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.