Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Kah Gai) From 'Everyday Thai Cooking'

Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom Kah Gai)
Masano Kawana

Tom kah gai is a Thai takeout classic, at least in my house. Between the lush coconut milk, tender chicken, and tangy, lemongrass-laced broth, it's serious comfort food. Katie Chin's version in Everyday Thai Cooking exhibits the perfect balance between the richness of the coconut fat and the sour and salty notes from the herbs, lime, and fish sauce. Using boneless chicken thighs cuts the cooking time down to mere minutes, while the meat stays tender and flavorful. Chin goes so far as to say that this soup is the Thai version of chicken noodle or matzo ball—try it out this cold season and report back!

Why I picked this recipe: Chicken soup equals comfort to me, and I like it even better when it's packed with hot, sour, and sweet flavors.

What worked: I made the red chile paste from scratch, and definitely didn't regret taking the extra 20 minutes to do so. The additional spice, tang, and shrimpy funk added a wonderful level of depth to an otherwise simple soup.

What didn't: No problems here.

Suggested tweaks: You could substitute any other protein (or additional vegetables, like eggplant or peppers) for the chicken.

Reprinted with permission from Everyday Thai Cooking: Quick and Easy Family Style Recipes by Katie Chin. Copyright 2013. Published by Tuttle Publishing. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

Recipe Facts

Active: 20 mins
Total: 25 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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  • 2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
  • Six 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick slices galangal or fresh ginger
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, cut into 2 inch (5 cm) long pieces and bruised
  • 4 makrut lime leaves, torn in half (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon palm or brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Roasted Red Chile Paste or store-bought nam prik pao (optional)
  • 1 cup (250 ml) coconut milk
  • 1/2 pound (250 g) boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
  • 1 cup (70 g) sliced white button mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 2–3 fresh hot red or green chiles, preferably Thai, smashed
  • Fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) for garnish


  1. Put the chicken stock, galangal, lemongrass, makrut lime leaves (if using) palm sugar, and roasted red chile paste (if using) in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.

  2. Add the coconut milk, reduce the heat and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and mushrooms and continue simmering until the chicken is white and opaque, 5–7 minutes.

  3. Quickly stir in the lime juice and fish sauce. Float the chiles on the soup. Dish out into individual serving bowls and sprinkle with fresh coriander leaves. Serve immediately.