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Spicy Noodle Soup with Shrimp & Coconut Milk

Scott Phillips

Servings: four.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients here—this soup comes together in under an hour. The end result is otherworldly: a bowl of rice noodles bathed in a silky, spicy coconut broth and capped with a crunchy, cooling garnish.


For the soup base:

  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-inch piece fresh ginger (about 1 oz.), peeled and sliced into disks     
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 to 3 fresh serrano chiles, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and roughly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. freshly ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 2 tsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs. peanut or vegetable oil
  • Shells from the shrimp for the soup
  • 2 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk  
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

For the soup:

  • 6 to 7 oz. wide rice noodles
  • 1/4 English (seedless) cucumber  
  • 1 cup mung bean sprouts, rinsed and dried
  • 1 fresh chile (serrano, jalapeño, or Thai), stemmed and sliced into thin rounds (optional)
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped or torn
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn
  • 1 lb. shrimp (31 to 40 per lb.), shells removed and reserved; deveined
  • 4 lime wedges

Nutritional Information

  • Nutritional Sample Size based on four servings
  • Calories (kcal) : 560
  • Fat Calories (kcal): 270
  • Fat (g): 30
  • Saturated Fat (g): 20
  • Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3
  • Monounsaturated Fat (g): 5
  • Cholesterol (mg): 135
  • Sodium (mg): 2100
  • Carbohydrates (g): 55
  • Fiber (g): 4
  • Protein (g): 24


  • Make the soup base: Put the onion, ginger, garlic, chile, lemongrass, coriander, cumin, turmeric, fish sauce, and brown sugar in a food processor. Purée to make a paste, scraping down the sides as needed. Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the paste mixture and sauté, stirring often, until it softens, becomes very aromatic, and deepens in color, about 8 minutes. Stir in the shrimp shells and cook until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth, water, coconut milk, lime juice, and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so that the broth simmers gently for 30 minutes. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Clean the pot; return the broth to the pot, season with salt to taste, and return to a simmer.
  • While the soup base is simmering: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then remove from the heat. Put the rice noodles in the water and let sit until tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain, rinse, and distribute among four large, shallow soup bowls.
  • Slice the cucumber into 1/4-inch rounds, stack the rounds, and slice into thin matchsticks. Put the cucumber sticks in a medium bowl and toss with the bean sprouts, sliced chiles (if using), and herbs.
  • Just before serving, add the shrimp to the broth and gently simmer until they’re just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Ladle the hot soup over the noodles. Arrange a mound of the cucumber and bean sprout mixture in the center of the bowl, top with a lime wedge, and serve immediately.


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Reviews (4 reviews)

  • AccountingProfessor | 06/20/2020

    I agree that this is one of the best recipes I have made from Fine Cooking. Made some substitutions to use what I had due to the pandemic. I subbed rice sticks for the wide rice noodles, and we had no bean sprouts. Nonetheless, the soup was still outstanding with the remaining garnishes, which are an important component of the soup.

  • DJ | 07/31/2012

    The flavors of Asia in a bowl.I've made this recipe twice-each time, my guests were in awe. Great for dinner on a hot summer evening or s smaller serving is a good first course for an Asian meal.

  • Renegde_in_me | 03/19/2011

    Amazing flavor, texture and colors! Huge hit!!!!

  • whatscooking | 10/17/2007

    To Die For. Probably the best recipe I've ever made from Fine Cooking mag. This soup is outstanding. It has incredible depth of flavor and is worth all the effort. This will amaze your guests. Do all the garnish and make sure everything stays cold and crunchy before serving.

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