One of the myths of Thai cuisine is that it’s all super hot and spicy. Nothing could be further from the truth. A great example is this Thai vegetable soup (called Gaeng Jued in Thailand) which is a super simple recipe that’s frequently given to those that are plagued with some form of digestive complaint. Gaeng Jued in Thailand means “plain” or “bland” soup. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t taste good!
Unlike more popular Thai soups like Tom Yum Goong and Tom Kha Gai, this recipe isn’t well-known in the world of Southeast Asian soup recipes. It’s certainly not featured in Thai restaurants outside of Thailand. It’s more of a traditional recipe, good for gut issues, and very light and simple with not a lot of ingredients.
Light broth-based Thai soups with only a handful of herbs and seasonings can be just as flavorful as more complex soups with many ingredients. For example, curries can contain well over a dozen different types of herbs, spices, and roots, all of which blend wonderfully. But you’d be hard-pressed to identify the lemongrass or any other ingredient. With Gaeng Jued and other Thai broth-based soups, you can really identify specific flavors and learn to really appreciate their fragrance and flavor.
You can also make this Thai vegetable soup heartier with the addition of jasmine rice, rice noodles, glass noodles, and pork meatballs. Yes, I said pork meatballs. And yes, in the picture above, those are pork meatballs.
Let us discuss. 🙂
In Thailand, pork meatballs are frequently included in vegetable soups. They’re even included in recipes like Jok, which is a simple breakfast congee. That may seem a little odd for what’s considered light and plain meals, but meat is viewed as extremely healthy in Thailand, including pork.
Nor is this soup (or any Thai soup for that matter) overloaded with meat. Most soups have small amounts of meat that act in balance with the other elements of the soup. Because bone broth is a good source of amino acids it’s considered to have what’s called a “protein-sparing effect.” What that means is that it reduces the body’s need for protein. Perhaps this is why so many Asian soups contain small to moderate amounts of meat.
You could certainly leave out the meatballs if you want. Many versions of this Thai vegetable soup use tofu in place of pork (and many include both).
Either way, this recipe can be used to help a wide variety of digestive complaints such as heartburn, GERD, IBS, bloating, inflammation, and excess gas.
Because again, Gaeng Jued means more of a plain soup broth-based soup. I see sooooo many Thai vegetable soup recipes online that include coconut milk and curry pastes like red curry paste. Some recipes include curries that are not even Thai curries, like Madras curry or some other Indian-style curry.
For the most part, those recipes are meant for Western vegans and vegetarians. Nothing wrong with that! Thai vegetarian soup and Thai vegan soup recipes are all well and good. But it should be noted that in Thailand, Thai vegetable soup is typically broth-based and does not include coconut milk, curry pastes and/or lots of spices.
Speaking of bone broth…
Another aspect of a Thai vegetable soup that can be surprising is that the broth is typically not a vegetable broth. Yes, being a vegetarian in Thailand can be confusing and frustrating. The benefits of bone broth are highly valued in Thailand and most Thai soups usually include some form of meat broth like chicken or pork.
And because this is a broth-based soup, a really flavorful bone broth is really going to make a difference. For that reason, I do recommend making your own homemade broth. If you choose to use a store-bought product, just make sure it’s a good quality one.
As for the best type of bone broth, because this is a Thai vegetable soup, a Thai-style bone broth is really the best type of bone broth. All that means is including a few Thai vegetables and herbs like lemongrass, garlic, and shallots to give it more of a Thai character. Check out my Thai bone broth post for a simple recipe.
Many Thai vegetable soup recipes include Napa cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, and green onions.
But feel free to experiment with any Asian veggies if you have an Asian market nearby. Different types of bamboo shoots, radishes, mushrooms, gourds, root vegetables, greens, and celery are frequently found in the produce section and would all be perfectly fine to use.
You could also go with vegetables like red bell pepper, green beans, bok choy, and spinach.
I should also mention that this recipe is also included in my cookbook, The Thai Soup Secret, as well as 39 other super simple, authentic, healthy, Thai soups!
Transform Your Health with Thailand’s #1 Superfood!
Includes 40 restorative recipes for broths, congees, and soups. All gluten and dairy-free!
The recipes are all broth-based, gluten-free, and really emphasize using good-quality ingredients. Most are designed to be supportive of good digestive health. They’re also designed to be easy to make. For that reason, there are no coconut curries, which, as delicious as they are, can be heavy, overly sweet, and somewhat complicated to make from scratch.
This list includes some additional recipes from the cookbook:
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.