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Kaeng liang - Breast milk boosting soup

Kaeng Liang - Breastmilk Booster Shrimp & Veggie Soup! แกงเลียง


  • 3 cups chicken stock or shrimp stock, unsalted, preferably homemade
  • 1 recipe kaeng liang curry paste (recipe follows)
  • 23 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 cups kabocha squash, unpeeled, bite-sized pieces
  • Half an angled luffa (sing gua) or half a large zucchini
  • Half a chayote squash, peeled and cut into sticks (or sub more angled luffa or zucchini)
  • 150g oyster mushrooms, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 6 ears baby corn, quartered (optional)
  • 150g shrimp or chicken (if using chicken, cut into cubes and marinate in a bit of fish sauce)
  • 1 cup Thai lemon basil or Thai basil (see note)
  • Jasmine rice for serving

Kaeng Liang Curry Paste

  • 1½ Tbsp dried shrimp
  • ½ - ¾ tsp white peppercorns (see note)
  • Heaping ¼ cup shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp grachai (fingerroot), finely chopped (see note)
  • 1-2 Thai chilies (optional, to taste)
  • ½ tsp fermented shrimp paste (gapi)

Ingredients & Kitchen Tools I Use


For the Curry Paste:

Note: I make the paste in a mortar and pestle old-school, but you can also blend everything in the blender with a little bit of the stock. 

  1. In a coffee grinder, grind the dried shrimp until shredded and fluffy; set aside.
  2. In the mortar and pestle, grind white peppercorns until fine.
  3. Add grachai and Thai chilies, and pound until fine, then add shallots and pound until fine. If at any point the mixture becomes too wet and slippery and is difficult to grind, you can add some of the shredded dried shrimp to help absorb the moisture and add friction.
  4. Add the shrimp paste and any remaining dried shrimp and pound to mix.

For the Curry:

  1. In a medium pot, bring stock to a boil, then add curry paste and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add 2 Tbsp of fish sauce, then add kabocha squash and simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add all remaining vegetables and simmer for 3-4 more minutes or until the kabocha squash can be pierced easily with a fork. (Timing depends on thickness of your kabocha.)
  4. Add shrimp or chicken and cook just until they’re done, about 30 seconds only.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in Thai of lemon basil.
  6. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more fish sauce or salt as needed. If you want it to be spicier, you can add more ground white pepper at this point.
  7. Serve with jasmine rice. I like to put a bit of rice into a bowl of kaeng liang to make a rice soup out of it!

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Thai lemon basil is called bai mangluck in Thai. You may be able to find it at a Thai grocery store that stocks fresh produce. Otherwise Thai basil works well as a substitute.

This soup is supposed to be quite peppery, but if you're not used to it it maybe overwhelming, so start out with ½ tsp, and you can always add more after.

Grachai or Krachai is an aromatic rhizome what is used often in Thai cuisine. It's quite difficult to find fresh unless you have a Thai grocery store near you that stocks lots of fresh produce. But you can find a brined version in glass jars (shown in video), either whole or shredded, at many stores that stock a lot of Southeast Asian products. Note that the label may say it is "pickled," but it's not, it's just brined in a salt solution (can't always trust the translation on Asian product labels!).

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