Guest Recipe: Pumpkin Coconut Soup

This recipe was submitted by Megan, a fellow volunteer here in Thailand. She is a vegetarian and has a very different outlook on food here in Thailand. While Thai food transfers easily into the vegetarian world (lots of veggies, tofu, etc), there are some dishes she cannot eat and others she loves that some of us have never actually tried. Let’s face it, when you’re a meat eater, there are so many Thai dishes you can try … you often don’t get to the vegetable ones!

Anyway, she has been talking for weeks about this amazing dish her Thai family makes. She says it is by far the best dish she has had in Thailand. She hasn’t been able to get an official recipe from her family because, well, that requires extensive Thai and she (and most volunteers) just don’t have it. She has also attempted to watch the cooking process, but I guess her family is very secretive. It just sort of ends up on the table!

So, she had done a little research and found a recipe that she believes is similar to what her family makes. She says that the one her family makes has much more pumpkin and much less “soup” and it is served with rice rather than in a bowl. However, she says the ingredients looks the same and the process seems accurate. So, I present this to you as a guest submission and will hopefully be able to attempt this recipe in the future!

The recipe was found at Thai Food and Travel … check the site out for pictures as well as more interesting recipes and articles!

Pumpkin Coconut Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: intermediate


  • About 1 1/2 lb. well-ripened kabocha squash, or pumpkin
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1/3 lb. fresh shrimp (can be omitted)
  • 2-4 fresh red jalapeno of fresno peppers, chopped
  • 2-3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. gkabpi shrimp paste (no idea what gkabpi is, just go for normal shrimp paste)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 4 cups, or 2 cans, coconut milk
  • 1-2 Tbs. fish sauce, or to taste (soy sauce as substitute)
  • 1 Tbs. or more palm sugar (or brown or white!)
  • 1 cup fresh lemon basil or lemon mint (substitute with fresh Thai sweet basil in whole leaves)
  • Garnish: short sprigs of lemon basil, lemon mint or Thai basil


  1. Cut the kabocha squash or pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and strings, peel and discard the tough outer skin. Cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch cubes (should yield about 5 to 6 cups). Sprinkle and coat the pieces with lime juice and set aside.
  2. Shell the shrimp and place in a blender or food processor with the chopped peppers, shallots, shrimp paste and 1/2 cup of water. Puree into a smooth, well-blended mixture.
  3. Reserve two cups of the thickest cream from the top of the 2 cans of coconut milk. Set aside. Pour the remaining lighter milk, along with the remaining 1 cup of water into a medium-size soup pot. Stir in the pureed shrimp mixture and mix well to dissolve the paste in the liquid, smoothing out any lumps.
  4. Bring the soup mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring to a smooth consistency.
  5. Add the kabocha squash or pumpkin chunks. Return to a boil and simmer over low to medium heat until the squash is soft and tender (20 to 30 minutes, depending on the squash). Note: Do not be concerned at this point with the appearance of the soup as it will change considerably with the addition of the coconut cream.
  6. Add the reserved coconut cream and bring to a boil over medium heat.
  7. Season with fish sauce to the desired saltiness. Note: The squash should impart a lovely golden color to the soup. If it is not sufficiently ripe to sweeten the soup, add palm sugar to sweeten to your liking.
  8. Simmer a couple of minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Stir in the lemon basil or lemon mint (or Thai basil) and when they have wilted, turn off heat.
  9. Serve warm, garnishing the top of each bowl with a sprig of lemon basil, lemon mint or Thai basil.

Final Thoughts

  • Adding the coconut cream near the end of cooking ensures a smoother, creamier soup and minimizes the likelihood of the cream curdling. Coconut cream, particularly from canned coconut milk, will tend to curdle if boiled with water for too long or over too high a heat.

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