Recipe: Thai-style Coconut Soup (Tom Kha Gai)

Tom Kha Gai

(Adapted from a Sparkpeople recipe)

One of my favorite items in Thai takeout is Tom Kha Gai soup: coconut milk, chicken, mushrooms, a little heat.  Soups are a great winter food, and they’re also great when you are watching what you eat: hearty, filling, and can be made in a big batch.  If I double your average soup recipe, The Better Half and I can enjoy soup for several days.

I took a look at Chef Meg Galvin’s take on the classic, and tweaked it a little to match my

own tastes.  For example, she suggests using chicken broth or stock.  The first time I made this dish, I had some leftover, frozen vegetable stock in the freezer.  Easy.  The most recent time, I remembered I hadn’t made stock of any kind in a while, but that the chicken is poached in water before you put it in the soup.  Why not use the poaching liquid (and season it before poaching) instead?  The stuff from a box is mostly salt, after all. I added a bit of fish sauce for flavor and authenticity, added a little more Thai chili paste, galanga for ginger, and use the more traditional lime instead of lemon.

Tom Kha Gai:

For the chicken:

1.5 pounds chicken breasts or thighs, cut into chunks (I prefer thighs as they are more flavorful, and hey, they’re less expensive)

4 cloves of garlic, cut in half.

1/2 onion

4 cups water

Salt and Pepper to taste

For the soup:

16 oz (or about 1 1/4 cans) coconut milk.  You can use light or regular. Both work, but regular will be richer.  I use light.

5 green onions, whites sliced thinly, greens reserved for garnish.

10 thin slices galangal (or ginger, if you can’t find it. I buy galangal at Saigon Market)

12 oz mushrooms, sliced

2 teaspoon chili-garlic paste

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Zest of half a lime.

Lime slices and cilantro for garnish

In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring the water to just below a boil.  Add the chicken, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, just below a simmer, for about 18 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Skim any white foam off the top and discard. Discard the garlic and onion. Remove the chicken to a plate and simmer the poaching liquid, uncovered, to reduce it, about ten minutes.

Once the poaching liquid has reduced, add the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to just below a simmer and allow to cook for about a half an hour; taste to make sure the seasoning is right, and adjust with salt or chili paste to your taste.

Garnish with a lime slice and some cilantro.