Asian Coconut Noodle Soup

October 2, 2009


Sometime in my past, early childhood, I fell in love with noodle soup.  It was Campbell’s of course because that’s what noodle soup was in the suburbs in the 1970’s.  My mom would make me a bowl and I would eat it very carefully: broth first, then chicken, then the beloved noodles.  I thought it was the most delicious thing in the world.

Then I discovered Top Ramen.  More noodles and none of that pesky chicken!  (I never liked meat, even as a child.)  It was the first thing I ever made for myself and I would make it as often as my mom would let me.  I ate Top Ramen and Cup of Noodles into my early 20’s when I realized how unhealthy and fattening those two products are.  There was a noodle soup lull in my life until I met Randy who introduced me to pho.

Pho is a Vietnamese soup that uses rice noodles and various cuts of meat.  In the Northwest, most places will have vegetarian option made with tofu and often various vegetables.  Pho is the only food that Randy introduced me to rather than vice versa and I am eternally grateful.  A bowl of pho comes to your table relatively plain.  It is up to you to flavor it up with lime, chiles, cilantro, Thai basil, bean sprouts, Sriacha, and other types of hot sauce which are usually provided for you.

I have tried without success to make my own pho at home – I just can’t get the flavor of the broth right.  I have a terrible sneaking suspicion that the broth at my local joint isn’t actually vegetarian in which case {plugs ears with fingers} la la la!  I can’t hear you!

Ahem.  Anyway, just because I can’t master pho doesn’t mean I don’t make noodle soups.  I make lots of them actually and this is a favorite.  Sweet potato may seem like an unlikely ingredient in an Asian soup but it’s sweetness and texture is most welcome here.  The original recipe calls for a whole head of Napa cabbage which is just too much for me.  I just put in a bit and add tofu to make the soup even more filling and healthy.


One Year Ago:  Some talk about weight and Fruit and Spice Granola

Asian Coconut-Cabbage Soup with Lemongrass
Adapted from Food and Wine
4 Servings

Ingredient notes:  Napa cabbage is the elongated one with the ruffle-y leaves.  For this soup you will want thin rice-stick noodles, the ones that are about angel hair width, not the Pad Thai noodles.  5 tablespoons does sound like a lot of soy sauce, but you will want at least that much and possibly more.

About 14 cups water
6 oz. dried rice-stick noodles
1 tbsp. peanut or canola oil
1 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
2 stalks lemongrass – top third discarded, tough outer leaves trimmed, minced
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
10 oz. extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch dice
5 tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
6 leaves Napa cabbage, thinly sliced cross-wise
1 -14oz. can “lite” coconut milk
Juice of one lime, plus lime wedges for serving
1 large bunch cilantro, tough stems discarded, tender stems and leaves chopped

1.  Bring 8 cups of water to a boil.  Remove from the heat, add the rice noodles and let soak until the noodles are softened, about 4 minutes.  Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

2.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the ginger and lemongrass and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the remaining 6 cups of water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the sweet potatoes, tofu, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper and season with salt.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 7-10 minutes.

3.  Add the cabbage and coconut milk and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.  Stir in the lime juice and cilantro.  Add the noodles and stir until heated through.  Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with lime wedges.


  1. I am ready for soup season. This looks delicious and comforting. I made vegetarina pho before, not sure if it tasted authentic, but it was might tasty. Here is the link:

    Comment by Maria — October 2, 2009 @ 10:08 pm

  2. I could dive right into that bowl with a big spoon! YUM! I’ve had chicken pho and it is so good. Someday I’ll learn to make it.

    Comment by Katie @ goodLife {eats} — October 2, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

  3. ah yes, a soup for fall. I am jealous of your cooling weather!

    Comment by Sprouted Kitchen — October 2, 2009 @ 11:56 pm

  4. we are big fans of noodle soups..especially after watching kungfu panda! and im afraid your suspicion maybe be right about pho – plug your ears! – beef stock and fish sauce!

    Comment by Veggie Belly — October 3, 2009 @ 3:15 am

  5. I just want to dive into that bowl of soup, and it’s 83 degrees outside…at 9 pm… (sigh). I love your recipes and your pictures.

    Comment by Chef Gwen — October 3, 2009 @ 4:06 am

  6. Yum, I love Pho. Cabbage and Sweet Potato sound perfect for it… I’m continuing my soup-obsession of late, so I’ll have to add this one to the list.

    Comment by Ele — October 3, 2009 @ 9:48 am

  7. My mom was buying Campbell’s soup by the dozen. Now I way prefer homemade. That Pho looks so delicious.

    Comment by Hélène — October 4, 2009 @ 1:23 am

  8. I love this kind of soup and now is definitely soup weather! Yum.

    Comment by kickpleat — October 4, 2009 @ 7:43 pm

  9. Hail the soups! This one looks delicious, especially with the adittion of lemongrass. Yummy! Oh, and the sweet potato looks beautiful with the broth. I bet its sweetness paired perfectly with the coconut milk. Great combination!

    Comment by Eralda — October 5, 2009 @ 3:20 am

  10. Yum! This is right up my alley. I’m certain my kids won’t like it more than Top Ramen, but I sure will.

    P.S. I’ve tried making my own pho, too, and it’s not NEARLY as good. Since I can get a big bowl for $4, I’ve given up.

    Comment by The Leftoverist — October 5, 2009 @ 8:19 pm

  11. Now that the weather is getting cold I am always looks for soupy recipes, love you noddle dish, with coconut milk…I’ll definitely give a try :-)

    Comment by Juliana — October 5, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

  12. Oh Dana I love what you said about the broth maybe not being vegetarian. I try to eat vegetarian all the time but there are those times where I think something might have been made with a meat broth but do the exact same thing as you (like in cream sauces in restaurants). You just made me feel a lot better about it! This soup looks awesome. I’m not a big fan of noodle soups in general but I really love Asian noodles soups with tofu and greens, and the coconut milk in there sounds amazing.

    Comment by Ashley — October 6, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

  13. Just finished my 3rd leftover bowl… mmmm! I love the broth on this one!

    Comment by fresh365 — October 20, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

  14. I’ve never bought lemongrass before. where do you get it?

    Comment by Meredith — October 29, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

  15. Looks delicious. I just had a bowl of pho last week at a new Vietnamese place in DC and just adore it. Thanks for the recipe.

    Comment by Erin — November 17, 2009 @ 4:11 am

  16. […] Asian Coconut Noodle Soup « Dana Treat – Treat Yourself […]

    Pingback by Latest asian food news – Asian Coconut Noodle Soup « Dana Treat – Treat Yourself — March 3, 2010 @ 4:08 am

  17. I loved the mention of top ramen, i’ve been healthy, eating green foods and watching everything , but top ramen is something i’ve missed for ages. This recipe took me back years, thank you.

    Comment by Shelly — March 15, 2011 @ 3:48 am

  18. Hi, my husband and I really enjoyed this recipe. We did add Sriracha to ours though. Thanks for sharing this recipe.

    Comment by Shannon — March 30, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

Leave a comment