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Spicy Red Lentil Coconut Soup with Shrimp Dumplings

Red lentils make a hearty addition to this surprisingly tangy and fragrant Asian-style coconut soup.

slideshow Warming Soup Recipes

  • Servings: 10

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  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 3 medium carrots, coarsely shredded
  • 2 medium red onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 medium leek, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 small fresh red chile, seeded and minced
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 3/4 cups unsweetened coconut milk
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves or six 1-inch strips of lime zest
  • 3/4 cup red lentils
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 small garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro


  1. In a small skillet, toast the fennel, cumin and coriander seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes; let cool. Transfer to a spice grinder and finely grind the spices.
  2. In a medium casserole, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the carrots, onions, leek, garlic, ginger and chile and cook over moderately high heat until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the ground spices and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes longer. Add the water, coconut milk and lime leaves and bring to a boil. Stir in the lentils and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a food processor, combine the garlic with the cilantro and mint and pulse until finely chopped. Add the shrimp and pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce and the sesame oil. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Using slightly moistened hands, roll teaspoons of the shrimp mixture into balls and arrange on a plastic wrap-lined plate.
  5. Add the shrimp dumplings and the 2 teaspoons of fish sauce to the casserole and simmer just until the dumplings are slightly pink and cooked, about 5 minutes. Remove the lime leaves. Stir in the lime juice and cilantro and serve, passing the fish sauce at the table.

Make Ahead

The soup can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated overnight. The shrimp balls can be refrigerated overnight.

Suggested Pairing

This rich, spicy soup demands a dry and fruity white such as a Sauvignon Blanc.

Contributed By Photo © Lisa Linder Published January 2002

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