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Thai soup Tom Ka with red curry, coconut milk, chicken, and quinoa

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Tom Ka is a Thai soup with coconut milk, red curry, lemon grass and is one of my most favorite soups. If you buy it at a Thai restaurant, it is usually served with white rice. What I usually do though is substitute white rice for quinoa, because, let’s be frank, plain white rice tastes bland, looks washed out and is really just a waste of calories.


In fact, whenever we order Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese, we don’t even use the white rice that comes with it any more – I usually cook some quinoa.

Quinoa has long been one of my favorite grains, because I like its taste and I much rather use quinoa than just plain white rice. Quinoa has an unusually high amount of protein (14% of its mass). It is also a good source of fiber, gluten-free and is easy to digest.

…. And, I have about 10 pounds of it in my pantry. My husband bought it in bulk some time ago as he thought the bulk price for 10 pounds of quinoa was too good to pass. Now I am stuck with a lot of quinoa in my pantry!


And by the way, this soup goes REALLY WELL with a glass of white wine.

Red Curry Paste, Lemon GrassThai soup with coconut milk

Tom Ka - Thai soup with red curry, coconut milk, chicken, and quinoa

Tom Ka – Thai soup with red curry, coconut milk, chicken, and quinoa

Prep time: 40 min
Cook time: 50 min


  • 1 can coconut milk (400 mL) + 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp lemon grass (or 1 lemon grass stalk)
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 4 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • mushrooms
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 3 green onions
  • grape tomatoes, each sliced in half
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups water

Makes 2-3 servings.

1) For this soup I use one whole can of coconut milk (400 mL) plus 1/2 cup of coconut milk from the 2nd can. Heat coconut milk in a large pan until it boils, add chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce to medium heat, add red curry paste, lemon grass, lemon juice, fish sauce, brown sugar, stir well and let the soup simmer for about 30 minutes. It should thicken slightly. Add sliced mushrooms during the last 20 minutes of cooking, add sliced bell pepper during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

2) For lemon grass, I used frozen lemon grass that is usually sold in Asian stores. You can also use 1 dried lemongrass stalk sold in most stores. If you use frozen lemon grass like I did (see the photo), it basically blends in with the soup and you eat it with the soup. But if you use a lemon grass stalk, of course, you’ll need to take it out after your soup is fully cooked.

3) Cook chicken breast or use already cooked chicken breast, slice it in medium pieces, add it to the soup during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Dice green onions, set aside. Prepare about 3 grape tomatoes per each serving bowl.

4) In a separate pan, add quinoa and water, bring to boil and cook quinoa for about 15 minutes on medium until quinoa is fluffy but not too soft, it should be somewhat “al dente”.

5) When soup has simmered for at least 30 minutes and mushrooms are well-cooked through, pour the soup into serving bowls, sprinkle each bowl with diced green onions. Garnish each bowl with 3 grape tomatoes (each tomatoe sliced in half). Serve quinoa in a separate bowl.



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{ 9 comments… add one }
  • sippitysup August 31, 2012, 4:10 pm

    I love that soup, but I can’t even look at it w/o thinking I may be catching a cold. It’s my go to cure for the sniffles. GREG

    • Julia August 31, 2012, 10:25 pm

      Tom Ka is by far my favorite Asian soup. And I, too, like to eat those soups when I catch a cold, perhaps with some extra chilli in it.

  • Debs @ The Spanish Wok September 11, 2012, 1:08 am

    Hi Julia, don’t we all love this soup. Think it must be one of the most famous soups ever and everyone’s favourite too. Thanks for submitting to The Soup Kitchen Event it’s great to have newbies.

    Love your bowls too. I really must try quinoa oneday.

    • Julia September 11, 2012, 8:12 am

      You’re welcome. I think it’s great that you host such events.

  • Lynne September 25, 2012, 2:49 am

    My favorite curry soup! Looks delicious and beautifully photographed!

  • Kim January 9, 2013, 4:20 pm

    Can you fall in love with soup? Love this soup. I cut the brown sugar way down its still SOOO good though.

    • Julia January 9, 2013, 7:25 pm

      Glad to hear that! It’s one of my favorite soups!

  • Erica January 12, 2014, 2:58 pm

    It sounds delicious! What type of mushrooms do you recommend and how many?

    • Julia January 13, 2014, 2:50 pm

      Thanks, Erica! I used regular mushrooms here (button mushrooms) that are sold in most grocery stores. 1 cup of finely sliced button mushrooms should be enough.

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