Vegetarian Pad Thai| Thai Noodles With Vegetables

Pad Thai is a favourite with many I know. It is something I absolutely love too. If I were to make a list of my most beloved Asian foods, Pad Thai would rank right on top. It is one dish I frequently order while dining out, and make it often at home as well.

Today, I’m going to share with you all my recipe for Vegetarian Pad Thai.

Vegetarian Pad Thai or Thai Noodles With Vegetables

What is Pad Thai?

Pad Thai, also called Phad Thai, is a noodle dish that’s bursting with flavours. It is a heritage Thai food, typically made using flat rice noodles, with a few vegetables and a protein source like tofu or a fried egg.

Pad Thai is sweet and sour and spicy, sure to titillate one’s tastebuds. It is a complete meal in itself. It’s not the healthiest of foods, considering the use of different sauces but I would say a home-made version is better because you have control over the quality and quantity of the ingredients going in. Using wheat- or millet-based noodles would make the Pad Thai more healthy, as opposed the regular refined flour noodles I have used here.

My love for Thai cuisine

I have had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Pad Thai in its country of origin itself, Thailand. While holidaying in Thailand, I fell in love with the country’s cuisine, especially Pad Thai, and learnt to make some of it too.

My love for Thai food is legendary in my family, and I have prepared several dishes over the years, adapting them to suit local Indian ingredients. You might want to check out my recipes for Thai Tom Yum Vegetable Soup, Vegetarian Thai Panang Curry, Tom Kha soup, Thai Green Curry, Thai Yellow Curry and Sticky Rice With Mango.

I am sharing this recipe for Pad Thai in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. This is a group of passionate food bloggers, who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme every Monday. When Preethi suggested that we share recipes for Asian-style noodles this Monday, my decision was made from the word go – I knew I had to write about Pad Thai. 🙂

Preethi is a passionate traveller and talented cook. On her blog Preethi’s Cuisine, she has showcased several unique recipes from her homeland, Karnataka, and from Malaysia and Singapore, where she has lived. For this week’s theme, #NoodlesDoodles, she has prepared some fiery Sambal Mushroom Noodles – can’t wait to try the recipe out!

How to make Vegetarian Pad Thai Noodles

Good Pad Thai is not very difficult to make at home, provided you are able to source the right ingredients. This is a vegetarian version of the dish, as close to the authentic version as possible, made using ingredients easily available in India. I have tried and tested this recipe several times over, and perfected it gradually. It does make a delicious Pad Thai, I must say!

Here is how I make it.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

To cook the noodles:

  1. 150 grams noodles
  2. 1 teaspoon oil
  3. 1/2 tablespoon salt

Veggies:

  1. 1 medium-sized onion
  2. A small piece of cabbage
  3. 1 small cucumber
  4. 1 small carrot
  5. 6-7 cloves of garlic
  6. A 1-inch piece of ginger

Other ingredients:

  1. A small piece of tamarind
  2. 1/4 cup peanuts
  3. 1/2 tablespoon oil
  4. Salt to taste
  5. 2-3 teaspoons of soya sauce or to taste
  6. 2 tablespoon Sriracha sauce or red chilli sauce
  7. 1 tablespoon jaggery powder or as per taste
  8. 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander
  9. Lemon wedges for garnishing, as needed (optional)

Method:

1. Cook the noodles with 1 teaspoon oil and 1/2 tablespoon salt, as per instructions provided on the package. Do not make them overly mushy.

2. While the noodles are cooking, dry roast the peanuts in a heavy-bottomed pan on medium flame, till they turn crisp. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. Transfer the roasted peanuts to a plate and allow them to cool down completely.

3. Soak the tamarind in a little boiling water for 15-20 minutes, for it to soften. Allow it to cool down enough to handle.

4. Next, we will prep all the veggies that will go into the Pad Thai. Peel the ginger and garlic and chop finely. Peel the carrot and chop into cubes. Chop the cucumber into cubes and the cabbage length-wise. Peel the onion and chop length-wise. Keep the chopped veggies ready.

5. When the noodles are done cooking, transfer them to a colander. Immediately run some cold water over them. Place the colander in the sink and let all the water drain out.

