After the success of the Pad See-Ew recipe from the food blog She Simmers, it took me about 30 seconds of searching on the site to find this recipe for Tom Kha Gai, which is referred to as "one of the most loved Thai dishes of all time."
Though it initially looks bland and white, this lively Thai soup actually features heaps of chiles, lemongrass, lime leaves, and a fragrant root called galangal. The hardest part for most people may simply be locating the last two ingredients, though I was lucky to run into both at Whole Foods. Luckily, after the search, everything else is easy.
Thanks to a mixture of chicken stock and coconut milk, it's also not too heavy. But this isn't just any old chicken stock, it's stock that has been reduced in half, which means that each bite is even more luscious. Add coconut milk to that and you have a soup that body and depth, but without being overly fatty and creamy. (Of course, if you don't have good homemade stock, don't try to reduce the canned stuff. Just proceed with the recipe with only 12 ounces.)
A couple of tricks will help get this done quickly. First, the recipe calls for cooking the ingredients in the soup at a specific temperature. A thermometer will make this all much easier. Second, no amounts are given for lime juice or fish sauce, as the recipe claims you're just supposed to keep adding both until it tastes right. I'd err on the side of less, as the soup is already incredibly flavorful.
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 24 ounces homemade chicken stock (or 12 ounces store-bought)
- 1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 5 to 6 fresh bird's eye chilies
- 12 ounces coconut milk
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced against the grain
- 12 ounces canned straw mushrooms, drained
- 4 to 5 fresh makrut lime leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh galangal, thinly sliced
- Fish sauce
- Fresh lime juice
- Fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
If using good quality homemade stock, pour the 24 ounces into a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When it comes to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until reduced by half. Skip this step if using store bought stock.
Using a mortar and pestle, smash the lemongrass pieces until fragrant but still hanging together. Remove and set aside. Add the chilies, and smash them a bit, too. Set those aside.
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the coconut milk, chicken stock, lime leaves, lemongrass, and galangal. Turn the heat to medium, and bring liquid up to between 160 and 180 °F. Make sure it does not come to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and chicken, and adjust heat to make sure it is between 160 and 180 °F. Stir occasionally, and let mixture cook until chicken is done.
Add the chiles, and turn off the heat. Stir well. Add fish sauce and lime juice to taste. Garnish soup with cilantro.