Tom Kha Soup with shrimp is dairy, egg and gluten free. 

Tom Kha Soup with shrimp is dairy, egg and gluten free. 

Ah, marriage. At our wedding, a friend said to me and Joel: “What’s great about being married is that you don’t have to go anywhere to have fun.” 

I know I picked the right guy because I’ve never enjoyed being with someone as much as I enjoy being with Joel. Whether we’re roaming the aisles of Home Depot, hitting up H-E-B for the fourth time in two days or just sitting at home bemoaning the uselessness of Netflix, we are usually laughing, almost always smiling, and we have great conversation about things like lychee, recessed lighting and BBQ bots (shhhhh…patent pending).

All of that said, and before you marital counselor types start spouting off terms like “newlywed syndrome” and “co-dependent”, we do spend time apart socially. However, we’re usually both out at the same time. It’s rare that I eat an evening meal alone at home. But, last Friday night, Joel made spur of the moment plans with a friend who is soon moving away and I found myself torn between making plans of my own and just staying in. I opted for staying in with the ulterior motive of cooking something I could selfishly and shamelessly indulge in while watching Pitch Perfect (I was going to see the sequel the next night and needed some review time!)

Remember Kevin from the 1990 family holiday classic, Home Alone? Of course you do! Thus, you also remember the line, “A delicious cheese pizza just for me.” followed by a grin of smug satisfaction. That was me last Friday, only I wasn’t ordering a cheese pizza—thought about it. No, my mind wandered beyond pizza, beyond Italy, and into Southeast Asia.

Did I mention it was and had been raining at apocalyptic levels for several days? And that it was below 70 degrees?

All of these elements added up to…Tom Kha. That’s right. Solitude + Pitch Perfect + Rain = Tom Kha.

Tom Kha is a Thai soup or curry made of coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and traditionally, galangal root. It usually has mushrooms, too, and in its most popular preparation, chicken (Tom Kha Gai). I used shrimp this time around.

I describe Tom Kha as comforting AND exciting. The creaminess and subtle sweetness of the coconut milk blended with the lime and lemongrass is like having your hair stroked when you’re running a fever and being told you’re going to Disneyland at the same time.

I love Tom Kha soup enough to drive many miles out of my way, in peak Austin traffic, in the rain, to get it. I’ll finish one order and always wish I had ordered another. Fortunately, I solved both of these problems by learning how to make it myself. So last week I only had to drive to the grocery store, and it wasn’t raining yet. And then I ate Tom Kha soup to my heart’s content. 

Here’s what you’ll need:

6 cups chicken broth

1 lemongrass stalk, outer layer peeled off and cut 2-inch chunks

*1 TBSP lime zest

*3 TBSP fresh lime juice

**1-inch piece of ginger

1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk

1 pint sliced mushrooms of choice 

2 TBSP fish sauce

1 lb fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

Additional lime wedges, chili sauce and chopped cilantro for garnish

1 cup rice of choice, cooked

*I’ve yet to find kaffir lime leaves, so this is a substitution. If you find the leaves, use 8-10 and leave out the lime zest and lime juice.

**This is another substitution as galangal root is elusive in my neck of the woods, as well.


Give the lemongrass pieces and ginger a good whacking to smash or bruise them, then place in a pot with the chicken broth, lime zest and lime juice (or kaffir lime leaves if you have them). Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Mushrooms release a lot of water, so give the mixture enough time to cook some of it off. 

Fresh mushrooms release a lot of water when added. Take time to cook it off so your soup will have plenty of Tom Kha concentrated flavor. 

Fresh mushrooms release a lot of water when added. Take time to cook it off so your soup will have plenty of Tom Kha concentrated flavor. 

educe heat to low and add coconut milk and fish sauce then add in shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes until shrimp are pink. Remove from heat.

 erve over a mound of rice and garnish with a dollop of chili sauce, lime wedge and cilantro.

Best enjoyed while watching a movie and/or YouTube clips about college a cappella groups.