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Lemongrass Soup with Shrimp & Young Coconut

Lemongrass Soup with Shrimp & Young Coconut Recipe (Tom Yum Goong Nam Kon Maprao On) - I almost didn’t include a tom yum recipe in this book, but somehow it felt wrong to leave out such an iconic Thai dish. But the standard tom yum just wouldn’t do … for this book, I wanted something more special. So, out of the plethora of variations on tom yum, here is the one that I think is the most interesting. Normally, tom yum is what we call a nam sai kind of soup, which means it has a clear broth. To turn it into the opposite, nam kon soup, I like to add coconut milk, although nowadays many people use evaporated milk instead. This recipe also uses young coconut water, which adds a fragrant sweetness that, along with the velvety coconut meat, rounds out the acidity of the lime. This, essentially, is the rich and unctuous sister of the regular tom yum.

Serves: 4
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Do-ahead Tips: Make the shrimp stock in advance.
Tom yum = A sour, lemongrass-infused soup; Goong = Shrimp; Nam kon = Thick broth; Maprao on = Young coconut
Lemongrass Soup with Shrimp & Young Coconut Recipe


  • 12 oz Shrimp, shell-on, head-on if possible
  • 1 Tbsp Vegetable oil
  • 2½ cups Water
  • 1½ cups 100% coconut water, pre-packaged or from 2 fresh young coconuts
  • 1 cup Young coconut meat, canned or from fresh young coconuts (see note)
  • ¾ cup Coconut milk
  • 2 stalks Lemongrass, bottom half only, smashed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 5 slices Galangal, sliced into thin rounds
  • 4–5 Kaffir lime leaves, torn into chunks
  • 3–4 Thai chilies, minced for more heat, crushed for less
  • 3 Tbsp Fish sauce
  • 2–3 Tbsp Thai chili paste (nam prik pao)
  • ¼ cup Lime juice
  • For garnish Cilantro
  • For serving Jasmine rice (optional)

How to make Tom Yum Goong Nam Kon Maprao On

  1. Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the heads and shells. Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat, then sauté the shrimp heads and shells until browned bits (called sucs in culinary French) have started to form at the bottom of the pot. Add the water, scraping the bottom of the pot to release the sucs. Simmer this stock gently for 20–30 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Open the young coconuts and measure out 1½ cups of coconut water—you can drink the rest. Scrape out the coconut meat with a spoon and cut into roughly 1- × 2-inch strips. If you have less than 1 cup, add canned coconut meat to make up the shortfall.
  3. When the shrimp stock is done, strain and measure out 1¾ cups of stock and return it to the pot. If there isn’t enough, add water to make up the shortfall; if you have too much, reduce it longer or reserve for another use. You may wish to reserve some shrimp heads for garnish.
  4. Bring the stock to a boil over medium-high heat and then add the coconut water, coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and Thai chilies; simmer for 3–5 minutes to infuse. Note: The lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves are traditionally left in the soup, but are not meant to be eaten. You can remove them after this step or inform your guests not to eat them.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce and Thai chili paste; stir to loosen the chili paste and pour into the soup. Add the shrimp and coconut meat; cook just until the shrimp is done.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  7. When ready to serve, garnish with cilantro and add a few shrimp heads for an extra wow-factor if you wish. You can pour the soup over rice, add rice to the soup bowl, or enjoy the soup on its own.

Note: Fresh young coconuts sometimes have very little meat inside, so it’s a good idea to also have canned coconut on hand. You can also use oyster mushrooms instead of coconut meat.

Finding shell-on shrimp, let alone head-on, can be quite a challenge if you’re looking for them at Western supermarkets. At most Asian markets, on the other hand, they are the norm. You can also look for them at farmers’ markets or fish markets, which often sell live or fresh, unprocessed shrimp. If you really can’t find shell-on shrimp, you can still make this dish using a good chicken stock instead of water.

Tom yum goongTHE BREAKDOWN
The Infusion Lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves
The Liquid Shrimp stock, coconut water, coconut milk
The Nuggets Shrimp, young coconut meat
The Seasoning Fish sauce, lime juice, Thai chili paste
Flavour Profile Sour, salty, then sweet, in that descending order.