Thai Coconut Soup with Fish Ball

4 from 4 votes
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Thai Coconut Soup with Fish Ball | Omnivore's Cookbook

This silky coconut soup has a hint of sweet and sour flavor. The curry paste and fish sauce infuse a savory umami to the soup, which goes great with the mushrooms and fish balls. A sip of the hot soup is so comforting on a rainy autumn day.

Do you have some spices in your pantry that you seldom use? I do. I have more than 50 spices in my kitchen, but I use less than half of them frequently. Every time I see a new spice on the shelf at the supermarket, I get the impulse to grab it.

Scenario one: When I come across a supermarket while travelling in a new city, where I might not be able to go back in the next 50 years, I just grab whatever spice jars I see, that have names I cannot recognize. Who knows when I might need them in the future?

Scenario two: When I come across some exotic recipes in a cookbook, I end up shopping for half of the things on the ingredient list to cook this one dish.  Later on, I leave those cute little jars in the deepest corners of my drawer, collecting dust for the rest of their life.

Not cool at all, I know! So lately, I’ve started to revisit all the spices and seasonings in the kitchen, and tried to use them again. Not surprisingly, I even have a few spices that I bought twice, or even thrice… (shame on me!)

Thai Coconut Soup with Fish Ball | Omnivore's Cookbook

Thai Coconut Soup with Fish Ball | Omnivore's Cookbook

I have some red curry paste that my boyfriend gave me as a gift two years ago. I used one pack to cook curry dishes a few times, but the other one has been sitting in my fridge forever. I wanted to use it in a new way, so I decided to ask Google. Responding to my question “how to use red curry paste”, Google gave me a list of dishes to cook, which included some unexpected ways to use the curry. After flipping through all the tasty recipes and getting super hungry, I decided to cook Tom Kha Gai soup, one of my favorite Thai dishes!

My Tom Kha Gai recipe is quite lazy. The name literally means chicken coconut soup and calls for chicken meat and chicken broth. However, I ran out both of them. Instead, I threw in some fish balls and I used chicken bouillon. The result turned out great!

Thai Coconut Soup with Fish Ball | Omnivore's Cookbook

It was rainy earlier during the week and the temperature started to drop during the night and early morning. This hot soup is just perfect for a chilling autumn day.

The silky coconut soup has a hint of sweet and sour. The curry paste and fish sauce infuse a savory umami to the soup, which goes great with the mushrooms and fish balls. I used several types of mushrooms in this one, but if you can find some wild mushrooms, I bet the soup would turn out even tastier.

The moment I was enjoying the soup, I felt I so blessed as a food blogger, that I am always encouraging and challenging myself to discover new dishes.

What is your favorite autumn comfort food? Share your inspiration with us by leaving a comment below!

Thai Coconut Soup with Fish Ball | Omnivore's Cookbook

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Thai Coconut Soup with Fish Ball

4 from 4 votes
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Thai
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 -6


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon dried lemongrass or 1/2 stalk fresh lemongrass
  • 1 teaspoon red curry paste
  • 2 cups chicken broth or 1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon and 2 cups water
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 300 grams mushroom oyster, shiitake, golden needle and/or white mushroom
  • 2 cans coconut milk 270 milliliter / 9 oz. can
  • optional 1 cup green beans
  • salt to taste
  • 12 fish balls
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice or lemon juice


  • Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium low heat. When oil is warm, add minced ginger, lemongrass and curry paste. Stir constantly and be careful not to burn the curry paste. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add chicken broth, fish sauce, brown sugar and mushroom (save the golden needle mushroom to add later, because they cook more quickly). Simmer covered for 15 minutes, until mushrooms turn soft.
  • Add coconut milk and mix well with a ladle. Taste the soup and adjust seasoning if necessary (be careful of the hot soup).
  • Carefully add fish balls one by one into the soup. Simmer covered for 5 minutes.
  • (Optional) If you want to add some green beans or golden needle mushrooms, add them into the soup with the fish balls and simmer together, until the vegetables are cooked through.
  • Turn off heat. Add lime juice and stir well.
  • Serve warm.
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The nutrition facts are calculated based on 1 of the 6 servings generated from this recipe.

Thai Coconut Soup with Fish Ball nutrition facts | Omnivore's Cookbook

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Kathleen says:

    I love Tom Kha Gai – I always order it as an app when we eat Thai! The color of the broth is so beautiful, I almost don’t want to disturb it by dipping my spoon in and slurping it up… I said, almost 😉 You’re recipe looks so easy and so delicious – my two favorite combinations! It’s still super hot where I am, but as soon as the weather cools – I’ll be all about this soup!

