Easy Cambodian Chicken Soup Recipe With Sweet And Savory Blend

Step into the heart of Cambodia. Breathe in the aromatic blend of lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. Picture bustling streets, the murmur of conversations, and gentle temple chimes. Now, let that ambiance translate into a bowl of cambodian chicken soup recipe.

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This Cambodian chicken soup is not just a dish; it’s a narrative of the land’s rich culture. Every spoonful speaks volumes, transporting you to age-old traditions and local flavors. Whether in a buzzing city or a serene village, this recipe remains a timeless embrace of Cambodian warmth.

Dive in, discover, and let your taste buds embark on an unforgettable journey.

What Is Cambodian Chicken Soup?

Cambodian chicken soup, known locally as “S’gaw,” is a heartwarming dish infused with distinct Southeast Asian flavors. It combines tender chicken pieces with lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves. 

Turmeric and fish sauce add depth, creating a unique blend of savory, sweet, and aromatic profiles. Fresh vegetables and rice noodles often complement the broth, making it both a comforting and nourishing meal. 

A reflection of Cambodia’s rich culinary heritage, this soup is a delightful convergence of tradition and taste.

History Of Cambodian Chicken Soup

Cambodian chicken soup, or S’gaw, can be traced back to ancient Khmer culinary traditions. Over centuries, as trade routes expanded, various cultures influenced Cambodia’s gastronomy. Ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, and turmeric, staples in Southeast Asian cuisine, became central to this soup.

Traditionally prepared as an offering during spiritual ceremonies, S’gaw also provided nourishment during monsoon seasons. As time progressed, regional variations emerged, but the essence remained: a soulful blend of local ingredients encapsulating Cambodia’s rich history in a bowl.

Interesting Facts About The Cambodian Chicken Soup

  • Ceremonial Origins: Historically, S’gaw was often served during spiritual ceremonies, symbolizing blessings and unity.
  • Variations Across Regions: Cambodian provinces have unique twists, from ingredients to preparation techniques.
  • Natural Healer: Locals believe this soup can alleviate cold symptoms, crediting fresh herbs and spices.
  • Galangal Over Ginger: Unlike many Asian soups, S’gaw typically favors galangal, which imparts a distinct, sharper taste.
  • Not Just Chicken: Some versions include seafood or pork, showcasing the dish’s adaptability.
  • Noodle Varieties: While rice noodles are famous, some regions use glass or bean thread noodles.

What Makes The Cambodian Chicken Soup Special?

  • Authentic Flavors: Ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves give an unmistakable Cambodian essence.
  • Cultural Roots: S’gaw is deeply rooted in Cambodia’s history, making it more than just a meal — it’s a heritage dish.
  • Holistic Healing: Beyond taste, it’s believed to offer therapeutic benefits, aiding digestion and combating colds.
  • Fresh Ingredients: Emphasis on fresh, local produce ensures a vibrant taste profile.
  • Versatility: Easily adaptable, accommodating various proteins or veggies.
  • Depth with Fish Sauce: This sauce deepens flavors, striking a balance between savory and umami.

Ingredients List 

Vegetable oil1 tablespoon
Fresh ginger root, chopped1 teaspoon
Garlic, minced1 clove
Fresh serrano (or other small hot green chile, including seeds), minced2 teaspoons
Chicken breasts, cut into chunks2 pieces
Red curry paste2 teaspoons
Curry powder1 tablespoon
Vinegar1 tablespoon
Fish sauce1 tablespoon
White sugar2 teaspoons
Chicken broth2 cups
Coconut milk2 (13.5 ounce) cans
Pineapple tidbits, drained1 (20 ounce) can
Cooked rice4 cups

Ingredient Tips

  • Freshness Matters: Use ginger root and garlic for the most vibrant flavor.
  • Heat Levels: Adjust serrano or chili quantity based on your heat tolerance.
  • Chicken Choices: I prefer boneless, skinless chicken breasts for leaner meat; thighs can add more flavor.
  • Curry Paste: If red curry paste is unavailable, green or yellow can be alternatives.
  • Vinegar Varieties: Apple cider vinegar offers a milder, fruitier touch.
  • Fish Sauce: Opt for high-quality brands for an authentic taste.

