Thai Coconut Soup at the Market

This is my favorite volunteer day soup.

Beginning last fall, I spend a couple of hours every Wednesday morning hanging out at the South Royalton Market.  Actually it qualifies as volunteering but really it is a great opportunity to ‘get off the farm’ and socialize.

The South Royalton Market is a full-service grocery store offering the most comprehensive selection for 10 miles.  Without this gem in the town crown, residents would have to drive more than 20 minutes to find groceries. It is a social hub as well. Many locals stop in knowing that they will get a chance to catch up on the town news.

My task while there is to make the daily soups that will feed the locals and students from the Vermont Law School.  I am allowed to browse the aisles of the market and select any ingredient my heart desires to make practically any soup I want. Oh the choices!  I once made a rich artichoke and brie soup and occasionally I prepare sausage and lentil soup (a TDH favorite), but lately my favorite soup to make is Thai Coconut Soup.  With all the choices out there and I keep coming back to this one! I wonder if they are tired of it yet??

I like to think that it appeals to different audiences when I add different things.  Tom Kha Gai! With Chicken! Vegan! Mixed Seafood!

It is entirely possible I make this soup just for the Wood ear mushrooms that are conveniently stocked at the SoRo Market.  Every time I soak these shrooms, I am thrilled to see how big they get!  Someone more clever than I has harvested what amounts to fungus leather from a tree and sells this to people like me.  Truthfully, I have only admired this mushroom and not foraged it. It does not cross my path regularly enough to pick it yet. Soon young padwan…

Instead I purchase my dried wood ear mushrooms (among others) from the SoRo Market.

dried and re-hydrated wood ear mushrooms

To prepare this for a vegan crowd, omit the meaty things like chicken, shrimp, chicken stock and fish sauce. These can be substituted with tofu, veggie stock and black vinegar.  I have listed a few ingredients that might be harder to find but I have also listed the closest substitution.

Thai Coconut Soup

Serves 4 for dinner 6-8 for a starter

  • 1/2c firm tofu diced
  • optional 1 turkey thigh/chicken breast
  • optional 1 dozen raw shrimp, peeled
  • 1sm onion, ½” dice
  • 1lrg carrot ¼” slices
  • 1sm green pepper, ½” dice
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1” piece galangal root* or ginger root peeled and diced
  • .10lb dried wood-ear mushrooms reconstituted in approx. 1.5c boiling water (approx. 2c rehydrated mushrooms and broth) substitute any dried mushroom or plenty of fresh sliced mushrooms.
  • ½ can baby corn, coarsely chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3c chicken/veg broth
  • 1/4c Soy
  • 2t Fish sauce or 1t black vinegar
  • 2T Lime juice
  • 2T Palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 1/2c Cilantro, chopped
  • Green onion to garnish

*Galangal root is like ginger except more floral


Begin by preparing the proteins. Brown tofu and/or poultry in a large pot over med-high heat. Remove from the pan and reserve.

Add the onion and carrot to the pan. Cook 2 minutes. Add the green pepper and cook 3-5 minutes more until tender.

Add the garlic and ginger. Cook 3 minutes or until fragrant. Next add the broth. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pot with the soaking liquid, coconut milk, soy, fish sauce, lime juice, baby corn, and sugar. Bring to a boil.

Lastly add, the raw peeled shrimp and seared protiens to the pot and allow the soup to simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Adjust the seasoning of the soup. Adding more soy, lime and fish sauce as needed.

Ladle the soup into hot bowls and garnish with chopped green onion.

Serve hot.

**This is a very forgiving and adaptable soup. Other great additions to this soup include celery, red peppers,  hot chilies, fresh mushrooms, bamboo shoots, snow peas, tofu, mussels, fish, parsley, thai basil, kaffir limes/leaves, sesame oil.