Tom Kha Shrimp and Scallop (Thai Soup)

We recommend making bone broths regularly, for the minerals and collagen extracted from the bone and joint tissue. The broths can be drunk as a beverage, used in cooking (eg in making rice), and used as the base for soups, curries, and stews.

We make broth most Saturdays, and use it throughout the week. For an example of how to make broth, see Bone Broth Revisited; and Pumpkin Soup, Oct 3, 2011. The nature of the broth depends on the type of bones you get. Marrow bones create a fattier broth; bones with joint tissue attached create a collagen-rich gelatin; bare bones create a mineral-rich watery broth. If you start with marrow and joint bones, then the first broth will have all the fat, the first and second will have a lot of collagen, and later batches will become progressively more watery.

Since broth itself has a mild taste, it can be the foundation for a great diversity of soups. Once you have broth, most soups can be made very quickly – often in 10 minutes.

Tom Kha Gai, or chicken galangal soup, is a classic dish of Thai cuisine. It’s always made with coconut milk and usually lemongrass (which has a mild citrus flavor) and some kind of spicy flavor.

Of course, there’s no need to use chicken, and we generally prefer seafood, ruminant meats, eggs, and even duck to chicken. In today’s recipe, we used shrimp and scallops as our meats.


We used coconut milk, bone broth (not shown), shrimp, scallops, cilantro (coriander leaves), lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce (not shown), mushrooms, and in the small bowl on the right, a homemade chili paste, galangal root, and sliced Serrano or Jalapeno chili peppers.


Place equal parts coconut milk and bone broth in a pot; add lemongrass, sliced galangal, lime juice, and 1 tbsp fish sauce:

You won’t eat the lemongrass, so it’s best to slice it in long diagonal strips that are easy to find and remove from the finished soup. Don’t cut it too small.

Bring the soup to a simmer for 5 minutes and add the remaining ingredients. Mushrooms, chili paste, and peppers:

Simmer another 5 minutes, and add shrimp and thin-sliced scallops:

The shrimp and scallops only need 2-3 minutes, so it’s almost done. Add cilantro:

It only takes a few minutes until everything is cooked, and it’s ready to serve:


Many variations are possible to alter the taste. Chili powder can be substituted for the paste, and ginger root for galangal. The lime juice can be used for the citrus flavor in place of lemongrass. Add more fish sauce for a saltier taste, or more lime juice for sourness.

Tom Kha Gai has always been one of our favorite soups, and it’s very easy to make. It’s even better with scallops and shrimp!

Leave a comment ?


  1. Yummy. Thanks for posting these recipes. Just reading them makes me hungry.

  2. Paul,

    I LOVE Tom Kha Gai soup and will definitely be trying this recipe. Thank you!

  3. “The broths can be drank as a beverage…”

    No, they can’t. But, like bloggers, the broths can be drunk.

    As to the topic at hand: you really should invite me to dinner some time.

  4. Hi Steve,

    Thanks, updated!

  5. I just finished reading your book and am very excited to get started on Wednesday – figured Lent was a great time to cut sugar, grains, etc. I was looking through the recipe thread and there didn’t seem to be many recipes. Could a “recipe” tag or category be added to make them more accessible? If I am missing a section where all the recipes are gathered, please let me know! Thanks for all your hard work on this. Loved the book and am excited to get this thing going. Hoping for improved thyroid function and overall health. I would also love some sample meal plans. It would make the whole shopping thing a lot easier! I did visit the 10 Minute Meal website you linked to and found it very helpful. Maybe I’ll end up coming up with a meal plan of my own!

  6. This looks yum. The bone broth thread was also very helpful – I have realised that by cooking bones only once I am not extracting maximum nourishment – I will be interested to try your method of re-using the bones.

  7. Yum!!

    I have a broth question. Harold McGee in his book On Food and Cooking, says that long cooking causes progressive breakdown of the gelatin chains.

    Do you know how long the cooking would have to be to break down the gelatin chains?

    And does that mean that at that point they would not provide the benefit you want from gelatin?

  8. Hi Rebecca,

    Recipes all appear under the “Food” category, look in the “Categories” section of the sidebar.

    I took a quick look at your blog, and really liked these photos:

    Hi Ellen,

    My understanding is that collagen breaks down into components above about 180 F. At a simmer, the gelatin broth is a clear liquid with low viscosity. Then when you refrigerate it, it becomes a translucent, viscous gelatin — that indicates a phase change of the components to a solid. Then heat it again, the gelatin dissolves.