Can You Vary The Recipe With Other Ingredients? 

  • Keto: Skip the rice and sugar, boost the coconut milk content, and consider adding zucchini noodles or shirataki noodles.
  • Paleo: Replace white rice with cauliflower rice. Ensure all sauces and pastes are paleo-compliant, without additives or sugar.
  • Gluten-Free: Ensure fish sauce and curry paste are gluten-free. Most are, but always check labels.
  • Whole30: Omit sugar and use Whole30-compliant broth and sauces. Replace rice with vegetable alternatives like zucchini noodles.
  • Vegetarian/Vegan: Replace chicken with firm tofu or chickpeas. Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and find a vegan substitute for fish sauce, such as soy sauce or tamari (gluten-free).

Recipe Directions 

  • In a large pot, heat oil on medium-high. Add ginger, garlic, serrano pepper, and chicken; cook for 5 minutes.
  • Mix in curry paste, powder, vinegar, fish sauce, sugar, chicken broth, coconut milk, pineapple, and rice.
  • Simmer for 15 minutes or until thickened.
  • Serve hot and enjoy!

Variations, Add-Ons, And Toppings


  • Seafood: Swap chicken for shrimp or squid for a seafood twist.
  • Vegetarian: Use tofu or tempeh instead of chicken and vegetable broth.


  • Vegetables: Add bell peppers, mushrooms, or corn for extra texture.
  • Noodles: Incorporate rice vermicelli or flat rice noodles for a heartier bowl.
  • Herbs: Fresh Thai basil, mint, or coriander can enhance flavor and aroma.


  • Crunch: Sprinkle fried shallots or garlic for a crispy contrast.
  • Spice: Red chili slices or chili oil for heat enthusiasts.
  • Acidity: Lime wedges for a tangy kick.

Scaling The Recipe 

  • Determine the Factor: Decide how many servings you want compared to the original recipe. If the original serves 4 and you want 8 servings, your scaling factor is 2.
  • Adjust Ingredients: Multiply (or divide) each ingredient’s quantity by the scaling factor. For instance, if the original recipe needs 1 cup of broth and you’re doubling, use 2 cups.
  • Consider Equipment: Ensure your pots, pans, or ovens can accommodate the increased or decreased volume.
  • Monitor Cooking Time: While some steps (like sautéing) might take slightly longer with more ingredients, others (like boiling or baking) might need significant adjustment.
  • Taste Test: Always taste and adjust seasonings, as direct scaling can sometimes slightly alter the desired flavor balance.

What Is Used For Garnishing?

  • Herbs: Fresh cilantro, Thai basil, or mint leaves offer a burst of color and aroma.
  • Spices: A sprinkle of red chili flakes or freshly cracked black pepper adds heat and depth.
  • Citrus: Lime or lemon wedges impart a refreshing tang.
  • Seeds: Toasted sesame seeds or black seeds bring a subtle crunch.
  • Vegetables: Thinly sliced green onions, red bell peppers, or julienne carrots enhance texture and appearance.
  • Drizzles: A swirl of coconut milk, chili oil, or a dash of extra fish sauce elevates the dish’s presentation and flavor profile.

Can I Make Cambodian Chicken Soup In A Slow Cooker Or Instant Pot?

Slow Cooker

  • Begin by sautéing the ginger, garlic, serrano pepper, and chicken in a pan. Transfer to the slow cooker.
  • Add all other ingredients except for coconut milk and rice.
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  • Add coconut milk and pre-cooked rice an hour before serving, allowing them to heat through.

