Soothing. That’s what comes to my mind when I think of Tom Kha Gai, aka Thai Coconut Chicken Soup with Galangal. It calms my heart with every bite.
But as you know my dear Thai hubby isn’t a fan of coconut milk in his dinner. But last week my sweet friend gave birth to a little baby boy. I texted her to ask what Thai dish she wanted me to make for her, and she replied, “Anything coconutty please!!”
Per her request, I got to make Tom Kha Gai!
What makes this dish stand out is the kha, or galangal. I like to think of it as the big brother to ginger. In my humble opinion, it’s tougher and stronger than ginger and doesn’t mind taking the lead. Make sure you add lots of it to your soup to accentuate its awesome flavor.
And quick tip with the Thai chilies when using them in any Thai soup. Make sure you not only smash them, but smash them so their insides ooze out a little.
After my Thai hubby’s first sip of my tom kha gai, he said, “Did you smash the chilies?”
“Yes! And I added four of them! So why can’t we taste them?”
He picked the delicate green Thai chili out of the soup pot to critique my handiwork and said, “You need smash it so the seeds are showing, that’s where all the spice is.”
Oops! But as my kids and I often sing, (thanks to Daniel Tiger), it’s ok to make a mistake, just see how you can fix it, and do things different next time!
Next time I pounded up the Thai chilies in my mortar and pestle and then the spicy flavors mixed with the sour and the sweet coconut milk, and my tom kha gai was paradise on a spoon.
Try it out, and tag me on Instagram, @thaifoodie, so I can see your beautiful handiwork!Print
Tom Kha Gai Recipe | Thai Coconut Chicken Soup | ต้มข่าไก่
- Total Time: 50 minutes
LOVE all the heart-warming flavors in Tom Kha Gai: coconut milk, chicken, kaffir lime, lemongrass, galangal, Thai chili peppers and lime juice! Coziness with a kick in a bowl! The perfect way to warm up any day!
- 2 stalks lemongrass
- 3 inch section of fresh Thai galangal or 6–8 dried galangal pieces, thinly cut, no need to peel
- 3 c. chicken stock
- 3 c. coconut milk (Chaokoh brand is my favorite)
- 3 chicken breasts, cut into small bite-size pieces
- 2 c. sliced mushrooms of your choice, but not shitake (too overpowering)
- 1 small onion quartered and sliced 1/4 in. thick
- 4–8 Thai chilies, smashed so you can see the inside
- 4 fresh kaffir lime leaves, thinly slivered
- 4–6 tbsp. fish sauce, to taste
- Juice of 4–5 limes, to taste
- 1–2 tbsp. palm sugar or brown sugar, to taste
- handful of cilantro leaves
- Cut off the bottom your lemongrass stalks and discard. Remove the loose outer layer of leaves. Slice lemongrass at an angle, about an inch apart up to where the grass blade starts. Smash the lemongrass and chilies, in order to release the flavors, with the side of your chef’s knife or in a mortar and pestle.
- Place lemongrass, thinly sliced galangal, and slivered kaffir lime leaves in soup pot with coconut milk and chicken broth.
- Bring to a low boil.
- Add onion, mushrooms and chicken. If you think it needs more liquid add more chicken stock, or water.
- Keep at a low boil, until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
- After chicken is cooked, add smashed chilies.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes longer and then turn off the heat. But if you really want it spicy, add the chilies sooner. The longer the chilies sit in the soup, the spicier it will be.
- Add lime juice, fish sauce and sugar to taste. I like my tom kha gai more sour followed by a light salty, sweet flavor.
- Sprinkle cilantro leaves on top.
- Serve with jasmine rice. Enjoy!
This is a rich soup since I made it one part coconut milk and one part chicken broth. If I’m making this for my friends who love rich soups, I keep it this way. If I’m making it for my Thai hubby who doesn’t like it so rich, I do one part milk to two parts stock.
If you taste your soup after the chicken is cooked, and it doesn’t seem like you can taste the herbs, the herbs might not have had the chance to infuse the broth enough. That’s happened to me! I let it cook on low for a few minutes longer to draw out more of the flavors.
But keep in mind, that even as your herbs sit in the soup in your fridge, more of the flavors will come out, so I prefer making this soup ahead of time to let the herbs infuse the broth while it sits and warming it up before I serve it.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Serving Size: 4-5
Recipe adapted from Kasma Loha-Unchit ‘s tom ka talay recipe and shesimmers.com tom ka gai recipe, my two favorite Thai chefs!
Don’t forget to pin it up for next time!
Love your pictures!! You make this soup look too good not to eat! 🙂
Thanks Megan! Your tip to read Pinch oF Yum’s Tasty Food Photography book has helped my food photos so much! Thanks again 🙂
Yummy soup.. Love the addition of coconut.. Beautiful clicks
Thanks Nithya! Hope you make it and enjoy it 🙂
It was oh so coconutty and delicious!!! Thanks for bringing it over friend!
It was my pleasure!! So glad you loved it dear 🙂
Dear Sherri, what a nice blog you have! I know it’s been some years since you posted this recipe but I do hope you can help me. I would like to make this soup for 40 people (for my girlfriends birthday) and am wondering how long in advance you can make the soup? Is there anything that should be left to add in it just before serving (apart from the cilantro leaves) or can I just make the soup and then put it in the fridge for some hours?
Thank you in advance 🙂
Great question! Wow, good for you! I hope they love the soup! The soup can be made up to 3 days in advance. If I have time, I love making it at least 2 days before I serve it to let all the flavors mingle, and then warm it on the stove the day of serving. The only ingredient you might want to wait to add until the day of serving are the Thai chili peppers. They will get spicier the longer they sit in the soup. But if you are making it for a big crowd, I’m guessing you wont make it too spicy since you might not be sure if everyone likes spicy. If I’m not sure of the spice tolerance of people, I usually just put in one pepper, or leave out the peppers and have nam plaa prik on the table for those who like spicy to add it to their own soup.
Thank you so much for your answer 🙂 Great idea to have Nam Pla Prik on the table, I have never made it before but it looks easy enough.
Loved this soup and the cooking class! Can’t wait to gather all the ingredients and try it out myself at home. Thanks Thai Foodie!
So glad you enjoyed the class Marta! I loved having you all and hope you enjoy making the soup at home!