    I think the boiling point is gentle enough that it won’t damage the gelatin components. They will still be nutritious.

    I did find this quote from Harold McGee:

    As the New York Times food writer, and general food science genius Harold McGee explains in his book The Curious Cook, “strands of beef collagen don’t even begin to unravel until the temperature exceeds 140F (60C), and they don’t dissolve into gelatin in any appreciable quantity below 180F (82C)” – so all that those chewy bits will stay just that unless you keep the stew relatively hot.

    That suggests that joint collagen should be fairly well broken down with a few hours of simmering. Bone collagen may have to be demineralized before it can break down, which will take quite a bit longer.

    Best, Paul

  9. When you drink broth, do you just drink it plain or spiced or something? Warm or cold?

    Also, though it’d obviously vary according to cooking methods, does anybody know of a nutritional breakdown for an example of homemade bone broth? I’ve seen some skepticism that it’s actually a good source of minerals, but given that bones soften, shrink, and even disappear when I make it, I imagine a low mineral content would only be associated with a short simmering time done for the flavor alone. I’m also curious to see how good a source broth is for magnesium and trace minerals.

  10. Hi Amelia,

    We usually have soups as our beverage, we have soup now with every sit-down meal.

    But I’ve had bone broth as a drink and it can taste great, just warmed up by itself. At Wise Traditions they served beef bone broth as a beverage and it was great.

    There would be nothing wrong with spicing it either. Perhaps I’ll give it a try with some cinnamon. If you experiment, let me know what you like.

    Like you, I’m sure the softening and lightening of the bones indicates that minerals are entering the water. I don’t the exact nutritional composition of bone broth, but bones are rich in calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

  11. Thanks Paul!
    This is my all time favorite soup, but I never attempted to make it myself before. You made it look so easy I might just try:))
    I don’t have homemade chili paste:( Is there a safe ready made replacement available?

  12. Hi Mia,

    Your supermarket will have various curry pastes or chili pastes in an international aisle:

    Thai Curry Paste

    Check the ingredient lists for PHD compatibility.

    Or, make your own. It’s very simple: 2 tbsp oil for 1 tbsp chili powder. Heat the oil, then pour the hot oil on top of chili powder in a ceramic dish. (If you add chili powder to oil in a hot pan, it will burn.) If you use a saturated fat rich oil like beef tallow, which we used, it will form a solid paste. Add salt to taste.

    Best, Paul

  13. Thanks for the homemade chili paste recipe Paul!

    I didn’t realize you could add curry paste instead I thought it was only for curries:) I have the exact same one you linked to, so I might try it in this soup. I looked at some Tom Yum pastes but the ingredients were so nasty I gave up.

  14. Thank you, Paul! I really appreciate the response and am looking forward to cooking some of these delicious recipes!

  15. Hi Paul

    Ease if use tip for lemongrass:

    Hit the stalk a few times with a meat mallet/ tenderizer and then tie it in a knot.

    That way it stays together while cooking and easy to remove in its entirety from your soup/dish

    I LOVE thom ka soup!


  16. If you have access to kaffir lime leaves (available at some asian markets) they make a super great addition to this soup.

  17. Hi David,

    Yes, we’ve heard they have a great flavor, but we can’t find them in our local markets. Too bad!

  18. Paul,

    Email me your address and I will send you some…

    They are divine.


  19. Hi Paul,

    Just made this last night and it was delicious with the scallops and shrimp! Velvety. We are fortunate to have a kaffir plant!


  20. This sounds soooo good! I’m just beginning to dabble with Thai soups and am really enjoying the spices and seasonings they use. I look forward to trying this. I have all the ingredients on hand!

  21. Hi!
    I’m not sure I can manage fish sauce. It’s probably a mental thing but I’m imagining it would be a smell/taste thing as well. Once something turns off my smell meter, it will never make it into my mouth. Can I substitute Soy or Worcestershire sauce?


  22. I have a bottle of fish sauce in the refrigerator of unknown age. Maybe one year. It says no preservatives. It smells skaanky. I’m sure fish sauce ought to smell bad, but how long do you think it can stay good after opening? We’re about to eat our first attempt at Tom Kha so if I die tonight this won’t even matter. Unless it saves another very unfamiliar-with-fish-sauce sojourner.

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