Rotating Shrimp Balls (and coconut milk) in Hot & Sour Thai Broth

Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp Broth with Coconut Milk

This amazing mix-and-match shrimp event started as many things in Gourmandistan do, with dim sum. Our successful shao mai, semi-successful har gow and further representations of our growing repertoire created quite a pile of shrimp shells. Steve, taking inspiration from Conor Bofin, decided he would maximize the value of the wild-caught, non-frozen shrimp and make shrimp stock. (Stunning revelation on checking Conor’s post: Steve forgot to add bay leaf. The stock turned out OK anyway.) Michelle, seeing Steve’s proposal as adding another set of jars to our already stuffed refrigerator, decided to make a meal. Still feeling like something Asian (dim sum-making has had powerful effects on us), she turned to James Patterson’s Splendid Soups and decided to make this semi-simple recipe that was delicious in a variety of ways.

We say “semi-simple” because, as Conor notes, cleaning shellfish is quite a pain, and something Michelle in particular does not enjoy. However, once you’ve stripped the last bit of shell (and sh*t) from your shrimp, you’re really almost all the way home. Yes, wrangling hot oil to fry shrimp balls can be risky, but it’s nothing compared to cleaning the crustaceans. (Just ask Michelle, who’s an excellent fryer who has made Steve clean both of our last buys of shell-on shrimp.)

Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp Broth seasonings

The broth is everything we like about Thai: sour, spicy, hot, tangy and tasty. Using shrimp stock brings more shellfish flavor and a little more delicacy when the broth is plain. Throw in some hot, crunchy (and very clean) shrimp balls, however, and that hot Thai taste really starts to get interesting. Whether dropped in the soup or eaten on the side, the shrimp balls make a marvelous addition.

Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp Broth with Shrimp Balls

You can leave off the shrimp balls and stir in some coconut milk, making the soup rich and almost decadent.

Thai Hot and Sour Shrimp Broth with Coconut Milk

Add the shrimp balls with the milk and you’ll definitely have something sinful. So grit your teeth and get into cleaning the best shell-on shrimp you can find. Many marvelous soup meals await.


(adapted from James Patterson’s Splendid Soups)


  • Shells from about 1 lb. fresh shrimp
  • 1 shallot, peeled and halved
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 carrot, peeled

Place the shrimp shells in a roasting pan, along with shallot, celery and carrot.  Drizzle a little oil over if you want, but you don’t have to. Roast in a 400° oven for a half hour or so.

Remove from oven, and place mixture in a saucepan.  Cover with about 6 cups of water.  Simmer for about 2 hours, adding more water if it cooks down too much.



  • 6 c. shrimp broth base (or pork or chicken broth)
  • 3-4 chilies (preferably Thai chilies, but jalapeños or others will do), seeded and finely chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • Slice of ginger
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, very thinly shredded
  • Piece of lemongrass, finely sliced (or, if nothing else is available, a dried slice)
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 c. fish sauce
  • White pepper
  • Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/4 c. cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. coconut milk (if not using shrimp balls)

Place broth, chilies, garlic, shallots, ginger, lime leaves and lemongrass in a pot.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in remainder of ingredients and cook for just a couple of minutes longer just until warmed.


  • 1 lb. shelled and deveined shrimp
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped 
  • 1-1/2 t. sesame oil
  • 1-1/2 TB grated ginger
  • 1 egg white
  • Pinch salt
  • Japanese bread crumbs (panko)
  • Peanut or vegetable oil for frying

Combine shrimp, garlic, scallions, sesame oil, ginger, egg white and salt in bowl of a food processor.  Pulse, scraping down sides between pulses, until the consistency of ground meat.

Refrigerate mixture, covered, for several hours or overnight.

Make balls, about a tablespoon in size.  Roll in bread crumbs and place on a plate. Hold in refrigerator until ready to fry.

Heat oil in a saucepan to about 350°.  Fry balls, several at a time, turning with a slotted spoon, until browned.  Drain on a rack.

Serve shrimp balls alongside or in soup.



  1. Eha

    A most delightful soup indeed! Which leaves me shaking my head like a good old sheepdog: hey, we are meant to lead you people to this, not you to us!! Love the broth, love the balls – but how come all this Asian influence amongst you all of a sudden 😀 ?

    • It’s funny, isn’t it? This has always been the way we cook most. But it feels a bit odd, coming from where we do, telling folks how to cook Asian so we’ve mostly avoided it.

      • Eha

        NO, never – we do not pretend our way is right! It is SO thrilling to see how you people half way across the world read it 🙂 ! Actually: it IS fun and healthy and exciting way to eat – even if we too get it ‘funny peculiar’ many a time 🙂 !

  2. Despite the trace of simmering resentment, it seems the factions in Gourmandistan have managed to set aside their differences through a cleverly negotiated division of labor – and a lovely soup. ken

  3. Excellent. I particularly like the decedent version. The good news is I have some of my stock left to try it. Thanks for the link. I can use (and occasionally abuse) all the visitors I can get.

    • Thanks, Roger. The Thai restaurants we’ve seen in France always seem to be Vietnamese really. Certainly not a bad thing, but reason enough to buy some fish sauce and coconut milk and enjoy it at home, eh?

  4. I love this. It’s true that cleaning shrimp is yucky but the rewards are so wonderful. I’ve never roasted my shrimp shells to make stock (I usually brown them in a pan) — I’ll have to try that. Also, I’ve been sick all week and humbly request a delivery. 🙂

  5. Lol for me its the other way, I find cleaning shellfish or even gutting my own fish theraputic and it gives me more quality control on what I want to do with it. Nice recipe you got there

  6. aaroscape

    *Sticks hand in the air* Oh oh oh, I’m for sinful! There is definitely something Thai in the air at the moment and I might take advantage of having a fridge (well, drawer) full of scuds (Thai chillies), lemon grass and galangal to have a go at making this. D’you think you could get away with baking/grilling/shallow frying those wee round shrimpy beauties instead of deep-frying?

  7. Is the soup Tom Kha Goong? I admit, peeling shrimp can be a pain when they are raw, but I delight in peeling them once they are cooked. I guess the patten of peel, eat, peel, eat is instantly gratifying.

    As for telling others how to cook Asian, I think everyone has a special point of view. I love reading exotic recipes from locals because they have a similar point of view and perhaps palate to me.

    • The recipe called the broth part (there made with chicken or pork broth) Gaeng Prik. Though, admittedly, it’s a cookbook by a French-trained American. So who knows?

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