So do we have a final verdict on coconut? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Is it good for you or does it clog your arteries? It seems like coconut is one of those foods that somehow managed to do a complete one-eighty a few years ago. I remember the warnings about how it was full of saturated fat, second only to palm oil, and how it should be completely avoided. Then, coconut hired the best PR person in the world and became the darling of the health nut world.
I choose to believe that it’s good for you, for no other reason than my total love for anything coconut. I’ve only recently experimented with coconut oil as a substitute for butter (with some good results) but I’ve been using coconut milk for years. And given that it’s a main ingredient in Thai cuisine, I could never give it up. Besides, who can resist a frosted, coconut cake?
So, when Bon Appétit published a recipe for Tom Kha Gai, a chicken coconut soup, that seemed simple to make and promised to be delicious, I quickly bookmarked it and prepared it at the first chance I got. Unfortunately, it was terrible. The broth was bland, the chicken was tough, and there was a taste of chicken fat permeating everything that made it hard to eat.
So, much like I did with the Caramel Garlic Chicken recipe, I set out to improve this one as well. I got rid of the chicken and used shrimp. I infused the broth with shrimp shells and let it simmer longer than the original recipe. And to add both flavor and substance to the dish, I added some carrots and potatoes, similar to what you’d get in a massaman curry.
I am proud to say that the results were lip-smacking good. Steve almost licked his bowl clean. And yes, the recipe uses coconut milk. Try it. I hear it’s good for you.
Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup – Inspired by the recipe for Tom Kha Gai in Bon Appétit
Makes 2-3 servings
1 1” piece ginger, peeled
5 kaffir lime leaves (or 1/2 Tbsp. lime zest and 2 Tbsp lime juice)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb shell-on raw shrimp (16-20 count)
4 oz. shiitake, oyster, or maitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps cut into 1/4″ slices
3 small potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 small carrot, peeled and sliced diagonally into 1/4″ slices
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp. fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 tsp. sugar
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, tough outer layers removed
juice of half a lime
lime wedges (for serving)
Chili oil, sriracha, fresh cilantro (optional)
Remove the shells from the shrimp and reserve half of the shells (discard the other half of the shells). Using the back of a knife, smash lemongrass and ginger; cut lemongrass into 4” pieces. Bring lemongrass, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, reserved shrimp shells, and broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer until flavors are melded, 13–15 minutes. Strain broth and return to saucepan; discard solids.
Add mushrooms, potatoes, and carrot and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer briskly until potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes. Add shrimp and continue to simmer until shrimp have turned pink and are cooked, about another 3-4 minutes. Mix in coconut milk, fish sauce, and sugar and gently reheat soup. Add juice of half a lime and stir (omit this if you used lime juice instead of kaffir lime leaves).
Divide soup among bowls. Serve with lime wedges. If you want, you can also top soup with chili oil, sriracha sauce, or cilantro.