Tom Kah Gai (ต้มข่าไก่) is a Thai soup of chicken, and coconut milk, flavored with galangal and lime. It’s light and refreshing, and a bit creamy thanks to the coconut milk. It’s also very tasty. Kah (or kha) is Thai for galangal, which is similar to ginger, only different.
I first had this delicious soup when I visited Portland in June, at a restaurant named Typhoon. It was wonderful. I had to go back and have some more for lunch a couple of days later before I left town. I was also determined to find a recipe for it. There are quite a number around. After taking a look at several, and making the soup a couple of times, the version below has settled out in my household.
A word about ingredients, unless you have an asian market nearby, a number of ingredients may be difficult to find in typical American supermarkets. They are very much worth seeking out for this dish. I obtained my galangal, lemon grass, and lime leaves from importfood.com, which I found recommended as a source by Mark Bittman in his book The Best Recipes in the World. Importfood.com sells the ingredients for the soup individual, but also has a “Tom Kha Kit” which is a great deal.
Tom Kah Gai: Thai Chicken Soup with Galangal, Coconut Milk, and Lime
- 1 quart chicken broth
- 8–10 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
- 8–10 2-inch pieces of fresh lemongrass, bruised
- 2 inch piece of galangal, pealed and sliced thinly
- 8 tablespoons fish sauce
- 4 tablespoons lime juice (the juice of 2 limes)
- ½ pound chicken breast, cut into small bite-sized pieces
- 1 can of coconut milk (13.5 fluid oz.)
- 1 can straw mushrooms (or 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms)
- 16 small Thai (or Serrano) chile peppers, slightly crushed or split, or to taste
- dash of red pepper flakes, to taste
- cilantro leaves to garnish
- In a soup pot or large sauce pan, heat the broth and stir in the lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal, fish sauce, and lime juice.
- Bring to a boil and add the chicken, coconut milk, and chile peppers and pepper flakes.
- Return to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 2–3 minutes (until the chicken is cooked).
- Serve, garnished with chopped cilantro leaves.