6. When the roasted peanuts have completely cooled down, crush them coarsely in a mixer. Do not make a fine powder. There is no need to remove the skin from the peanuts. Also, extract a thick paste out of the soaked tamarind. Keep ready.

Top left, centre and right: Steps 1, 2 and 3, Bottom left, centre and right: Steps 4, 5 and 6

7. Now, we will start preparing the Pad Thai. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the garlic and saute for a few seconds.

8. Now add in the ginger, onion and carrot, along with a bit of salt. Turn the flame down to medium. Saute on medium flame for about 2 minutes.

9. Add in the cabbage and cucumber at this stage. Saute on medium flame for about 2 minutes more or till all the veggies are cooked through, not overly mushy but retaining a crunch.

Top left and right: Steps 7 and 8, Bottom left and right: Step 8

10. Add in the cooked and drained noodles at this stage. Keep the flame at low-medium.

11. Also add in soya sauce, Sriracha or red chilli sauce, salt to taste and the tamarind paste we prepared earlier.

12. Add in the jaggery powder too.

13. Mix everything well, but gently, still keeping the flame at low-medium. Ensure that the ingredients are well combined together but that the noodles do not break. You could use a pair of tongs for the same. Cook on low-medium flame for 3-4 minutes, tossing occasionally. Switch off gas at this stage. The Vegetable Pad Thai Noodles are ready.

14. Transfer the Vegetable Pad Thai Noodles to serving plates. Serve immediately, garnished with finely chopped coriander and coarsely crushed peanuts, with lemon wedges on the side (if using).

Top left and right: Steps 10 and 11, Bottom right and left: Steps 12 and 13

Tips & Tricks

1. Adjust the quantity of soya sauce, Sriracha or red chilli sauce and jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.

2. You can use any type of noodles you prefer. Traditionally, flat rice noodles are used to make this dish. I have used Hakka noodles from Ching’s, here.

3. Make sure the tamarind extract is thick and not too watery. Use as much as needed, as per personal taste preferences. I have used Indian tamarind from the Double Horse brand.

4. Do not cook the noodles overly. They should not turn too mushy.

5. Do not crush the roasted peanuts to a fine powder. Just crush them coarsely.

6. Lemon juice can be used in place of the tamarind extract. However, I would personally recommend using tamarind paste for the authentic taste of Pad Thai. Many online recipes suggest using vinegar instead, but that’s not something I would recommend.

7. You can use any veggies that you prefer in this Vegetarian Pad Thai. Here, I have used the vegetables I had at home. Some traditional Thai versions include pickled radish, in the place of which I have used cucumber – it works well. Typically, a protein like tofu or a fried egg is also used in Pad Thai, but I have not used any here. In Thailand, bean sprouts are also commonly used in Pad Thai, but I have skipped this since I didn’t have them.

8. Make sure the vegetables are not overly cooked. They should retain a bit of a crunch.

9. Be careful while adding the salt. We are using Sriracha (or red chilli sauce) and soya sauce in these noodles, which contain salt already. Moreover, we also add salt while cooking the noodles.

10. I have used home-made red chilli sauce here. Please head to this post for the recipe. I have used soya sauce by Ching’s. When using store-bought sauce, please do read the ingredient list carefully to make sure it fits your dietary requirements.

11. Traditional Thai recipes use fish sauce and/or dried shrimp, both of which I have avoided in this vegetarian version of Pad Thai. I have used regular jaggery powder in place of the coconut sugar or palm jaggery that is traditionally used.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Kaeng Phanaeng| Vegetarian Thai Panang Curry

Here’s presenting Kaeng Phanaeng, a beautiful Thai curry that also goes by the name of Panang Curry. This curry has a smooth and creamy gravy, redolent of coconut and peanuts, and of course the typical ingredients like lemongrass and Kaffir lime. This is a vegetarian version of the curry, made using assorted vegetables and paneer (cottage cheese).

Kaeng Phanaeng or Vegetarian Thai Panang Curry

Difference between Thai Panang Curry and Red Curry

Thai Panang Curry can be called a close cousin of the more popular Red Curry. However, there are a few subtle differences.

