Thai-Style Salmon Chowder // Not Without Salt

Unsure how to proceed I set my sea-blue dutch oven on top of the stove. Regardless, of the uncertainty I turned on the flame and poured in a bit of oil. What I did know was that I wanted a soup much like, Tom Yum – bright, tart and fresh – but with salmon because that’s what my fridge had to offer.

Many of the Tom Yum recipes I read had you simply combining the ingredients with a stock and simmering. I liked the ease but saw a few opportunities to build in layers of flavor. So with a hot pan at the ready I decided to deeply caramelize the mushrooms so they would carry with them a roasted earthiness. Once sufficiently bronzed, garlic and ginger popped in the pan and danced around the bottom until their scent wafted up through the steam. At that point I proceeded along the recommended route.

Even with my additions the soup came together quickly, 30 minutes in all I’d say, but tasted as if it had been simmering on the stove all day; rich, complex and foreign flavors that comfort as if I had eaten it my whole life.

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder // Not Without Salt


Take care not to over cook the salmon, although I will say the leftovers still tasted great even though the salmon had grown a bit tough. And feel free to adjust the amount of fish sauce and lime juice. I like it briny and sour so my quantities reflect that.

One final quick thank you to those who joined the conversation from the last post. There was so much encouragement from you moms that have paved the way before those of us who still have young ones sitting at our table. Thank you for taking the time to offer a bit of hope and perspective. For those of you who could relate to my story of feeding a table filled with, shall we say, a lack of gratitude? 🙂 I really recommend you spend some time reading the comments. Each one comforted and reminded me of the grace that we can freely offer to one another knowing that the days are long, the job is hard but the years roll on and someday our table will be a bit less crowded. We are all shaky in this crazy role as parent and sometimes that shakiness produces harsh opinions and pointed fingers but here there was nothing but kindness and the sort of feeling that we are in it together. So, thank you. I really do love the community in this place. I’m happy to be a part of it.

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder // Not Without Salt

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder with Crispy Salmon Skin

Serves 4 to 6


2 tablespoons oil

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1 tomato, roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, large dice

2 stalks lemon grass, outer layer removed and cut into 3-inch pieces

10 kaffir lime leaves

1 quart chicken stock

1 can ( 13.5 ounces) coconut milk

8 ounces salmon, skin removed (but save for later), cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup lime juice


For serving:


lime wedges

crisped salmon skin


Set a large pot or dutch oven over high heat. Add the oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Saute the mushrooms until deeply bronzed, about 7 to 10 minutes. To that add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato, bell pepper, lime leaves and lemongrass. Cook until the tomatoes soften and release their juice and the bell peppers start to wilt.

Add the chicken stock and coconut milk and bring the whole pot to a simmer. Reduce the heat to keep a steady simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the salmon, fish sauce and lime juice and cook for just a minute or two, until the salmon is just cooked. It will continue to cook with the residual heat so be mindful of that.

Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. I tend to like the soup very bright and sour so you may want to start with a bit less fish sauce and fresh lime juice.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.


To crisp up the salmon skin add a small splash of oil to a large cast iron pan or skillet. Add the salmon skin to the pan set over medium high heat and cook until the sizzling steadies and decreases. Flip and do the same to the other side, about 3 minutes per side. Add a small pinch of salt to the skin. Cook until crisp.



28 Responses to “Thai-Style Salmon Chowder”

  1. Fred

    When I saw the picture I was thinking coconut milk, but it’s not in the recipe. Does the recipe as printed yield the white colored liquid or is something missing?

  2. erica

    At what point is the coconut milk added? Along with the chicken stock?

  3. Giulia Doyle

    Ashley, this looks wonderful and in a way like a deja vue. Last night I was driving home trying to figure out what to make with the basa I had defrosted for dinner. I didn’t want to bake it or fry it, so I decided to create a curried broth with tomatoes, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, cilantro, red curry, lemongrass and ginger and and with the fish it turned into great soup that the whole family enjoyed. I’ve given up meat for lent, so I’m trying to be more creative with my protein…

  4. Karen | Joyful Dinners

    I was just pondering on the idea that a post is either a food post or a prose post, but rarely is it both. And then I read this. Thank you on the brilliant lesson in how to write a food post that contains both beautiful prose and teaches technical lessons.

  5. Elizabeth

    I don’t think you know what burnish means, unless you were shining your mushrooms?

  6. Becky Kozak

    That soup looks like just what I needed today. I will be making myself some STAT! Love the flavour combo, and there’s something so serene about building flavours, isn’t there?

    xx B

  7. Charmaine

    My kind of meal…..not a meat eater – love salmon. Thanks for the great recipe.

  8. Abby

    Oh, Ashley, these photos are perfection!! And what a delicious looking recipe… I’ll have to keep this post in mind while planning future dinners. xx

  9. Laura Dembowski

    What a comforting salmon recipe! I also sometimes crisp the skin in the oven. 375-400 on a foil and parchment lined baking sheet. Takes about 10 minutes for perfect crispy goodness.

  10. sara forte

    so beautiful! I love all those colors and really like thai flavors with seafood. Your salmon picture is amazing. I think it’s really hard to make proteins look delicious but you magically do it every. time. You are a mother paving your way before me so I’m glad I’ll have you to defer to when I am in your shoes about oatmeal pickiness 😉

  11. mimi

    Love that you paired salmon with Thai flavors! I personally have to use curry paste to make something similar, because I can’t get my hands on kaffir lime leaves and the like, so I’m kind of jealous!

  12. Edlyn

    I left out the mushrooms and the red pepper and it was still so so so fabulous. Thank you for helping me out with a Monday night dinner. I felt so accomplished and it was the easiest flavourful meal of all time. Love this, Ashley.

  13. Edlyn

    Oh and that crispy salmon skin was – and I rarely use this expression because I’m Indian and it’s strange but whatever – off the chain.

  14. Rachele

    Ashley – This was simply delicious. I had put it on my menu for last Sunday’s dinner, and we ended up going out to an impromptu lunch at a really fun hot dog spot where we both ate way too much and swore that there was no way that we could possibly be hungry for dinner. Sure enough, when it approached the time to cook, I was not hungry, and so I didn’t do it. An hour or two passed, and my husband said “I guess we really aren’t having dinner, huh?” Sure he was subtly hinting that he wanted something, but I confidently said “NOPE!” – partially because I wasn’t that hungry, but mostly because I had already psyched myself up about not cooking. And then around 8:00, my own hunger took over, and I set to work making this soup. It was the perfect solution – easy, quick and I declared it to be my new comfort soup recipe. I loved that you made it extra sour and briny. Thank you for the recipe!

  15. Michelle Kohler

    Making this soon, and wondering what it would be like with fish stock instead of chicken stock. Did you experiment with both? Thanks for a great-looking recipe ….