January 30, 2010

Tom Kha Gai (Thai chicken coconut soup)

Bowl of Tom Kha Gai.
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I love this soup... Slightly spicy, slightly sweet, all around tasty - what Thai food is all about. While this recipe probably isn't truly authentic Thai - it's a decent version with ingredients you can find at many larger grocery stores. Items like lemongrass, fish sauce, and Thai chiles have become much more accessible over the last few years. 

You may have had this soup as a started at a Thai restaurant as it tends to be pretty popular. The broth takes some time to get really flavorful, but otherwise the soup is pretty simple to make.

This recipe serves two as a main dish or four as a starter.

Tom Kha Gai
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 can (14 oz) unsweetened light coconut milk
2 stalks lemongrass (sliced into about 1 inch pieces)
1-2 Thai chiles (or other small red chiles)
about 6 slices of ginger root (about 1/4 inch thick)
about 1 tablespoon cane sugar
juice of 1 lime
1-1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 chicken breast thinly sliced
about 2 cups sliced shitake mushrooms
3 scallions, thinly sliced (whites and greens, but keep separated)
about 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
thin rice noodles (optional)

In a large soup pot, add the chicken stock, coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger root, chiles, cane sugar, and fish sauce. If you want a mild soup, use only one chile. For a hotter soup, use one-two chiles and pierce the skin. Cook over medium heat until the broth comes to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour. 

Remove all the lemongrass stalk, ginger root, and the chiles from the broth and discard. Add the chicken, mushrooms, and whites of the scallions. Bring to a low boil and cook until the chicken is cooked through. 

Add noodles, if using (they will cook in only a couple of minutes) and the lime juice. When the noodles are soft, serve immediately. Top with the scallion greens and cilantro. You can also top with thinly sliced chiles (if you want a spicier soup), extra fish sauce, and/or fresh basil leaves.

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