The Panang Curry includes peanuts, which aren’t typically used in Red Curry. The peanuts, along with coconut milk, lend a silky smooth texture, a beautiful nutty taste and a creamy consistency to the curry. For this reason, this curry is also referred to as Thai Peanut Curry.

Red Curry has a fiery red colour to it, as the name suggests. The Panang Curry, however, has a more orange colour.

A closer look at my Thai Panang Curry

In traditional Thai kitchens, Panang Curry is usually made with meat like chicken or beef. Like I was saying earlier, though, this is a vegetarian version, made using vegetables like carrot, beans, babycorn and capsicum. I have also used paneer (cottage cheese) to add some protein in.

The paste for Panang Curry is typically made using soaked dry red chillies, along with ingredients like galangal, Kaffir lime, cumin seeds, lemongrass and coriander seeds. Sriracha sauce or Thai red curry paste is sometimes used too, as a shortcut, instead of making the paste from scratch. I have used my home-made Sriracha sauce here. While I have used some authentic ingredients, I have used Indian ginger in place of galangal here, as I wasn’t able to find the latter.

Many online recipes for Thai Panang Curry call for peanut butter, but I have made it from scratch using roasted peanuts. I find the flavour much better with roasted peanuts, and I have much more control of what exactly goes into the curry.

How I make Khaeng Phanaeng or Vegetarian Thai Panang Curry

When Priya of Pickled Route recently wrote about how she made a paneer satay with a peanut and coconut milk sauce, it had me inspired. I knew my family and I would love the peanut-coconut milk combination, and I just had to try it out.

I read up several online recipes for Thai Peanut Curry i.e. Panang Curry, and made it recently, adapted from this one by Hot Thai Kitchen and this one by The Spruce Eats. It turned out so finger-licking delicious that I have made it a few times already. It is a very easy dish to make, provided you have all the ingredients ready, and tastes absolutely brilliant with some steamed rice.

I have shared below the way I made Khaeng Phanaeng or Vegetarian Thai Panang Curry. I’m sharing this recipe in association with the Foodie Monday Blog Hop, where the theme is ‘Asian Foodie Delights’. The Foodie Monday Blog Hop is a group of passionate food bloggers who share recipes based on a pre-determined theme, every Monday. I’m the hostess of the blog hop this week, and I thought it would be nice to have everyone exploring the plethora of gorgeous Asian dishes from the countries around us.

Ingredients (serves 4):

To grind to a paste:

  1. 1 lemongrass root or about 4 strands
  2. 1 tablespoon fresh coriander stems
  3. 5-6 Kaffir lime leaves
  4. A 1-inch piece of ginger
  5. 1 teaspoon soya sauce
  6. 1 green chilly
  7. Salt to taste
  8. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  9. 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
  10. 1/2 tablespoon jaggery powder
  11. 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  12. 3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds
  13. 2 shallots or 1/2 of a small onion
  14. 4-5 garlic cloves
  15. 2-3 tablespoons water

Other ingredients:

  1. 200 grams paneer
  2. About 1/4 cup of broccoli florets
  3. 1 medium-sized carrot
  4. 8-10 beans
  5. About 1/2 cup chopped capsicum, in red, green and yellow
  6. 4 pieces of babycorn
  7. 1/2 cup peanuts, roasted
  8. 250 ml thick coconut milk
  9. About 1 cup water or as needed
  10. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
  11. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

1. We will start by roasting the peanuts. Take the peanuts in a heavy-bottomed pan. Dry roast on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till they are nice and crisp. Take care to ensure that the peanuts do not burn. Transfer to a plate and allow them to cool down fully.

2. Next, we will prep the veggies required for the curry. Peel the carrot and chop into bite-sized pieces. Chop the broccoli into small florets. Remove strings from the beans and chop into 1-inch pieces. Remove seeds and cores from the capsicum and chop into large-ish pieces. Chop up the babycorn into roundels. Keep aside.