Instant Pot

  • Using the sauté function, cook ginger, garlic, serrano pepper, and chicken.
  • Add all other ingredients.
  • Close the lid, set it to high pressure, and cook for 15 minutes.
  • Quick-release, stir, and serve.

Can I Use Store Bought Broth, Or Should I Make My Own?

Store-Bought Broth

  • Convenience: It’s quick and handy for those short on time.
  • Consistency: You’ll get a uniform taste each time.
  • Caution: Some brands may have additives, preservatives, or high sodium levels. Always check labels.

Homemade Broth

  • Flavor Depth: Homemade broth can have richer flavors, especially when simmered for hours.
  • Control: You determine the ingredients, ensure no unwanted additives, and control the salt level.
  • Versatility: Customize it by adding herbs, spices, or different meats.

Can I Use Different Types Of Meat/Fish/Pasta/Vegetables For The Soup?


  • Beef or Pork: Use lean cuts for a richer flavor.
  • Seafood: Shrimp, mussels, or firm white fish are great choices.


  • Noodles: Rice vermicelli, udon, or spaghetti can be added for a heartier dish.
  • Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free pasta options or shirataki noodles.


  • Leafy Greens: Spinach or bok choy can be stirred at the last minute.
  • Crunch: Add bell peppers, snow peas, or bean sprouts.
  • Root Veggies: Carrots or turnips offer a different texture.

Success Tips-Tips And Tricks For Making The Recipe 

Prepping Tips

  • Mise en Place: Have all ingredients chopped, measured, and ready for smooth cooking.
  • Stock Quality: Whether homemade or store-bought, ensure your broth or stock is flavorful. It’s the foundation of your soup.
  • Fresh Herbs: Add delicate herbs towards the end to preserve their flavor and color.

Cooking Time Tips

  • Layering: Start with sautéing aromatics (like onions and garlic) to build a flavor base.
  • Low and Slow: Simmer soups gently to meld flavors without overcooking ingredients.
  • Taste As You Go: Adjust seasonings throughout, not just at the end.
  • Resting Time: Letting soup sit briefly after cooking can deepen flavors.

Nutritional Values 

Cambodian Chicken Soup isn’t just about tantalizing taste; it’s a nutritional treasure trove. Packed with proteins from chicken, essential fatty acids from coconut milk, and a range of vitamins and minerals, this soup offers a wholesome balance for both body and soul.

What Are The Total Calories In The Cambodian Chicken Soup? 

The total calories in Cambodian Chicken Soup can vary based on the specific recipe and portion size. On average, a bowl of Cambodian Chicken Soup made with ingredients like chicken, vegetables, and possibly rice or noodles may contain around 150-250 calories per serving. However, the exact calorie count can be influenced by factors such as the type and amount of ingredients used, as well as any additional condiments or toppings. 

Dietary Restrictions Of The Cambodian Chicken Soup

  • Meat-Based: Not suitable for vegetarians or vegans due to chicken and fish sauce.
  • Gluten: Some commercial curry pastes and fish sauces might contain gluten. Check labels or opt for gluten-free versions.
  • Dairy-Free: The soup is naturally dairy-free as it uses coconut milk.
  • Sugar: Contains added sugar, which may be a concern for diabetics or those on sugar-restricted diets.
  • Spices and Chilies: This can be problematic for those with spicy food sensitivities.

Health Benefits Of The Cambodian Chicken Soup

  • Protein Source: Chicken provides essential amino acids for muscle growth and repair.
  • Immunity Boost: Ginger and garlic have anti-inflammatory properties and can aid in cold prevention.
  • Digestive Aid: Coconut milk contains healthy fats that aid digestion and boost metabolism.
  • Hydration: Broth-based soups help maintain hydration, which is essential for overall health.
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Ingredients like chicken, peppers, and ginger offer a range of vitamins, like B6, and minerals such as magnesium.

Nutrition Table 

How Can I Make Cambodian Chicken Soup Lower In Sodium?

