A light yet hearty vegan Thai-style chowder that’s loaded with potato and corn and flavored with garlic, onions, ginger, chili peppers, and lemongrass.
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This post was originally published October 13, 2016 and updated August 10, 2017.
Is soup merely a cold-weather food? Not necessarily. Especially when it’s this Thai-Style Potato and Corn Chowder. It’s full of late summer vegetables like sweet corn and potatoes and accented with fragrant lemongrass. There’s nothing like fresh lemongrass and if you manage to get your hands on some – use it. We grew some lemongrass in a planter and I’ve been waiting all summer to try it out. I love this soup because it’s hearty but light, healthy, and satisfying at the same time. And the most important thing, of course, is that it’s super delicious.
The key to this (and any soup recipe) are the aromatics. This is the stuff that gives soups, stews, and chowders all their flavor. The aromatics used in this recipe are garlic, onions, ginger, jalapeno peppers, and lemongrass. I love chopping garlic and onions – I find it kind of meditative and relaxing. And the flavor they give off when they hit the pan is worth all the effort. Mince 6 cloves garlic, 1 small white onion, and 1-2 jalapeno peppers (wear gloves to prevent ‘hot pepper hands‘). Remove the seeds from the peppers for less heat. Chili peppers would work just as well. I prefer to grate ginger into my recipes as opposed to mincing it. I find chunks of ginger to be a little aggressive, but love the flavor overall. So, the ginger is left whole until it’s time to grate. The potatoes can be chopped at this time as well. Chop 8-10 small red potatoes (Yukon Gold work great also) into a relatively uniform size to ensure even cooking. Cut the kernels off of 3 cobs of sweet corn (about 2 cups).
If you’ve never used lemongrass before, you’re in for a treat. Lemongrass is a grassy herb that’s used mainly in Asian dishes like soups and curries. It tastes kind of lemony and floral. It’s actually pretty easy to grow and can be found at most grocery stores in the produce section or in an Asian supermarket. The lemongrass that you find in a store will likely be larger in size than what you grow at home. One stalk of store-bought lemongrass should be enough for this recipe. I used 3-4 stalks of freshly picked lemongrass because it’s much smaller in size. To use, peel off the outer fibrous layers. All the flavor is in the inner ‘stalk’ part of the plant. Take the inner portion of the lemongrass and ‘score’ it with a knife. You basically want to bruise it to release some of the oils. The stalk will be left whole in the soup and removed once it’s finished cooking. But, feel free to whack that thing with a knife for the time being.
Once all of that is out of the way, you can start making the chowder. On medium, heat a Tbsp. or so of coconut oil in a soup pan or Dutch oven Once heated, add the garlic, onion, and jalapeno peppers. Take an inch or so of ginger (peeled) and grate into the pan with a microplane. Saute the aromatics for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Once they’re nice and fragrant, add the chopped potatoes along with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Saute the potatoes for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. You may need to add some vegetable stock to deglaze if the potatoes start to stick to the bottom.
After the potatoes are sauteed, add 2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock and the lemongrass. Crank the heat a little higher than medium. Cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 10 minutes or so, add a heaping cup of coconut milk and the 2 cups of fresh corn. Reduce heat slightly and continue to cook uncovered for another 10-12 minutes. The starch from the corn and potatoes will thicken the chowder a bit and give you that rich consistency that you want in a chowder. You can always add more vegetable stock to thin it out if it gets too thick for you. Taste the soup as it cooks to adjust the salt levels. If you find it too spicy, add some sugar.
Once the chowder has finished cooking, remove the lemongrass stalks. The lemongrass itself is inedible, but the flavor from the stalk will have perfumed the chowder. The potatoes should be soft, but not mushy. The broth should be fragrant, slightly sweet, a little spicy, and a bit earthy. Pour yourself a couple of scoops and top it off with some freshly squeezed lime. I would argue that the lime is necessary. The acidity makes all the other flavors pop. Finish it with some chopped chives or your herb of choice.
Honestly, this is one of my favorite soup recipes. I love that it’s so satisfying and hearty but still kind of light and definitely healthy. It’s both vegetarian and vegan. And that lemongrass – there’s just nothing like it. I’m really glad we planted a big bunch of it because this soup is getting made again. Soon.
Pottery by Bill Gossman.
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- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 small white onion
- 1 inch ginger peeled
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers
- 1 stalk store-bought fresh lemongrass or 3-4 stalks freshly picked lemongrass
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 8-10 small red potatoes or Yukon Gold
- 2 cups sweet corn
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 heaping cup coconut milk
- Generous pinch salt and pepper
- 2 limes
- 1/4 cup chopped chives for garnish
Finely chop garlic, onion, and jalapeno peppers (remove seeds for less heat).
- Remove outer leaves from lemongrass stalk. Score or bruise the inner portion of the stalk to release the oils.
Chop the potatoes to a uniform size to ensure even cooking. Cut the kernels off 3 cobs of sweet corn. Set aside.
- Heat Dutch oven or soup pan to medium and add 1 Tbsp. coconut oil.
Add chopped garlic, onion, and jalapeno peppers.
- Grate 1 inch piece of peeled ginger into pot with a microplane.
- Saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
Add potatoes and a generous pinch of salt and pepper to pan and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Deglaze pan with vegetable stock if potatoes stick when cooking.
- Add vegetable stock and lemongrass to pan and increase heat to slightly higher than medium.
Cook for 10 minutes (covered), stirring occasionally.
Add coconut milk and sweet corn.
Reduce heat and cook for an additional 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. The starch from the corn and potatoes will help to create a 'creamy' texture.
- Remove lemongrass before serving *lemongrass is inedible*
Serve in bowls with freshly squeezed lime wedges and chopped chives or herb of choice.
Chili peppers may be used instead of jalapenos. Remember to remove seeds for less heat.