3. Chop the paneer into squares. Keep ready.

4. Now, we will grind the paste required for the curry. Cut up the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves roughly and add to a small mixer jar. Peel the onion, ginger and garlic, chop roughly, and add these in too. Chop the green chilli and coriander stems too and add these in as well. Add salt to taste, turmeric powder, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, jaggery powder, Sriracha sauce and soya sauce. Also add in the roasted and cooled peanuts, along with 2-3 tablespoons water. Grind everything together to a smooth paste. Keep this paste aside.

Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Centre left: Step 3, Centre right, Bottom left and right: Step 4

5. Take the veggies we prepared earlier (carrot, beans, broccoli, capsicum and babycorn) in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in about 1/4 cup water and place on gas. Turn the flame down to medium.

6. Let the veggies cook, covered, on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or till they are done but not overly mushy.

7. Still keeping the flame at medium, add the paste we prepared earlier, to the pan. Wash out the mixer jar using about 1/4 cup water and add this to the pan too. Mix well. Cook on medium flame for a minute.

Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom left: The veggies are cooked, Bottom right: Step 7

8. Still keeping the flame at medium, add the coconut milk to the pan. Also add about 1/2 cup water or as needed to adjust consistency. Taste and adjust salt or seasonings as required. Simmer for a minute.

9. Add the paneer cubes to the pan. Cook everything together on medium flame for about 2 minutes, by which time the mixture would have thickened up slightly. Switch off gas at this stage.

10. Mix in lemon juice and 1 tablespoon finely chopped coriander. Your Thai Panang Curry is ready. Serve hot or warm with steamed rice.

Top left and right: Step 8, Bottom left: Step 9, Bottom right: Step 10

Tips & Tricks

1. You can use tofu in place of the paneer I have used here, for a vegan version of Thai Panang Curry.

2. You may dry roast the cumin seeds and coriander seeds before using them in the paste. I don’t.

3. I have used thick coconut milk from the Real Thai brand here. You may make your own at home if you so prefer. You may use more or less quantity, as per personal taste preferences.

4. I prefer using only certain veggies in this curry – carrots, broccoli, beans, babycorn and capsicum. You may use any vegetables of your choice.

5. Adjust the quantity of lemon juice, salt, jaggery powder, Sriracha sauce, green chillies and soya sauce as per personal taste preferences.

6. Use as much water as required to adjust the consistency of the curry. It should be creamy and smooth, but not overly thick. Neither should it be too watery.

7. Like I was saying earlier, soaked dry red chillies are traditionally used to make the paste for this Thai Panang Curry. I have used Sriracha sauce here, as a sort of shortcut. You may use Thai red curry paste instead, too. If you can find ready-to-use Thai Panang Curry paste, you could use that instead, too.

8. Typically shrimp paste is used in this curry. I have avoided that, considering we are vegetarians.

9. You may use either the root of lemongrass or strands – both are available in specialty food stores in Bangalore. The root is more intense in flavour than the strands, and needs to be used in a relatively lesser quantity.

10. The Kaffir lime leaves can be substituted with grated zest from regular Indian lemons.

11. I have used regular Indian ginger here, since I had no galangal. If you can get your hands on galangal, do go ahead and use it instead.

12. Some use raw peanuts to make the paste for this curry. However, roasted peanuts add a much better flavour, and I would personally recommend it.

13. Peanut butter can be used in place of the roasted peanuts. Personally, though, I prefer using roasted peanuts.

14. The veggies should be cooked but not overly mushy. They should retain a bit of a crunch.

15. If you are using store-bought Thai Panang Curry paste or Red Curry paste, you might want to check the ingredients to find out it suits your dietary requirements.

16. Some recipes suggest the use of tamarind paste or tamari to sour the Thai Panang Curry. I prefer using lemon juice instead.

17. You can serve this Thai Panang Curry with steamed rice, any variety you prefer. Thai jasmine rice and sticky rice go very well with it, but Sona Masoori or Basmati work beautifully as well.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Som Tam Mamuang| Thai Raw Mango Salad

Som Tam Mamuang, anyone?

For the uninitiated, that refers to salad made using unripe mango, in the Thai style. As Thai cuisine generally is, this salad too is a beautiful blend of flavours and interesting textures. I absolutely adore its sweet and sour and spicy taste, and simply have to make it every summer when raw mangoes are in season.

