Recipe: Thai-style Coconut Soup (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.
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.