Quick Lotus Stem Coconut Milk Fish Soup (Tom Sai Bua)

On a cool rainy day (few of those in Southern Thailand, but we do have them!) this is the perfect Thai soup to put a smile on your face!

How To Make Delicious Lotus Stem Coconut Milk Fish Soup

Lotus stem and Mackerel in coconut cream soup! (ต้มสายบัว ปลาทูนึ่ง, called shortly as Tom Saai Bua Sai Gati) “Sai” means put in or on.

I can’t believe this is my first try to make this delicious soup from my youth, and it turned out so well. I and my new lovely neighbor have been exchanging food back and forth to see who can give more. No one is winning yet, but she never stops bringing food and snacks and I have to keep up!

Most of the time, they are the desserts she can’t sell at the market and needs someone to help eat them. Well, she came to the right family!

That’s how it started before I made this Tom Sai Bua. I love my genius idea for not crushing the chilies into small pieces. 😛 This is so my daughter Mali, can eat them. My mom could eat the whole chili if she wanted it spicy. Those little baby chilies can really burn your brain, I guarantee!

Tom Sai Bua Ingredients (Group 1)

Chilies – as many as you like (or can stand!)
8 cloves Shallot
2 Lemongrass stalks (cut and crushed)
4 Kaffir lime leaves
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Stock powder
2 tbsp. Palm sugar (you can use regular white sugar if you don’t have it)
2 tbsp. Fish sauce
250 ml thick Coconut Cream (fresh squeezed is better, but it’s ok using instant coconut cream)

Ingredients (Group2)

2 cups cut Lotus flower stems (or morning glory stems)
2 small Mackerel fish (steamed and throw away the bones). You can use any kind of small fish, mackerel are not the best-tasting fish for most people as they are a little fishy smelling and tasting. But any small fish works. Even a big fish works!

Cook group 1 on medium heat and bring to a boil.
Then add group 2, use low fire and wait until the soup is boiling and it’s done! Serve to your family and friends with pride, knowing that they’ll love it! We love it anyway.

I wonder if you can get morning glory stems or lotus stems in your location. My hubby said his mother grew them in the yard sometimes in the summer in Pennsylvania. Can you leave a comment?

Is Morning Glory available in stores around your home? Or, could you grow it?

Substitution for lotus or morning glory is artichoke. You’ll have to cook them longer because they are thicker, but probably even MORE delicious than what we have here. Artichokes in Thailand are super expensive in our area.

Tom Sai Bua soup with the vegetable ingredients.
Well, here is the soup with the fish sunk down to the bottom! ©JoysThaiFood.com

Take a photo when you finish! Use extreme filters to bring out color and show it to the world! The Thai world if possible. It is such a mouthwatering recipe your Thai friend can’t help but run to the rice cooker, and scoop some steamed Jasmine rice to eat with this Tom Sai Bua!

Where Did Tom Sai Bua Originate?

Sources disagree about where exactly Tom Sai Bua originated, but we think it came from the Southern Thai province of Surat Thani. In this province, there are millions of lotus flowers and of course, lotus stems, a key ingredient in this dish.

Thai Tom Sa Bua, also known as Tom Sai Bua Luang, is a hearty and flavorful Thai soup made with lotus stems, pork, shrimp, tomatoes, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, chilies, and coconut milk. It is a popular dish in Southern Thailand and is almost always served with rice as is everything in this country!

Thais love the flavor of Tom Sa Bua. It is a flavorful and hearty soup that hits the spot on a cool day, and while there aren’t many of them in Thailand, we do get them. That said, we often eat this soup on hot days too!

Tom Sai Bua Variations

Some Thai recipes for this soup that we’ve seen call for adding other ingredients like mushrooms, carrots, or green beans. If you want, you can change the main food from fish to meat or poultry. We think it’s best with small fish!

Cost of Tom Sai Bua Soup in Thailand Restaurants

The cost of Tom Sai Bua in a restaurant in Thailand varies depending on the style of the restaurant and the location. It’s easily affordable for most people and the range is between 50 to 200 Thai baht (approximately $1.50 to $6.00 USD) per plate.

Sample Prices

Street food stall: 50 Thai baht
Small, local restaurant: 100 Thai baht
Upscale restaurant: 150-200 Thai baht
Restaurant in a tourist area: 200+ Thai baht