  • Homemade Broth: Opt for a homemade chicken broth without salt. This gives control over sodium levels.
  • Low-Sodium Products: Choose low-sodium versions of commercial broths or sauces available in stores.
  • Fish Sauce: Reduce the quantity or pick a lower-sodium variant. Alternatively, substitute with low-sodium soy sauce.
  • Curry Paste: Some commercial curry pastes have added salt. Make your own or find low-sodium versions.
  • Fresh Ingredients: Use fresh vegetables and herbs naturally low in sodium.

How Can I Make Cambodian Chicken Soup Lower In Sugar?

  • Natural Sweetness: Rely on the inherent sweetness of ingredients like coconut milk and pineapple.
  • Reduce Added Sugar: Decrease or eliminate the white sugar from the recipe.
  • Alternative Sweeteners: Consider natural sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit, which have a lower glycemic index.
  • Pineapple Selection: Choose fresh or frozen pineapple over canned, as canned variants often have added syrup.
  • Curry Paste: Some store-bought curry pastes contain sugar. Opt for brands with no added sugar, or make your own.

How To Serve The Cambodian Chicken Soup At Its Best?

  • Temperature: Ensure the soup is hot but not boiling. A gentle steam signifies the right warmth.
  • Bowl Selection: Use deep bowls to maintain heat and accommodate broth and chunky ingredients.
  • Garnish: Add a sprinkle of fresh herbs, a swirl of coconut milk, or a squeeze of lime just before serving to elevate flavor and presentation.
  • Accompaniments: Offer side dishes like fresh crusty bread, spring rolls, or a green salad.
  • Taste: Do a final taste check, adjusting seasonings if necessary.

Perfect Side Dishes To Complement Cambodian Chicken Soup

  • Spring Rolls: Crispy vegetable or meat-filled rolls offer a delightful contrast in texture.
  • Steamed Jasmine Rice: A fragrant accompaniment that can be mixed into the soup for added heartiness.
  • Green Mango Salad: A tangy and refreshing salad balances the soup’s richness.
  • Grilled Skewers: Chicken, beef, or vegetable skewers marinated in Cambodian spices.
  • Sticky Rice Cakes: Chewy and slightly sweet, these can be a unique palate cleanser.
  • Stir-Fried Vegetables: Lightly sautéed seasonal vegetables with hints of garlic and soy.

How Long Can We Store The Soup?

  • Refrigeration: The soup can be kept for 3-4 days in an airtight container. Before reheating, check for any off-smells or changes in texture.
  • Freezing: This soup can be frozen for 2-3 months. Store in airtight, freezer-safe containers, leaving space at the top for expansion.
  • Reheating: Thaw frozen soup in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat slowly on the stovetop, stirring occasionally until hot throughout.

Can I Make Cambodian Chicken Soup In Advance?

  • Preparation: Chop and measure ingredients a day ahead, storing them separately in the fridge.
  • Cooking: Prepare the soup entirely, then cool and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Reheating: Slowly reheat on the stovetop, stirring occasionally, ensuring it’s piping hot before serving.
  • Flavor Enhancement: Soups often taste better the next day as flavors meld and intensify.
  • Storing: If planning beyond a day in advance, consider freezing for a longer shelf life.

What Can We Do With Leftovers?

  • Rice Bowl: Mix with cooked rice or noodles for a hearty meal bowl.
  • Stir-fry: Use the solid ingredients as a base for a quick stir-fry. Add fresh veggies and a splash of soy sauce.
  • Chicken Salad: Shred the chicken, combine it with fresh herbs, and use the broth as a dressing base.
  • Taco Filling: Use the soup solids as a unique taco or wrap filling.
  • Pies: Use as a filling for savory pies or empanadas.

