the lentil. Pink lentils are my favorite and whn sprouted can be added to any soup or dish as is.

        • Emilie says

          Thanks for the tip Marilyn! This is something I would definitely do. I haven’t sprouted beans in the longest time, my mom used to do it when I was a kid. I was fascinated with all of her jars! I’m excited to sprout the pink lentils. Sounds fantastic! Thanks again! :)

  3. says

    I confess that I know almost nothing about Thai cooking, but this sounds so good. You are so right about being patient with the scallions. I am always amazed at how they sort of do nothing at first when plunged into the icy water, but after a time, they do, as you say, get going. They are such a pretty garnish. As always, your instructions and your photography are a cut above. Brava!

    • Emilie says

      I’m definitely no expert in Thai cooking myself, but what I’ve learned is that it’s all about finding the right balance of salt, sweet, and acidity. Someone once told me that in a lot of Thai restaurants, the same ‘base’ sauce is used throughout most of their dishes with the odd tweak here and there. I think finding your groove and working the dish until you get that flavor hit is what it’s al about.
      And how about those scallions, huh? They certainly are on their own time frame. But they make a lovely addition to most any dish, especially when the warmth of the food mellows out the raw bit of the onion. Thanks love! Enjoy your the rest of the week :) xx

  4. says

    This sounds heavenly and I love the idea of the tangled scallions! What a great tip. I’ve got the ice bath down but I’m not sure I could ever julienne a scallion (a meticulous carver I am not) — maybe I could carefully use my julienne peeler… it has been my savior ;-). Gorgeous photos once again (it’s getting a bit annoying don’t you think? lol). I hope Dillon is settling into kindergarten comfortably (and that mom is also acclimatizing). Fall changes me too.

    • Emilie says

      We’re on the same Thai wavelength aren’t we? I’m dying to check out your butternut squash dish…
      You know, that is a fabulous idea using your julienne peeler to slice the scallion. I have one myself and I didn’t think to use it. I’ll have to give it a go- I bet it makes perfect, thin strands.
      Thanks for the sweet mention about Dillon. It has been a huge adjustment for all of us (long days for him especially) but hopefully we’ll get into a good groove soon. I’m trying to hang onto these sweet days for as long as I can, he’ll be out the door in no time :) xx

  5. says

    I read about tangled scallions in my new delicious. cookbook from Vali Little and after reading this post I definitely have to try that soon. Also: how clever (it’s in your blog name for a reason) is the addition of rice cakes to soup? Always have them on hand, but that just never crossed my mind. Genius!

    • Emilie says

      Hi Denise! Love Vali Little… Definitely give those scallions a try! They’re not difficult to do and one on my friends recommends using a julienne peeler if your knife skills are a little dodgy. And the rice cakes are my favorite addition! I had no idea they would make such a satisfying (ad healthy) crouton. I can’t wait to play around with that a little more too-

    • Emilie says

      Rakhee! Yay! How are you?! Lentils are very good, aren’t they? I bet you have some fabulous recipes. Do share some! Thanks for stopping by :) xx

    • Emilie says

      I know! I haven’t made done this is the longest time and something made me think of it while preparing this recipe. Oh, the things you remember! I fist learned this trick in the restaurant where they would do all kinds of prep ahead of time. One of my favorites was thinly sliced radishes in an ice bath. They were so crispy and delicious…

  6. says

    What a beautiful season Autumn is and this pumpkin soup is perfect. It’s so good to see what you’re cooking on the other side of the world at the moment compared to our Spring fare. Love the addition of the rice cakes, much healthier than croutons as well.

  7. connie raffa says

    Emilie love the rice cake crouton idea. Not a lot of calories like regular ones. Also lentil soup is one of my favorites. Lentil soup is made on New Year’s Day for good luck. Hugs Auntie

    • Emilie says

      Oh, it’s SO good you have to try it! I do love myself some regular old croutons but this really hits the spot in a pinch. Lentil soup is one of my favorites too- I will send you the recipe :) xx

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