> New York Hudson Valley Eats & Treats!: Tom Kha Gai - a delicious, creamy, citrus-y and spicy Thai soup!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tom Kha Gai - a delicious, creamy, citrus-y and spicy Thai soup!

Kaffir lime leaves
Kaffir lime leaves
My lady loves when I make this soup for her, and indeed, it's very tasty.  It does require a number of semi-exotic ingredients, so hopefully you have access to a nice local Asian market or some place similar.  Most will have all the ingredients listed.

This soup uses Kaffir lime leaves - these are leaves from a type of lime, and when used it cooking, they add a delicious lime taste to whatever it is you put them in.  These are most common in Thai cooking, and I can't really remember having them in other cuisine's dishes - which isn't to say that it didn't happen, just that I can't remember it.
Lemongrass - Courtesy of foodsubs.com

Another somewhat exotic ingredient used is Lemongrass.  When you get a bunch of this, you'll need to peel off the hard woody outside to expose the tender soft inside.  As you might might imagine, this tastes of lemons :)

Fresh galanga root
Galanga root.
Image courtesy of eujacksonville.com
Galanga root is an Asian root that.. most closely resembles ginger.  It is spicy in the way that ginger is but has a rather different taste.  It is likely that you will be unable to find the fresh root at many Asian markets.  If this is the case, then you can add a little bit more of the dry one.  Be sure to re-hydrate it in hot water for about 20-30 minutes before adding it into the recipe, and add the water it hydrated in into the recipe as well - mustn't waste that delicious flavor after all :)

Fish sauce is an incredible ingredient.  Made from fermenting anchovies by the ton, this stuff gives whatever you add it to an incredible tasty / savoriness - this comes from the free glutamates / Glutamic acid that is produced by the fermentation process.  You'd probably recognize that "tasty / savory" taste from a common food additive, MSG, Monosodium Glutamate.  Most glutamates have a wonderful savory taste, and fish sauce is full of them.  Balanced right, it is an essential part of Thai cooking.

Canned Straw mushrooms taste like regular mushrooms but are authentic, Palm sugar (or jaggery) basically tastes like a somewhat fatty regular sugar, and red chilis and coconut milk you should be able to find at your local supermarket - and save a bit of money vs. buying everything at the Asian market :)

Fish sauce
Thai fish sauce
So, now that we have a little information on our exotic ingredients, let's get cooking!


2.5 Cups of chicken stock.  You can substitute vegetable if you want.
2 Kaffir lime leaves.  A little bit goes a long way with these guys, they're flavor powerhouses!
4 inches of lemongrass
A 2 inch piece of galanga root, cut the long way into 4 pieces
2 TBSP fish sauce
2 TBSP lime juice (about 3-4 good limes)
1 Good sized chicken breast, sliced as thin as possible.
1 4-5oz can of straw mushrooms
1.5 cups of coconut milk
1TBSP of jaggery (palm sugar)
2 Thai chilis
Sri Racha hot sauce, or another authentic Thai style hot sauce.


1) Heat your chicken stock in a large flat-bottomed pan.  Add in the Kaffir lime leaves, the lemongrass, galanga root, fish sauce, and lime juice.  Slowly heat until simmering.

2) Add in the chicken, mushrooms.  Keeping the heat low and stirring constantly, simmer for 3 minutes until chicken is cooked.

3) Add in the coconut milk, sugar, and chilis, and cook another minute.  Make sure the sugar is dissolved through the soup, but try to avoid cooking the coconut milk for too long - the flavor starts to break down.

Garnish your soup with some Sri Racha and serve with hot sauce!  You're done!

In my next post I'll give a recipe for a simple Thai hot sauce that goes perfectly with this soup, and all thai foods :)  Check it out at http://hudsonvalleyeatsandtreats.blogspot.com/2012/04/simple-authentic-thai-hot-sauce.html .



  1. I'm sure it probably wouldn't work as well, but would adding miso and tofu work as a vegetarian substitute?

    1. I have in fact made this soup with vegetable broth and tofu on one occasion, and it was okay... essentially the same, though not quite as yummy. Personal opinion. It's certainly worth trying if you're vegetarian or vegan though :)