Som Tam Mamuang or Thai Raw Mango Salad

This salad is a real treat to the tastebuds, the sort of thing that would wake them up from a reverie. And yet, it is a very simple dish to prepare, the putting together of which does not take more than 20 minutes.

What goes into my version of Som Tam Mamuang

I got acquainted with Som Tam Mamuang on our holidays in Thailand. After long and tiring days spent exploring, we would often make a meal of a flavourful salad such as this one. I have seen this being prepared over and over again, and have realised that there are so many little variations to it, though the basic ingredients remain more or less the same. This here is my version of Som Tam Mamuang, the way my family prefers it.

Like I was saying earlier, the major ingredient in Som Tam Mamuang is raw mango, which is also referred to as green or unripe mango. While some people include prawns or shrimp in the salad, I have used onion here.

I have used honey to sweeten the salad. The spiciness comes from green chillies and the bit of ginger I have added in. You could use a dash of red chilli powder instead, too.

Like many dishes from the Thai cuisine, this salad too contains roasted and crushed peanuts and coriander. However, I have done away with the soya sauce that is quite commonly used in Som Tam Mamuang.

How I spiralised the raw mango for this salad

See the spirals?

I made long spirals of the raw mango, to make the salad interesting to eat. This I achieved thanks to my Messermeister julienne peeler, part of a kitchen set my brother-in-law gifted me years ago, and which I have been using for ages now. These are some real good knives and peelers, definitely worth investing in. (Not sponsored!)

So, all I had to do was peel the raw mango and then run the Messermeister julienne peeler over it to create these long, spaghetti-like spirals. They surely added to the appeal of the salad! 🙂

It’s raining summer salads in the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge group!

If you have been reading my blog regularly, I am sure you would have seen my posts for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge. This is a group of food bloggers who cook based on a pre-determined theme every month. The bloggers are divided into pairs every month. Every pair exchanges two secret ingredients which are then used to cook for the month’s theme. The others then try and guess the secret ingredients that have been used by each pair. It’s super fun!

The theme for the Shhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge this month is ‘Summer Salads’. My partner for the month was Preethi, author of the wonderful blog Preethi’s Cuisine. She gave me the two secret ingredients of ‘onion’ and ‘honey’, which fit right into this family favourite Som Tam Mamuang I wanted to showcase.

The theme for the month was suggested by the very talented Kalyani, author of Sizzling Tastebuds. Check out the interesting Warm Barley Summer Salad she whipped up recently! Coincidentally, I gave Preethi the secret ingredients of ‘barley’ and ‘lemon juice’, and she went on to prepare this beauty!

Other Thai recipes on my blog

You might want to check out the other Thai recipes on my blog, too. There’s:

Rainbow Rice Salad
Thai Sticky Rice With Mango
Thai Ripe Mango Salad
Thai Grapefruit Salad

Tom Yum Soup

Sriracha Pineapple

Vegetarian Thai Fried Rice

Thai Green Curry

Thai Yellow Curry

Vegetarian Thai Coconut Soup

Healthy Thai-Style Moong Bean Wraps

Som Tam Mamuang or Thai Raw Mango Salad recipe

Here is how I make it.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  1. 1 medium-sized raw mango

  2. 1 small onion

  3. 2 green chillies

  4. A 1/2-inch piece of ginger

  5. 1/4 cup peanuts

  6. Salt, to taste

  7. 2 tablespoons honey or to taste

  8. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander

Method:

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, dry roast the peanuts on medium flame till they get crisp. Take care to ensure that they do not burn. Transfer to a plate and allow them to cool down fully.
  2. In the meantime, peel the raw mango and julienne it. You can either use a julienne peeler like I did or chop it into thin matchsticks. Transfer the raw mango juliennes to a large mixing bowl.
  3. Peel the ginger and chop it really fine. Similarly, chop the green chillies really fine too. Add the chopped ginger and green chillies to the mixing bowl too.
  4. Chop the onion finely. Add to the mixing bowl.
  5. Add in salt and honey.
  6. When the roasted peanuts have completely cooled down, coarsely crush them in a small mixer jar. Add this to the mixing bowl too, along with the finely chopped coriander.
  7. Mix up all the ingredients together. Serve immediately.

