Recipe Thai Soup: Tom Kha Gai. Chicken in coconut & galangal

Mountain Cat

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Prepared for the start of the Asian Lunar Calendar, Year of the Rat.

I am adapting a recipe from Russ Crandall's book, Paleo Take Out: Restaurant Favorites without the Junk. Because I seriously prefer the dark meat of chicken, that's what I'm using here. Bone-less, skinless, chicken thigh. I'm sure that over in Thailand they don't limit themselves to the breast, even if that is how most of the recipes that land in the West are written. You are welcome to use whatever part of the chicken you prefer in this recipe. Or, a combination. I'll note that supermarket American chicken breast seriously lacks much intrinsic flavor - so I have no quibbles about trying to make this dish taste appropriately better.

Prep Time: 25-30 minutes.
Cook Time: About 30-35 minutes.
Rest Time: about 3-5 minutes, to keep from burning your mouth.
Serves: 3.
Cuisine: Thai.
Leftovers: YES! The mushrooms may be a bit more mushy, but all is still good. Add any garnishes (cilantro, mint) at time of serving.


Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Galangal) Soup
  • 3 cups / 700 mL of chicken broth, preferably home made but do as you do. I recommend low sodium if you buy the boxed broth.
  • 1.333 cups / 300 mL of water. You can be flexible here, depending on how strong your stock is.
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, fresh or dried. Tear roughly. In a pinch, use grated zest from one lime.
  • 1 and a half stalks of lemongrass (white parts), slice thin. I used lemongrass powder, a heaping teaspoon. Nowhere near as good, but it is what it is.
  • 1.5 inches of peeled galangal or ginger, minced. Galangal is preferred. Again, my galangal is here as a powder, so I added a heaping teaspoon of galangal, plus a half teaspoon ginger minced.
Combine all the soup base ingredients in your cooking pot, and boil with high heat. Once boiling, reduce to a good simmer for 15, maybe 20 minutes. Strain out solids. Return stock to stockpot.

  • 11 ounces / 300 grams boneless, skinless chicken thigh, about 2 thighs. Cut off any fat. Slice into 1-2 inch / 1.5 - 3 cm long segments, about 0.3 - 0. 4 inches / 1 cm wide. You can use boneless skinless breast if you prefer - perhaps a little less as you'll be removing less fat.
  • 1 can/14 ounces/ 400 grams full fat coconut milk. (I buy Taste of Thai or Thai Kitchen).
  • 5 ounces / 140 grams mushrooms. You can use just about any type (no morels), but for this I prefer shiitake. Remove stems if shiitake.
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce. I like the Vietnamese "Red Boat" sauce.
  • Chili pepper - I used finely diced Thai pepper (mostly de-seeded) and a small thinly-sliced jalapeno (also mostly de-seeded). Adjust to your desire.
  • Juice of 1/2 lime.
  • Salt to taste.
  • Cilantro or mint leaves as garnish.
To the stockpot with the soup base, add the chicken. Return to a boil and reduce heat to a good simmer. For the thigh meat, simmer for 7-8 minutes. If you are using white breast meat, you only need to do this about 4 minutes.

Toss in the coconut milk,the fish sauce, and any chili pepper you like. Allow that to cook until the coconut milk mixes in, you will need to stir periodically. Perhaps five minutes.

Add the mushrooms, and simmer 2 minutes longer.

Add the lime juice, and mix. Then remove from heat. Taste and add salt as needed, perhaps about a half teaspoon. Adjust lime and fish sauce as desired.

Serve. Ideally, top individual servings with cilantro leaves. Torn mint leaves worked as well.

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