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Kathleen, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Tom Kha Gai is one of my favorite Thai dishes too! I didn’t know it is so easy to cook, until I made them at home. It’s getting very cool in Beijing, around 20 degrees C (70 F), soup season for me! 🙂

  2. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    5 stars
    This is one of my favorite soups I enjoy! Yours look really wonderful! My favorite fall comfort food…. is it too early to say shabu shabu? Not even winter yet, but I love it… 🙂

    • Maggie says:

      Not at all! I love shabu shabu, one of my favorite! I cook it through out the year when I was in Japan. I even bought a electric shabu shabu pot and used it all the time for cooking dinner. I always use some shrimps, tofu, mushrooms and green veggies. Sometimes I use miso base, but I like the kimchi one the most (a soup base I got from supermarket, with a spicy, sour and sweet flavor). The one pot idea is perfect. Easy to cook, can add whatever I want, and easy to clean 🙂

  3. Christine | No Gojis No Glory says:

    I think we have a few more weeks before we can comfortably enjoy soup here, but I’ll be sooo glad when that time comes! This soup looks simply divine. Definitely a fan of coconut and fish, but have never had fish balls before. Is it actually fish flesh rolled into balls?

    • Maggie says:

      Yeah, fish ball is made from very fresh fish meat, with very light seasoning (salt and white pepper). For the authentic handmade ones, the fish paste is threw against a wooden cutting board for many times before rolling into balls, so it will have a springy texture. The ones from supermarket is not as great, but delicious enough to add into the soup. I always keep some frozen fish balls in the freezer. So easy to cook with and cheaper than shrimps!

  4. Farah @ The Cooking Jar says:

    Beautiful pics, Maggie. I’m always down for a good coconut based soup or curry. And just like you, I may have a million spices in my cabinet. Mostly Indian spices. After the initial 20 or so I managed to curb my need to buy ones I don’t recognize although I’m guilty of buying Annatto seeds recently. I just go crazy every time I walk into a spice shop! I feel a sense of pride that I know what to do with most of the spices and that I have them at home!

    • Maggie says:

      Thanks Farah! Yeah, I totally share the same feelings about hoarding unfamiliar spices! I have no idea what is Annatto seeds, but sounds so interesting!

  5. Bonnie Eng says:

    The recipe and photos look fabulous Maggie! My mouth is watering! 😉

    • Maggie says:

      Glad you like them Bonnie! This one is a must have when I go to a Thai restaurant 🙂

  6. Judy says:

    Maggie, this soup looks so lovely. I can literally taste the soup from you pictures.

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Judy, thanks and glad you like this one! It was quite surprising how easy it is to cook those delicious soup!

  7. Michelle @ Healthy Recipe Ecstasy says:

    My husband always gets on me about too many unused spices in our cabinet! But I’m pretty sure he would forget all about the spices if I made him this soup. 🙂

    • Maggie says:

      Hi Michelle, aren’t we all have too many spices because we share the love of cooking? Hope both you and your husband will like this soup 🙂

  8. Robyn @ simply fresh dinners says:

    5 stars
    I have not had this soup, Maggie, but you have definitely inspired me I love ingredients and your step by step photos. Thank for a really great recipe!

    • Maggie says:

      Thanks Robyn! This is one of my favorite Thai dishes and I order it almost everything if I go to a Thai restaurant. Try it out when you get a chance, it is so delicious!

  9. Me says:

    1 star
    No recipe for fish balls. How utterly rediculous

  10. Kate says:

    5 stars
    addictive broth!! it’s not overpowered by the curry paste, the lemongrass/ginger/a little bit of garlic is subtly lovely, and I halved this recipe and it was enough to be a meal.
    add vegetables or maybe some zest, but it’s still all good

    • Maggie says:

      Glad to hear you like the dish Kate! This is one of my favorite soup base and I use it with many other ingredients too, such as chicken or shrimp. Yes it is definitely substantial as a meal 🙂

  11. Pistol Chantal says:

    Je suis française, j’ai environ 70 pots d’épices +2 étagères de frigo avec les produits frais asiatiques!!
    Nous vivons dans une région du sud ouest de la France ou les gens mangent du foie gras des truffes, du canard!
    Mais nous 4 jours par semaine nous mangeons asiatique!
    Votre recette est délicieuse et je la refait ce soir!

    • Maggie says:

      Wow, that sounds like a lot of spices!
      Actually we love French cuisine as well, and we enjoy cooking with foie gras, truffles and duck 😉 I love truffle scrambled eggs and duck confit.
      I’m happy to hear you enjoy Asian food and cook them from scratch at home. It is definitely healthier and more delicious this way.
      Happy cooking and can’t wait to see what you’ll cook the next 🙂

  12. Tony says:

    Hi there, thought you might want to know — Gai means chicken. This soup is called Tom Kha.

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