Tips & Tricks

1. Choose a raw mango that is nice and firm and not overly sour. I have used a Totapuri mango here.

2. Adjust the quantity of honey, green chillies and salt as per personal taste preferences.

3. Do not crush the peanuts to a powder. They need to be just coarsely crushed. You can use a mortar and pestle to crush them too.

4. You can skip the onion if you do not prefer to use it.

5. Make sure the ginger and green chillies are chopped really fine.

6. For a vegan version of the salad, you can substitute the honey with jaggery powder, cane sugar or raw brown sugar.

7. This recipe is completely vegetarian and gluten-free.

8. Don’t let the salad sit around for too long after mixing it up. Serve it immediately after making. Alternatively, you could keep the ingredients ready and mix up the salad just before serving it.

Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Thai Sticky Rice With Mango

Mango season is upon us, and markets are full of the fruit. Now is a great time to make some Thai Sticky Rice With Mango, like I did. 🙂

What is Thai Sticky Rice With Mango?

It is a unique dessert that hails from Thailand, a country whose cuisine I love for its bold flavours. Sticky rice, a special type of rice available in Thailand, is cooked in a pan with some fragrant pandan (screwpine) leaves. Fresh coconut milk and sugar is used to make a sauce, which is poured over the cooked rice when completely cool. This is served with wedges of sweet and sour ripe mango. What an interesting blend of flavours and textures, right?

For those who have never tasted Thai Sticky Rice With Mango, let me tell you that it is mind-blowingly beautiful. The sweetened, coconut-ty sticky rice blends wonderfully with the sweet-sour notes in the mango. Mango and coconut is a match made in heaven, after all.

A bit about my version of Thai Sticky Rice With Mango

I was introduced to the beauty that is Thai Sticky Rice With Mango on our holiday in Thailand. I absolutely adored it, of course. And then I went on to enjoy the dish at several Pan-Asian restaurants, each time falling a little deeper in love with it. Somehow, in spite of my love for it, Thai Sticky Rice With Mango remained that exotic thing that I always had at fancy restaurants, but never tried making at home. Until, recently, when I saw the making of the dessert in the Slurpy Platter’s Instagram stories.

I realised then just how simple this dessert was to whip up at home – like most of the other Thai dishes I have successfully recreated – and had to give it a go. Of course, I had to give it some twists! So, I used jasmine rice instead of the Thai sticky rice that is used traditionally, and cooked it in a pressure cooker instead of a pan, with some coconut milk added in. The result was absolutely brilliant, as the husband and extended family attests. 🙂 Purists can baulk if they want to – this might not be the most authentic of Thai Sticky Rice With Mango, but it is surely gorgeous. And, hey, it’s so much easier to put together this way, so a complete win-win situation, I say.

Is this dessert vegan and gluten-free?

Yes! This lovely dessert is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to people following a plant-based diet. It is entirely gluten-free as well.

How to make Thai Sticky Rice With Mango

Here’s how I went about it, with a few deviations from the original recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2):

To pressure cook:

  1. 1/2 cup jasmine rice
  2. 1/2 cup thick coconut milk
  3. 1/2 cup water

Other ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup thick coconut milk
  2. 2 tablespoons sugar or to taste
  3. 3-4 drops + 3-4 drops of pandan essence
  4. 1 big ripe mango
  5. 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

Method:

1. Wash the jasmine rice well under running water. Drain out all the water from it. Transfer the drained rice to a wide vessel.

2. Add 1/2 cup of thick coconut milk and 1/2 cup of water to the vessel. Mix well.

3. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker. Pressure cook on high flame for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.

4. In the meantime, let’s prepare the coconut sauce. Take 1/2 cup of thick coconut milk in a saucepan, and add in 2 tablespoons sugar. Place on high flame. Let the sugar get completely dissolved in the coconut milk. When the coconut milk starts boiling, switch off gas. Now, add 3-4 drops of pandan essence to it, and mix well. The coconut sauce is ready. Let it cool down fully.

