Sunday, August 26, 2007

Tom Ka Gai (Coconut Chicken Thai Soup)

Early this year, I had pho fever. I craved it daily and eschewed perfectly wonderful leftovers or packed lunches or dinner at home - all for pho.

Beginning earlier this summer, I inexplicably traded my pho fever for Thai food mania. I could literally eat Thai food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I love almost all Thai food, but what I am compelled to order in every restaurant is the ever-present and classic Tom Ka Ghai soup. Now it serves as a benchmark of sorts, helping me sort through the mediocre, good and great Thai places.

So, as it often happens with me, I tried making it myself. The result? Easier than chicken noodle soup and a heck of a lot more flavorful. I have a feeling this will be a weekly event in my house!

I love my Thai food very, very hot so adjust the seasonings and spices according to your taste. The amounts below would result in a medium hot soup - so add more or less to taste.

Tom Ka Gai (Coconut Chicken Thai Soup):
(serves 2 as an entree, 4-6 as a first course)

2 c coconut milk (canned)
2 c chicken broth
2 c water
2-3 stalks lemongrass, chopped into 2-3 inch sections and bruised (crushed slightly) with the handle of a knife or meat tenderizer
Galangal (or ginger root), chopped into large cubes
Dried or fresh Thai chilies (8-10, or more), chopped and seeded (f very dry, reconstitute in warm water
Chili paste, siracha or crushed red chili flakes (to taste, for added heat)
1 small clove garlic, minced into a puree
Salt and white pepper to taste
4 tbs fish sauce
1 tsp shrimp paste
4-6 Kaffir lime leaves (or, 1 whole lime)
1/4 c sugar
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed and pounded thin
1 c cilantro leaves
8 oz white or crimini mushrooms, sliced thin

Bring broth, water and coconut milk to a boil. Add lemongrass, galangal (or ginger), chilies, garlic, fish sauce, shrimp paste, sugar and Kaffir lime leaves (or chopped, whole lime) and continue to simmer.

Taste soup at this point and add additional lime for sourness, salt and pepper for flavor, fish sauce for intensity, sugar for sweetness and chilies or chili paste for more heat.

Reduce to a low simmer, add mushrooms, then cilantro, then chicken. Simmer just until chicken is cooked through. Serve immediately.


Nora B. said...

Hi Kirsten, I went thru pho fever too. But my addition to Thai food is an on-going issue. I love it HOT, no I mean VERY HOT. This dish looks terrific.

Christine said...

You've outdone yourself this time! I love this soup and I can't wait to try it at home with this recipe!

Also - I made your satay skewers for a party last night and they were a hit! I made a combo of chicken and beef and they were gone in a matter of minutes! :)

Mo said...


That soup looks better than any I've had at Thai restaurants! I've never thought of making it at home, but now I certainly will. I usually have most, if not all, of those ingredients on hand.

Thanks for posting!

Peabody said...

Well I am allergic to most Thai food and there for stay away. This looks good but alas has thing in it I can not eat. :(

Anh said...

This looks wonderful! I really love this Thai soup.

And as a Vietnamese, I do understand pho craze. For us, pho is the most comfort food on earth!

Anonymous said...

I swear, I've starred every single recipe you've posted. ;D

DHC said...

This is a dish Brett has perfected! We always order this when dining out, and being the Thai addicts that we are, I'm lucky to have the hubby cook it for me at home! We will be having a Thai dinner party soon..will let you know when! (he also is a pro when it comes to Indian cuisine - when he lived in England, he savored Indian food, and it inspired him to cook it)...I should seriously start one of these blogs that showcases HIS cooking for me! Love ya..

Kelly-Jane said...

I love this type of soup, they are just so very good!

Yankee1969 said...

Tom Ka Gai is also my measuring stick at Thai restaurants. :) I've tried making it at home, but can't quite get the perfect balance. It's good, but then I try some from Osha Thai in Scottsdale, and realize I'm missing something. I'll have to give yours a try.

Brilynn said...

I love the complexity of thai flavours, there's just so much to them. I need to make this soup.

Kirsten said...

Hi Nora, thanks!

Chrissy - hope you made it too and it turned out great. SO glad the skewers were a hit.

Mo, you must try, it was easier than I thought.

Too bad Peabody!!

Thanks Anh, glad to know pho is addicting for everyone :)

Hey Dee - I would love to try Brett's version!!

Thanks Kelly-Jane and Brilynn - and Yankee, do try again...but when there are so many great Thai places, sometimes is just easier to go out. :)

almalunita said...

Hi Kirsten,

Thank you so much for this recipe. I made it ahead of time to take to work (saved mushrooms, limes, and cilantro til the next day)-- and it still smelled delicious! Cant wait to enjoy it tomorrow. Again, thanks, truely great recipe.

Anonymous said...

I just tried this recipe substituting a whole chopped lime for the lime leaves was a total disaster. Should have used zest + juice. The white pith made the soup totally bitter. :(

Behaviour Brad said...

Looks wonderful! I've spent the last hour looking for a recipe, and yours is the first I've found that doesn't look dumbed down and bland (I too like it hot, and you just can't have it without the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf!) Tom ka gai is maybe my favourite soup in the world, but for my money, a good pad thai is the best mark of a Thai resturant. If it's sticky and sweet, the food will be terrible.

Anonymous said...

Made this tonight for dinner and it was DELICIOUS. So healthy and fresh tasting too, especially compared to a lot of Thai places where this can be just so-so sometimes. But MAN, is it hot - I'm glad I stopped with the 8 chiles and didn't add any siracha. We loved it and I served it with fresh spring rolls. Thank you for the recipe.