Tom Kha Gai

For a few months I lived in London, UK, and on dark fall nights I decided that I needed a pick me up and a cooking project! I was interested in Thai food and had access to a market, so I started to research dishes that I might be interested in making. I came across this recipe for Tom Kha Gai by Leela Punyaratabandhu on her fantastic blog SheSimmers, from which my recipe is adapted. There are no large differences, this is just the way I have come to prefer preparing this meal. This soup is a fantastic array of flavors that are balanced perfectly into a delectable bowl of soup. It is a little salty, sweet, spicy, savory, and sour- a little bit of everything!
Serves 2 – 3. 
  • 3 cups sodium-free chicken stock 
  • 2 chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite size pieces across the grain
  • 8 ounces fresh or canned straw mushrooms (drained)
  • 1 cup snap peas 
  • Two stalks of lemongrass
  • 2-3 fresh bird’s eye chilies (more or less depending on your heat preference
  • 2-inch piece of fresh galangal (you can substitute ginger, but use 1 – 1 1/2 inch)
  • 1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) coconut milk
  • 4-5 fresh kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 limes
  • fish sauce to taste
  • 1 tsp palm sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves (can substitute Thai basil)

Combine the stock and coconut water (not coconut cream on the top of the can) in a large pan. Begin to heat to a simmering temperature.

Cut the tender bottom half of the lemongrass stalks into 1-inch pieces. Peel the galangal and slice it very thinly, I used a mandoline to create thin slices. Place the lemongrass and half of the galangal into a strainer or tea ball and add these to the simmering liquid. Put the other half of the galangal directly in the liquid instead of the strainer, you can eat it directly as part of your soup after it has simmered a bit.  

Add the coconut cream to the liquid and bring almost to a simmer. You don’t want to boil the liquid because the coconut cream will begin to form a skin. Don’t worry – it’s very hot and your chicken will cook! 

Halve the straw mushrooms into bite-sized pieces. You can use other meaty mushrooms like oyster or cremini mushrooms, but stay away from portobello – while delicious, they don’t work well with this soup and turn it an odd gray color. Add the mushrooms, snap peas, palm sugar, and chicken to the broth and stir occasionally until the chicken is cooked. This will vary depending on the size of your chicken pieces, just keep an eye on your pot and check the chicken when it looks completely white and cooked through. If you need more liquid to cover the ingredients add a bit of water. 

Remove the stems and the tough veins that run through the middle from the kaffir lime leaves, and tear them up into small pieces. Tear some cilantro leaves from their stems or the Thai basil. Cut the chilies into thin slices. Set aside.

When the chicken is cooked through, remove the pot from heat and season with fish sauce. Add a few dashes first, then taste the soup and see if you would like to add more fish sauce to make the soup saltier. Then, stir in the lime leaves. Serve the soup into bowls. 

Top the bowls with cilantro or basil, juice of at least 1/2 lime, and however many chili slices you would like to add to your heat level. You can also serve your bowl over hot jasmine rice! 


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