Spiciy Thai Coconut Soup

By MANDA HUDAK, for the Flathead Beacon

My pre-spring soup cravings are for a lighter, spicier and healthier soup than the heavy heartier soups of mid-winter. This is a favorite recipe of mine, that I have evolved over the years to fit the regional ingredients available.

Recently I have added butternut squash and kale ribbons. The base tone of the recipe is the Tom Kha Ga, a traditional spicy coconut-based Thai soup with chicken or shrimp.

I use halibut or sea bass in a chicken stock, which adds a sweet rich texture (fish is added just before service to prevent overcooking).

This version is not overly spicy, featuring a warm rather than hot spice flavor profile. This easily translates to a vegetarian version with vegetable stock and tofu in place of the fish. I hope you will adapt it further to your favorite flavors. Bon Appétit!

Spicy Thai Coconut Soup

This is a favorite recipe of mine, that I have evolved over the years to fit the regional ingredients available.


  • 1 tsp. sesame oil, toasted
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 3-4” ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • 6-7 ea. garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 3 ea. 5-inch pieces of lemongrass, smashed in 2 to 3 inch pieces (use the back of a cleaver or a hammer)
  • 8 ea. basil stems
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. red curry
  • 1/4 tsp. yellow curry paste
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1 pinch cardamom
  • 1 ea. 13 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
  • 3 cups butternut squash, 1/2 inch diced
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil, toasted
  • 4 leaves lacinato kale, thinly sliced
  • 1 lb. sea bass or halibut, cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes
  • seasoning
  • lime juice, to taste
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
  • garnish
  • 3 ea. scallions, cut on an angle
  • 1 ea. Thai red chili, thinly cut rings (cut from the pointy end)
  • cilantro, fresh leaves and/or basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • lime zest
  • lime wedges


Heat sesame and vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add ginger, garlic and lemongrass and cook until softened but not browned.
Add turmeric, red and yellow curry, saffron, cumin and cardamom. Heat for two minutes to infuse color and flavors.
Add coconut milk and stock. Cook over low heat to infuse flavors.
Toss squash in sesame oil and roast in 350-degree oven until soft. Remove and set aside.
Strain the broth and discard solids (garlic, lemongrass, etc.)
Add kale, squash and red chili to broth to soften.
Cut fish into 2” squares. Add to broth.
Add lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with scallions, cilantro or basil (or both) and fresh lime zest.
Serve lime wedge on the side for your guests to add fresh before eating.

You may place raw fish, vegetables and garnishes in service bowls tableside and pour hot coconut broth over them. Let the soup steep a few minutes to fully cook the fish. Meanwhile, toast your guests with a glass of dry Riesling, which is perfect with spiced foods.

Manda Hudak is the Savory Chef Instructor at The Culinary Institute of Montana at Flathead Valley Community College. For more information about the program, visit www.culinaryinstituteofmt.com.