5. Peel the mango and cut into length-wise pieces. Keep them ready.

6. Now, dry roast the sesame seeds in a small pan on medium flame, till they are toasted and start popping. Don’t let them burn. Transfer the sesame seeds to a plate and allow them to cool down.

7. When the pressure from the cooker has completely gone down, get the cooked rice out. Fluff it up gently. Mix in 3-4 drops of pandan essence into the rice. Allow it to cool down fully.

8. Once the rice, sesame seeds and coconut sauce are completely cool, you can assemble the serving dishes. Divide the rice into three equal portions, and place one in the centre of two serving dishes. Pour the coconut sauce evenly over both portions of rice and around it. Arrange the mango slices around the rice, in both dishes. Lastly, decorate the rice in both serving dishes with the toasted sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

Tips & Tricks

1. This dish is traditionally made using Thai sticky rice. However, I didn’t have any, so I used Thai jasmine rice instead, and it worked beautifully. I think Basmati rice would work well too. I have also seen this dish made using black rice. You can use regular Sona Masoori rice instead, too.

2. Use a ripe, juicy but firm mango for best results. I used a nice sweet and slightly sour Mallika mango, and it was just perfect.

3. I have used a 200 ml carton of Dabur Homemade Coconut Milk here. You can make your own coconut milk at home, if you so prefer.

4. Traditionally, the rice is cooked in a pan, however I made it in a pressure cooker. It worked well.

5. If you have fresh pandan (screwpine) leaves, add one while cooking the rice. I didn’t have them, so I have used pandan essence instead, a few drops in the rice and a few in the coconut sauce.

6. You can use roasted moong dal for the garnishing, instead of the toasted sesame seeds. I much prefer the sesame seeds.

7. Adjust the quantity of sugar in the coconut sauce, as per personal taste preferences.

8. Adjust the quantity of pandan essence you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

9. You can mix the cooked rice and the coconut sauce together, and then serve it with the mango slices and toasted sesame seeds. I prefer serving it this way.

10. I picked up the jasmine rice and pandan essence at the Siam Paragon mall in Bangkok, Thailand. For those in Bangalore, the rice is available at Namdhari’s.

Did you like the recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!

Tom Kha| Vegetarian Thai Coconut Soup

Have you had the pleasure of experiencing Tom Kha soup? You must try it out, if you haven’t already. It is such a beauty of a soup, inside and out!

What is Tom Kha?


Tom Kha refers to a Thai soup made using coconut milk. With hints of sweet and sour and spicy, it is bursting with flavours. It is a delicate soup, a harmonious balance between flavours the way most Thai dishes are. 

Tom‘ is the Thai word for ‘boil’, referring to the method of making the soup (as in Tom Yum). ‘Kha‘ in Thai means ‘galangal’, a rhizome similar to ginger, which finds pride of place in several dishes from the cuisine. Galangal is, indeed, the star ingredient in this soup too. Tom Kha is typically made using chicken pieces and broth (referred to as Tom Kha Gai, with ‘Gai‘ being the Thai word for chicken). I am presenting to you today the recipe for a vegetarian version of this soup, which is referred to as Tom Kha.

Traditionally in Thailand, Tom Kha is eaten as a side with rice, thereby making it a complete meal. Even on its own, too, this soup is hearty and hugely satisfying. I make it light, instead of rich and creamy as it usually is – we prefer it this way.

Tom Kha

My first tryst with Tom Kha

After a hot, sweaty and tiring morning exploring the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok last year, the husband and I were walking around with the bub, hunting for a place where we could partake of a vegetarian lunch. A small eatery right opposite to the temple caught our eye, offering quite a few traditional Thai vegetarian dishes. Something about the place called out to us, and we headed in. The owner was this very sweet, friendly, middle-aged Thai lady who lived and cooked in the tiny space behind the eatery. It was here that we had the most amazing Tom Kha soup, full of flavour. I couldn’t resist asking the lady how she made it and, in her broken English, she complied.

