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Cambodian shrimp soup is a sweet and sour seafood soup with incredible flavors that sets it far apart from standard seafood stews.
Cambodian markets are a lot like this soup — full of a wide variety of ingredients, colorful, and loud. The ingredients that come together to make this soup are easily found in these markets, and fortunately for us, easy to find in a standard supermarket as well.
The soup begins with a quick, but rich, shrimp stock. Then we’ll combine lemongrass, ginger, and cilantro with the tangy flavor from fresh lime to create this sweet and sour soup. It’s warming, but uplifting. You won’t be disappointed.
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound shrimp shells and tails removed (shrimp will be used in the soup)
- 5 cups water
- 1 carrot chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 1 small onion chopped
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 stalks lemongrass bottom third of stalk, tough skin removed and thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- ½ ” piece of ginger peeled and minced
- 4 cups shrimp stock or premade fish/seafood stock
- 4 green onions white part only, cut into 1” pieces
- 6-7 sprigs of cilantro cut into 1” pieces, including stems
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 limes juiced and a few wedges for garnish
- 1 pound shrimp shells and tails removed
- All ingredients ready? Let's begin!
To make the stock:
- Heat a large pot with the coconut oil on medium high heat. Add all of the ingredients and toss so that they start to cook but do not become brown. You want them to start to become fragrant and toast a little bit.
- Add the water and let the stock simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
- Strain the stock and set aside until you need to use it for the soup.
- *You can also make this stock in an Instant Pot on the “broth/stock” setting
To make the soup:
- In a large pot, heat the coconut oil with the lemongrass, garlic, and ginger. Cook until it’s fragrant, but not browned.
- Add in the remaining ingredients except the shrimp, and bring the stock to a slight simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Add in the shrimp so that they cook completely. The shrimp should be pink and firm.
- Season as needed with more lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce.
- Ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with extra lime wedges.
Notes & Tips
- You can use any size shrimp that you can find. If using larger shrimp, you can always slice them in half lengthwise so that there are more shrimp pieces in the soup.
- You can buy seafood or fish stock instead of making it. Additionally, you can fortify a premade stock (like fish or even vegetable stock) by following the stock making instructions and swapping the water with premade stock.
- Some other topping ideas for the soup include fresh green onions, cilantro leaves, white onion slices, and Thai chili pepper slices.
- You can also serve this soup with a side of white rice.
- If you can’t find fresh lemongrass or ginger, check the produce department for tubes of pre-minced product. You also may be able to find small cubes in the freezer section.
- If you like spicy things, you can add Thai chili peppers to the soup before it simmers. One or two should be just enough to add a little heat.
Substitutions & Other Variations
- You can make this soup with other kinds of seafood, too. When adding other fish, you can cook filets right in the soup and flake off pieces once it’s cooked through.
- You could also use chicken in this recipe and replace the stock with chicken stock.
- Sometimes tamarind is used instead of lime juice.
- Green onion substitutes include chives and leeks.
How To Make Cambodian Coconut Shrimp Soup
- The recipe above is a brothy sweet and sour soup that isn’t very creamy. If you would like to add a creaminess to this soup, you can easily do so.
- The best way to add creaminess to this soup is to use full fat coconut milk. Sure, you can use low fat coconut milk, too, but it definitely won’t be as flavorful or creamy.
- The best time to add coconut milk is right at the end. Make sure that your can of coconut milk isn’t separated before pouring it in. I like to run the can of coconut milk under very hot water for a few minutes and give it a good shake before opening it.
- If it’s still separated (the coconut fat on top of the liquid) simply pour the can into a small bowl and whisk it together.
- You can go ahead and add a whole can to the soup to boost the flavor. Always be sure to check the seasoning again and adjust as needed. Reheat the soup on low heat so that it doesn’t boil. If the soup boils, the coconut milk may separate.
Can You Freeze Cambodian Shrimp Soup?
This Cambodian shrimp soup will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Alternatively, you can freeze it so you can keep it for a longer period of time.
The best way to freeze the soup would be in air-tight containers. Something like a plastic deli cup would work really well. Let the soup come to room temperature before putting it in the freezer. To help this process, you can place the deli cups in an ice bath.
You can also freeze the shrimp stock in the same way. Shrimp stock is great to have on hand for many applications. Both the soup and the stock will be good to eat out of the freezer for up to six months.