This recipe was inspired partly by Luisa Brimble (in my opinion the top food photographer working in Australia (anywhere?) right now), who often writes about Filipino food and mentioned how coconut milk is often used in savoury dishes that aren’t curries.
I had already written down the concept and recipe outline for this dish, but hadn’t yet decided on the exact spices and flavourings that would go into it, when I saw what she was writing about it. This was years ago now but it stuck with me.
I use coconut milk frequently – often in a vegetable curry, but most often for sweet uses; dairy free ice cream, as the base for a vegan chocolate ganache, coconut whipped cream, or in rice pudding instead of whole milk. The flexibility and high fat content of coconut milk make it invaluable in plant based cooking and baking, replacing cream whenever I’ve needed it.
I had thought coconut milk might be too sweet to use in a dish like these coconut rice noodles without several different spices to balance it out. I was wrong. A good bit of fresh ginger, along with garlic, onion, and piles of green vegetables provide a good counterpoint to the natural sweetness of coconut, without the need for earthier flavours like cumin or turmeric.
But it’s not quite a curry, and not quite a soup, but something in between. There is a broth, there’s not a lot of it. There aren’t enough spices (only fresh ginger and garlic) to make it a curry. It’s not really anything I can slap a name on, but rice noodles in coconut milk are good (and nothing new, but delicious combined with spring veg here).
This might seem like a long list, but it’s mostly vegetables and pantry staples. See below for substitutions for the vegetables listed.
- Coconut oil: since coconut milk is a major flavour. Use olive oil if preferred.
- Onion: just a small one, any colour, though white will prevent any changes to the appearance of the broth.
- Garlic: try to prevent yourself from adding extra – it’s a delicate flavour, and too much garlic will overwhelm things.
- Ginger: if large pieces are too much, grate very finely instead. Fresh ginger is key to the recipe.
- Zucchini: definitely more summer than spring, but small ones are ready about when asparagus is, depending on where you live.
- Spices: salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Leave the cayenne out if you are averse to heat.
- Coconut Milk: mine is 60% milk solids.
- Vegetable Broth: water can be used in a pinch but a good broth will be noticeable here.
- Green Asparagus: make sure to snap any woody ends off and don’t overcook.
- Sprouting Broccoli: I used this because it’s growing in my garden right now. Broccoli rabe is a good substitute.
- Spinach: or other greens, see substitutions below.
- (Brown) Rice Noodles: these thin dried ones are all I can get where we’re currently living. Any type will work.
- Lemon or Lime: I always use lemon as limes are hard to come by here. Either way, you need that hit of acidity.
- Cilantro or Parsley: optional, but adds a nice freshness.
Yes, this is a rice noodle recipe, but you could use soba or another pasta you like. I always do brown rice noodles but white are more available, so go with what you can get.
Any green vegetables you like will be good here. Snap peas, bok choy, other green cabbage, peas, green beans, whatever. The ones listed are the ones I like most in this recipe, but use what you have in your garden or refrigerator.
The recipe calls for lemon or lime juice strictly because I can rarely get limes here that aren’t imported all the way from Mexico. It’s a long way away so I usually go for Italian lemons instead. Lime is better, but both are good.
If you want to add some coconut aminos or soy sauce, it’s a good addition. Reduce the salt slightly to account for it.
Tips and Notes
Leftovers are pretty good if the broth isn’t mixed with the rice noodles. If you have leftover broth and veg, store it separately and cook the noodles fresh when you want to eat it. Rice noodles suck up too much liquid to keep for any length of time.
The citrus is key for this recipe, don’t leave it out! It’s flat without.
Purple sprouting broccoli is a classic hungry gap vegetable and easy to grow (it’s planted in autumn and takes off come spring) so if you have space, it’s a good addition to your garden. The purple mostly fades during cooking and it will turn primarily green.
More Spring Recipes
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Spring Green Vegetable Coconut Rice Noodles
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- 1 small yellow onion halved and thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic matchsticks
- 1 thumb fresh ginger matchsticks (about 6cm)
- 1 small zucchini halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste
- 400 ml canned coconut milk
- 250 ml vegetable broth
- 250 grams green asparagus, woody ends removed
- 200 grams sprouting broccoli or broccolini
- 50 grams baby spinach
- 150 grams brown rice noodles
- 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
- Fresh cilantro for topping
- In a large pot, heat the oil over low-medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for a couple of minutes, or until softened and fragrant.
- Add the garlic, ginger, and zucchini, cook for another minute. Stir in the salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Pour the coconut milk and vegetable broth into the pot, cover, and increase the heat to high to bring to a low boil. Prepare the rice noodles according to package instructions while you’re waiting.
- Once the broth has reached a low boil, reduce the heat to medium. Add the asparagus and broccoli, cooking for two minutes, covered, or until the asparagus is bright green and just tender.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach. Ladle out into bowls and add the prepared rice noodles.
- Top each bowl with a squeeze of lime juice and a few cilantro leaves, and serve hot.
This recipe was originally published in April 2019. It has been updated most recently as of May 2021.