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Thai Chicken and Coconut Soup

Tom Yum Goong Nam Sai is a traditional clear broth Thai soup. Adding coconut milk moves it to the creamy version known as Tom Yum Goong Nam Khon. This soup is great anytime, but you can keep portioned 2 cup servings in the freezer for times when you get a cold or the flu.


  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed
  • 2 TBS extra light olive oil
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 2 TBS fish sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 6 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced thin
  • 2 TBS lime juice
  • 2 tsp Thai red curry paste
  • ½ cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
  • Cayenne pepper for heat (optional, see notes)


1. Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large saucepan to medium high, add the oil, then brown the chicken lightly on each side, 2-3 minutes and transfer to a plate.

2. Add shallot to moisture left in saucepan, reduce to medium heat and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in broth, coconut milk, and sugar, scraping up any browned bits.

3. Add browned chicken and any accumulated juices, bring to a simmer and cook until the chicken registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer, about 10 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through the process. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces using two forks.

4. Return soup to a simmer, stir in mushrooms, and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Whisk lime juice, curry paste, and remaining fish sauce together in a bowl. Off heat, stir lime juice mixture and shredded chicken into soup and let sit until heated through, about two minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Season with salt and pepper and add your cayenne pepper now. Sprinkle with individual portions of cilantro before serving.


  • Choose any mushroom you desire. Commonly used mushrooms are cremini, oyster, or button. Heartier mushrooms like shiitake and portabella will add an earthier essence to the soup.
  • For a clear broth version, substitute more chicken broth instead of the coconut milk.

  • Coconut milk is a non-dairy product, so if you're trying to avoid dairy while nursing a cold, you'll be doing just that and not experience the mucus buildup you would if you used evaporated milk.
  • Chili paste is the secret ingredient that simplifies this recipe eliminating the need to combine garlic, lemon grass, and lime leaves. The latter style is known as Tom Kha.
  • For a kick of heat, use one smidgen (there's actually a tool to measure this) per serving in step 4. One smidgen is about 1 star of heat. This is nice because everyone can have whatever level they want.
  • Substitute your protein with shrimp for a change of pace.
  • For a little fiber, add a ½ cup of cooked whole grain brown rice to each serving.

  • If you're single, you could cut the recipe in half for two servings. This is the soup I want when I'm nursing a cold, so I'm happy making 4 servings of it and working my way through over a few days.
  • You can store the soup, sans the cilantro, in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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