Thai Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk (Tom Ka Gai)
This simple Thai chicken soup has that distinctive Thai flavor - a balance of spicy, salty, sweet and sour. You will especially welcome this soup's warmth during the winter, when it can also provide you with added health benefits, helping to ward off the cold or flu. Tom Ka Kai can either be served as an appetizer or as the star player (noodles can be added if you're planning to make this soup as a main entree). So sip, slurp, and enjoy!
- 6 cups good-quality chicken stock (Serves 2 as the main entree, or 4-6 as an appetizer)
- 1-2 chicken breasts, sliced, OR 1-2 cups roasted chicken or turkey
- 1 lemongrass stalk, OR 3 Tbsp. frozen prepared lemongrass
- 4 kaffir limes leaves (fresh or frozen)
- 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- 1 thumb-size piece galangal or ginger, grated
- 1-3 fresh red chilies, minced (to taste), OR substitute 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. dried crushed chili
- 1/2 to 1 can good-quality coconut milk
- 2 Tbsp. lime juice
- 2 + Tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tsp. brown sugar (optional, according to taste)
- handful fresh coriander leaves
- handful fresh basil leaves
- 3 spring (green) onions, sliced
- optional: other vegetables, like sliced bell pepper or cherry tomatoes
- optional: *wheat or rice noodles, if serving as the main course
Preparation time 8mins
Cooking time 18mins
Slice and mince the lower portion of the lemongrass stalk. Retain the upper stalk for the soup pot.
Place chicken broth in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. If you have leftover chicken or turkey bones, add those too. Bring to a boil.
Add fresh chicken (or leftover chicken or turkey) and mushrooms. Also add the prepared lemongrass (including upper stalk pieces), plus kaffir lime leaves and fresh chili. Boil 5-8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked.
Turn heat down to medium. Add the galangal or ginger, 1/2 can coconut milk, the fish sauce, and extra vegetables (if using). Stir well. Simmer gently 1-2 minutes.
Turn heat down to minimum. Add lime juice and stir.
Do a taste test. Look for a balance between spicy, sour, salty, and sweet flavors. Start with salty, adding more fish sauce if not salty or flavorful enough (1 Tbsp. at a time). If too sour, add the sugar plus a little more if you need it. If too spicy, or if you'd like it creamier, add more coconut milk. If not spicy enough, add more chili.
Ladle soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle a little fresh coriander, basil, and spring onion over each bowl. For an extra kick of flavor, add a dollop of either store-bought or my own homemade Nam Prik Pao Chili Sauce Recipe.
*Tip: If Serving with Noodles, I find it's best to prepare them separately from the soup, otherwise the soup becomes too thick (due to the starch from the noodles). Also, your leftovers will taste better this way. Enjoy!