I have made this soup several times over since, tweaking little things here and there to suit my family’s taste preferences.

How to make Tom Kha or vegetarian Thai coconut soup


I outline below the way I make Tom Kha, and urge you to try it out too – I’m sure you will fall in love with it too.

This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, suitable to those on a plant-based diet. It is gluten-free as well.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

For the stock:
  • 1. 2-1/2 cups water
  • 2. 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3. 8-10 strands of lemongrass
  • 4. 2 green chillies
  • 5. 1 tablespoon fresh coriander stems
  • 6. A 1-inch piece of galangal
  • Other ingredients:

  • 1. 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2. 4 button mushrooms
  • 3. 1 small carrot
  • 4. Salt to taste
  • 5. 1 cup thick coconut milk
  • 6. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder
  • 7. 2 green chillies
  • 8. 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 9. A few strands of lemongrass
  • 10. A 1-inch piece of galangal
  • 11. 1/2 tablespoon soya sauce
  • 12. 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander
  • 13. Juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste

  • Method:

    1. We will first prepare the stock for the soup. Take 2-1/2 cups water in a pan. Tear the 2 kaffir lime leaves roughly and add them in. Roughly chop the lemongrass strands, galangal and coriander stems, and add them in too. Slit 2 slit green chillies length-wise, and add to the water. Place the pan on high heat, and allow the water to start bubbling. Then turn the flame down to medium. Cook on medium  flame for 5 minutes.

    2. Now, strain all the ingredients out. Reserve the clear, greenish stock.

    Top left and right: Steps 1 and 2, Bottom left and right: Steps 3 and 4

    3. Peel the carrot and chop finely. Chop up the button mushrooms length-wise. Keep aside.

    4. Heat a teaspoon of oil in the same pan, and add the chopped carrot and mushrooms. Saute till they are soft, but still retain a crunch.

    Top left and right: Steps 5 and 6, Bottom left and right: Steps 7 and 8

    5. Now, add the stock to the pan, along with salt to taste and jaggery powder. 

    6. Tear 2 kaffir lime leaves roughly and chop a few strands of lemongrass. Add to the pan. Roughly chop the galangal, and add to the pan too. Slit 2 slit green chillies  length-wise, and add to the pan. Mix well.

    7. Add the coconut milk and soya sauce to the pan. Mix well. Let it all cook together on medium flame. Switch off gas when it comes to a boil. Then, mix in juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste.

    8. Serve hot, garnished with the finely chopped fresh coriander.

    Tips & Tricks


    1. Use fresh kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass for best results.

    2. I could find only strands of lemongrass, and that’s what I have used here. If you have access to lemongrass bulbs, do use them in the soup – they are super aromatic.

    3. Authentic Tom Kha Gai uses galangal or Thai ginger. You can substitute it with regular Indian ginger, but it alters the flavour of the soup quite a bit. You could choose to leave out the galangal or Indian ginger completely too, and the soup still tastes brilliant.

    4. Traditionally, oyster sauce or fish sauce is used in Tom Kha Gai. However, since this is a vegetarian version, I have used soya sauce.

    5. I have used naturally fermented soya sauce from Shoyu, a brand I picked up in Thailand. You can use any brand you prefer.

    6. If you can get your hands on Thai coconut palm jaggery and bird’s eye chillies, please do use them in the soup. I didn’t have these ingredients, so I have used regular Indian jaggery powder and green chillies.

    7. Adjust the quantity of chillies you use, depending upon personal taste preferences.

    8. I have used button mushrooms to make the Tom Kha Gai. Other varieties of mushrooms can be used as well. I prefer only mushrooms and carrots in this soup, but you could add in any other vegetables you prefer.

    9. Adjust the quantity of lemon juice you use, as per personal taste preferences.

    10. I have used a pack of Dabur Hommade Coconut Milk here. You can use homemade coconut milk if you so prefer.

    11. The above quantities yield a light and flavourful soup – I prefer it this way. If you want a thicker soup, you can skip the water fully and use more coconut milk.

    12. I have used cold-pressed sunflower oil here. You can use any odourless oil you prefer instead.

    Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!