October 10, 2018

Thai Coconut Soup – Tom Kha Gai

Thai Coconut Soup - Tom Kha Gai 2a

Thai Coconut Soup (Tom Kha Gai) was the first Thai food I ever had. This creamy dish is rich, but somehow light at the same time, and is spiked with more than just a hint of lime. Its taste blew me away. I’m forever a fan of Thai food simply because of this dish.

What’s In it?

The soup’s key ingredients are coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Asian ginger root (galangal), and fish sauce. I use chicken broth (versus water I see occasionally) and will often vary the vegetables, or add to them. Red bell peppers, peas and edamame work well as additions.

I’ve tweaked this Thai Coconut Soup recipe over the past decade. It is my “go to” version now. It features shitake mushrooms and chicken. I often make it with shrimp and different types of mushrooms. I do, however, prefer shiitake mushrooms. Their unique texture as you chew is unmistakable. And I almost always serve it over white or brown rice. I like it because it makes a big batch.

The other great thing about this dish? The flavors meld and blossom the longer it sits, so it works great to make ahead of time, or have as leftovers.

Crazy Good Asian Groceries

I’m in Minneapolis. My favorite Asian grocery store is United Noodle. That’s where I get this dish’s most key ingredients. If you haven’t been, be sure to check them out. Or find your favorite Asian grocery store.Thai Coconut Soup - Key IngredientsI can’t recall what I did the first times I tried to make this dish at home. They were far from successful. Maybe because I used water, versus chicken broth? Ginger vs. galangal? Who knows?! It wasn’t until I used the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal, altogether, that the dish truly tasted like it came out of a Thai restaurant kitchen.

Change It Up

You can easily make this soup vegetarian by using mushroom or vegetable broth versus chicken broth, tofu versus chicken as the protein, and an alternate to fish sauce. Changing up the heat level is easy too, because you can just adjust the amount of Thai chilies or paste you use.

The garnishes of red chili oil, cilantro, and lime not only give the soup pops of color, but they also add another dimension of deliciousness to it.

Make it soon and enjoy! If you want another good chicken dish, be sure to check out my Chicken Satay recipe.



Thai Coconut Soup – Tom Kha Gai

1 cup uncooked Thai jasmine rice, rinsed

2 cups water

1 teaspoon oil

2 (14 ounce) cans coconut milk

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

6 kaffir lime leaves

1/4 cup galangal (or ginger root) peeled, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lemongrass, finely chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

4-6 Thai bird chili peppers, finely chopped (or Thai chili paste), to taste

1 pound chicken breast, cut to bite size pieces

4 cups shitake mushrooms, in bite size pieces

1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1 lime, or to taste, cut in half

1/2 cup cilantro, loosely chopped, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon chili oil

In a medium pot, bring rice, water and oil to a boil. Cover, reduce to simmer, and cook 15-20 minutes, or until water is evaporated. Fluff with fork. Meanwhile, in large soup pot, heat coconut milk, chicken broth, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, fish sauce, lemongrass, sugar, Thai chilies, and Thai chili paste. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Add chicken, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. Cook 10 minutes or until chicken no longer pink in middle.

Squeeze half lime into soup and stir. Ladle into bowls. Cut remaining half of lime into slices. Add as garnish. Serve with fresh cilantro and drizzle of red chili oil. Makes about 6 servings.