Anti-microbial · Entree · HIV · Recipe · Science · Soup

Fight the common cold and more with Souper soup: Part 3, Spicy shrimp coconut curry

Spicy coconut shrimp curry
Thai-inspired spicy shrimp coconut curry

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I had Thai food. With apprehension I sat down at a small table in a Thai restaurant located in Squirrel Hill, a neighborhood just outside of downtown Pittsburgh. I decided to order Pineapple chicken curry since I knew that, at the very least, I liked two of the main ingredients in the recipe’s title. The waiter took one look at me and said, “you are a level 4 for spiciness”…I didn’t argue. I sat back, took a sip of green tea and awaited my fate. After one bite, I couldn’t believe what I had been missing. The melding of flavors (a little sweet, a little spicy, and even some floral notes) really blew me away.

With this recipe, I’ve tried to echo some of the flavors that I fell in love with in that first dish. This curry consists primarily of coconut milk, vegetable broth and lots of herbs and spices.  I think it is very flexible in terms of which protein and veg to include, so don’t be afraid to try different combinations according to your own palate.

Finally, I want to highlight the nutritional benefits of one of the star ingredients from this recipe and last week’s dessert…coconut milk. Coconut milk is a traditional ingredient in many curries and island-fare, but until now, I had never really given it much thought. However, after doing some research, I am now a bona fide “coconut crusader”, dedicated to incorporating more coconut into my diet and spreading the knowledge regarding the power of the coconut.

Coconut milk, oil and flesh has a high amount of lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid that is known to have high anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Lauric acid is also present at high levels in breast milk and is believed to be one of the main lines of defense provided from mother to child (see table below with the breakdown). Once ingested, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin, a monoester, which has been tested quite extensively for it’s anti-microbial properties. The best part…monolaurin does not seem to hurt the normal bacteria that line our digestive tract, which means less unpleasant side affects than normal antibiotics.

Here is just a short list of  the bugs, viruses and fungi that monolaurin has been reported to negatively affect:

  • Staphylococcus areus (both antibiotic-sensitive and antibiotic-resistant stains!!) and other gram-positive bacteria
  • Group A Streptococcus (the bacteria that causes Strep throat)
  • Ringworm
  • Candida albicans (responsible for urinary tract infections)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Measles
  • Herpes simplex-1 and -2 (Herpes)
  • Influenza (Common flu)
  • Pneumonovirus

I think I was most impressed by monolaurin’s anti-HIV affects! One study showed that 50% (7 out of 14) HIV-positive patients showed a general decrease in the overall viral load (a common measurement used to assess disease progression) following treatment with either 50 ml of coconut oil or purified monolaurin. It’s important to point out though that even thought the general trend showed a decrease, statistical significance was only observed in 2 of the coconut oil-treated patients and 1 of the monolaurin-treated patients. Despite the buzz kill that statistics tends to have…it’s pretty impressive stuff from a naturally-occuring food product! Check out this amazing testimonial!

Excited to start fighting those mangy bacteria and viruses?

Here is the breakdown of the lauric acid content in coconut products and other milks:

  • Coconut cream, raw…37 grams/cup
  • Coconut cream, canned…23.3 grams/cup
  • Fresh grated coconut, packed…19.4 grams/cup
  • Whole milk…0.23 grams/cup
  • Breast milk…up to 12% of it’s fat consist of lauric acid

**Something to keep in mind, at this time it is not clear how much of lauric acid is converted into monolaurin inside the body. So, the more coconut the merrier. 🙂


  • 1 lb shrimp
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger (grated)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Coconut oil (enough to cover bottom of soup pot…another great source of lauric acid!)
  • 4 cups organic, low sodium vegetable broth
  • 13.5 oz unsweetened coconut milk (full fat)
  • 2.5 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tbs coconut sugar* (if you are strict paleo, feel free to omit or use whatever sweetener you find acceptable)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp red curry paste
  • 8 oz. mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 jalapeno (minced, seeds removed)
  • Red pepper flakes (add according to your taste preference)
  • Handful of fresh basil, cilantro and parsley (chopped)
  • Green onions for garnish (sliced)


  • Thaw shrimp, peel and set aside
  • Add olive oil to soup pot on medium-high heat
  • Saute garlic and ginger in oil for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant and slightly browned
  • Add vegetable broth, coconut milk, fish sauce, coconut sugar, lime juice and red curry paste
  • Bring soup to a rolling boil and cook for around 5-10 minutes, while you are prepping the other ingredients
  • Add the red pepper, mushrooms and jalapeno
  • Continue to cook on medium-high heat until the red pepper and mushrooms starts to get tender (~10 minutes)
  • Taste here, if you desire more heat add in the red pepper flakes
  • Right before you are ready to serve, add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink
  • Ladle soup into bowl, garnish with green onion and serve
  • Enjoy!

P.S.: If you are ever in Pittsburgh, check out Bangkok Balcony

Helpful links:


7 thoughts on “Fight the common cold and more with Souper soup: Part 3, Spicy shrimp coconut curry

  1. This soup looks delicious. This is great information about coconut – which I happen to love. I recently came across a recipe for a lo-cal pina colada which called for coconut water instead of milk. Does the water contain the same properties? (We all know how good rum is for you!)

    1. I had to look this up to be sure, but YES! coconut water does contain lauric acid and should act in the same way. So, I guess this means it’s time for pina coladas!!! 🙂

  2. We made this recipe for our New Year’s Eve dinner and I could not get enough of it! We substituted chicken for the shrimp (I’m not a fan of seafood), but everything was still perfectly balanced and was quite simply an explosion of delicious in every bite. Recommend without hesitation. It also makes great leftovers!

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