5 Ingredients or Fewer

Yi Jun Loh’s One-Pot Coconut Water ABC Soup

January 23, 2019
20 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 50 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Writer and Food52 contributor Yi Jun Loh’s mom discovered this sleight-of-hand trick when his sister Jia went vegetarian, and the long-simmered chicken or pork-based soups that fed their family in Malaysia needed to be rethunk. Jun, a reformed chemical engineer who trained at culinary school and restaurants like Blue Hill, recognized the brilliance of this substitution, experimented with it further himself, and then—lucky us!—sent it our way. “There's clearly some sort of liquid magic happening here,” Jun wrote. “Sure, it does taste slightly different, but the depth and richness it adds to the broth simply blows my mind.” You can use this trick to quickly give a backbone to any soup or stew, but this ABC soup—the Malaysian version of the classic simple chicken soup—is a very good place to start. Adapted very slightly from Yi Jun Loh of the blog Jun & Tonic. —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Yi Jun Loh’s One-Pot Coconut Water ABC Soup
  • 4 cups water
  • 8 cups (~2 litres) coconut water, divided
  • 3 medium white or yellow onions, peeled and quartered
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks (we especially like starchy Russets for this)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 medium tomatoes, quartered (drained canned tomatoes are fine)
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon crushed white peppercorn, or to taste
  1. In a deep pot, combine the water, half of the coconut water (4 cups), and salt. Bring this to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer.
  2. Add the onions and potatoes into the pot, and let it simmer on very low heat, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Then, add in the carrots and tomatoes, and let it simmer for a further 20 to 30 minutes. The vegetables should all be close to falling apart at this point, which is perfect; it really adds to that heart-warming, rustic texture of soup that we just love!
  3. Add in the crushed peppercorns and the rest of the coconut water, and bring the soup to a final boil. Season to taste with salt, and serve piping hot.
  4. Let your heart and soul be full!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sam1148
  • Grace Moon
    Grace Moon
  • Claudia Auger
    Claudia Auger
  • Kristen Miglore
    Kristen Miglore
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

19 Reviews

fearlessem April 9, 2022
This was not a win for me. I may have contributed by slicing the onions (thickly) instead of quartering. But followed the recipe to the letter otherwise and the broth was just so sweet (I think from the onions, which were *not* vidalias) I found it super unappealing. And I thought the texture of the russets was really unappealing -- think a Yukon gold would be much better.
Sam1148 April 8, 2022
Try this again with making your own coconut water. For those of us without access to large amounts of coconut water. We can steep readily available shredded coconut (A bit of salt and sugar added) in hot water and then strain out the solids.
Central P. April 8, 2022
Thank you Sam 1148, I did just as you suggested turning shredded coconut into water, and you are brilliant! A Soup Savior, indeed. Do you have any suggestions for this soaked coconut? Is the soaked coconut good to use in a say a baked oatmeal coconut cookie? Or is it devoid of all flavors.
Thanks for sharing.
Central P. March 12, 2022
This soup was so very delicious. I did modify a few ingredients, but kept the coconut water water broth ratio. I’m allergic to alliums, onions, leeks shallots, garlic. I’ve learned to substitute giant fennel bulbs with much success ! I replaced the onions with the chopped fennel bulb, plus added 1 celery stalk, just because I like it in soups. And I added a drained rinsed can of chickpeas, I didn’t have fresh tomatoes, but, on the video she suggested can tomatoes can be used in a pinch, so I plucked whole San Marzano tomatoesm from the 28oz. can, sliced then in 1/2 and reserved the juices for another recipe. We absolutely loved this soup. Many rave reviews and requests to repeat the recipe. Thank you Food52 for another winning recipe.
hibargerj June 6, 2020
Thinking of adding rice vermicelli noodles to this. Anyone already tried it?
KS February 23, 2019
Stunning. As surprising and simple as you said it was. I’m thinking of adding a few thin slices of very fresh ginger root. What do you think? Also, if I want to add some green to this soup sometimes, would you recommend a very fast-cooking leaf like spinach or even lettuce, added at the end? Or something sturdier, added earlier?
Kristen M. February 25, 2019
Ginger sounds lovely, as do light, fast-cooking greens to go with this delicate broth. Bok choy could be another good option—I'd throw the chopped stems in partway through to soften and absorb the delicious broth and the chopped greens in for the last couple minutes.
KS February 25, 2019
Baby bok choy! Perfect, thanks. I may try some Bibb lettuce another time—I’ve been experimenting with cooking veggies we usually eat raw. Hmm...maybe some small, white radishes with the potatoes...
Kristen M. February 25, 2019
YES. Both of those would be perfect, too, or little sweet turnips when they show up in spring.
m.sharpe February 20, 2019
the BEST soup that i've made in a long time! it's incredibly satisfying, the broth is unreal and it's so simple! i also cut the onions into 1/8ths instead of 1/4s and we didn't have white pepper so just used a few cracks of black. when the soup was done i wondered if i should have halved the recipe bc it yields a lot but im so glad i didn't bc it went fast and i wish we had more :) don't hesitate, you won't regret it!
Lynn February 2, 2019
I was skeptical....this looked too easy and fast with too few ingredients to have the nuance of flavor and complexity promised. What an awesome surprise! This soup does seem magical, so very rich and complex. This is the PERFECT gift to bring to a sick vegan friend, or to serve to anyone. It is delicious, rich, flavorful and comforting. This soup practically makes itself. Thank you for this truly genius recipe. (I used one very jumbo yellow onion and 4 LARGE russet potatoes. The yield was 7-8 servings).
Grace M. January 28, 2019
I love how you can taste the subtlety of the coconut water's aroma infused in the ingredients which are all so healthful and leave you feeling whole, comforted and full. The crushed white peppercorns are what really give a kick to the soup though; I added in a little more than suggested to produce a really refreshing heat. No more canned chicken noodle soup! I'm making Yi Jun Loh's soup from here on when I feel under the weather (or not..would enjoy it anytime, really.)
Stuart January 27, 2019
I loved the simplicity of this recipe. Just a few everyday items with minimal prep time. The broth is dreamy. Next time I’ll use less onion and more potato, and I’ll cut the onion into eights instead of quarters.
George R. January 23, 2019
The soup looks great! I have been searching for exactly the kind of glass pitch/beaker you used in the video. Can you share where I can buy one?
Kristen M. January 23, 2019
Hi George, our art director is always collecting vintage props/kitchen gear like this. I would keep an eye out in flea markets and antique shops, or you could try searching on Etsy—this one looks kind of similar: https://www.etsy.com/listing/639969506/kodak-beaker-measuring-glass-32oz
Claudia A. January 23, 2019
Might one strain and freeze this as stock? Or is it meant only to be enjoyed fresh?
Kristen M. January 23, 2019
I think the fresh flavor of the coconut water might diminish somewhat, but the soup should still taste good after freezing (it was still great after a few days in the fridge). But I also wouldn't want to lose the vegetables cooked in it by straining—they're not simmered long enough to lose their flavor and they're very comforting.
AK January 23, 2019
Does the final soup taste at all like coconut?
Kristen M. January 23, 2019
Not strongly. It tastes a bit like coconut water, if you've tasted that before, but the salt, simmered vegetables, and white pepper balance it very nicely.