Special Tools And Equipment Needed 

  • Large Pot or Dutch Oven: For even cooking and ample space for all ingredients.
  • Sharp Knife: Essential for finely chopping ingredients like ginger, garlic, and chicken.
  • Cutting Board: Preferably two – one for raw proteins and another for vegetables.
  • Measuring Spoons and Cups: To ensure accurate proportions of ingredients.
  • Ladle: For stirring and serving the soup.
  • Strainer: If you wish to remove any solids or spices before serving.
  • Mortar and Pestle: Useful if making fresh curry paste or crushing spices.
  • Storage Containers: Airtight containers for any leftovers or prepped ingredients.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Type Of Rice Is Best Suited For Cambodian Chicken Soup?

Traditionally, jasmine rice is favored due to its fragrant aroma and soft texture, complementing the rich flavors of the soup. However, one can experiment with other rice varieties as per personal preference.

Is There A Vegetarian Version Of The Cambodian Chicken Soup?

Indeed, to prepare a vegetarian variant, omit the chicken and replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth. Tofu or tempeh can serve as excellent protein substitutes in this context.

How Do I Adjust The Spice Level If I Find Serrano Pepper Too Hot?

For a milder version, you can reduce the quantity of serrano pepper or replace it with a less spicy alternative like bell pepper. Removing the seeds from the pepper also lessens the heat.

Can I Use Light Coconut Milk Instead Of Full-Fat Coconut Milk?

Yes, light coconut milk can be used as a substitute. However, please note that this will result in a less creamy texture and a slightly altered flavor profile for the soup.

What Other Traditional Cambodian Ingredients Can I Add To Make The Soup More Authentic?

Ingredients such as kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal can be integrated for added depth and authenticity. Remember to adjust the other ingredients accordingly to maintain flavor balance.

Easy Cambodian Chicken Soup Recipe With Sweet And Savory Blend

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Recipe by Hanna Barnes Course: Soups u0026amp; Broths


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A symphony of flavors, Cambodian Chicken Soup blends tender chicken pieces with aromatic spices, creamy coconut milk, and tangy pineapple. Every spoonful offers a delightful experience of traditional Cambodian warmth and culinary richness.


  • Vegetable oil

  • Fresh ginger root, chopped

  • Garlic, minced

  • Fresh serrano (or other small hot green chile, including seeds), minced

  • Chicken breasts, cut into chunks

  • Red curry paste

  • Curry powder

  • Vinegar

  • Fish sauce

  • White sugar

  • Chicken broth

  • Coconut milk

  • Pineapple tidbits, drained

  • Cooked rice

Step-By-Step Directions

  • Preparation Steps
    Gather all ingredients.
    Mince the ginger, garlic, and serrano pepper.
    Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks.
    Measure out the remaining ingredients.
  • Cooking
    Place a large pot on the stove and set to medium-high heat.
    Pour in cooking oil, allowing it to heat up but not smoke.
    Add the ginger, garlic, serrano pepper, and chicken. Sauté this mix, ensuring the chicken is browned on all sides, for about 5 minutes.
  • Blending
    Add curry paste, curry powder, vinegar, fish sauce, and sugar to the pot, stirring continuously to blend well and prevent any sticking.
    Pour the chicken broth and coconut milk, the pineapple tidbits, and rice.
  • Final Touches
    Reduce heat, allowing the soup to simmer. Let it thicken over 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  • Serving
    Ladle the soup into bowls, ensuring each has a good mix of chicken, pineapple, and rice.
    Garnish with fresh cilantro or lime wedges, if desired.
  • Additional Options
    For added spice, serve with chili flakes on the side.
    A splash of lime juice can elevate the soup’s fresh flavor.


  • Opt for boneless, skinless chicken pieces for a leaner soup.
  • Fresh ginger root can be replaced with galangal for a more authentic flavor.
  • For a heartier version, increase the rice quantity or add rice noodles.
  • Balance flavors with lime or lemon juice if the soup is too rich or creamy.
  • To enhance the soup’s aroma, add a bay leaf or kaffir lime leaves during simmering.
  • Remember, the soup tends to thicken upon standing, so adjust the broth or coconut milk as necessary when reheating.
Hanna Barnes
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