Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup) is one of those recipes that requires a dedicated search through Whole Foods for all the specialty ingredients. A lot of people think that cooking creatively with fancy-named ethnic cuisine is expensive. It really just takes a few key fresh, flavorful ingredients and you can make an entire meal for a family for for a little over $10! We stock up on lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and fresh ginger and freeze them to use in subsequent recipes.
- ½ Tbsp coconut oil
- ⅛ tsp ground Thai dried chiles
- 2¼ cups chicken broth
- 2 cans coconut milk
- 2-inch piece of ginger, skin removed and thinly sliced
- 2 stalks lemongrass, sliced diagonally into 3-4 pieces and bruised with a mallet
- 8 kaffir lime leaves
- 4 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 cups chicken breast, thinly sliced
- 4 Tbsp lime juice
- ½ Tbsp honey
- Fresh cilantro
- Melt coconut oil in a stock pot with ground chiles and heat, stirring for 2 minutes.
- Add coconut milk and bring to boil. Add chicken stock, ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, fish sauce and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add lime juice and honey and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Serve as a soup or over rice.
The real flavor powerhouse here is the lemongrass. It imparts a zesty, tangy taste to this Tom Kha Gai, a soup that's so complex and yet so craveworthy and warming it's impossible to describe. It's what my family wants when they're sick or they've had a long day. “The Thai person's chicken noodle soup,” Oma calls it.
Let all the flavors simmer together in the milky coconut. If you're not a chicken person, you can leave it out. Tom Kha Gai is flavorful enough to stand on its own or hold up to adaptation. A lot of people slice mushrooms, carrots or even seafood into it. Just be sure to scoop the lemongrass out before serving.
What are you family's favorite inexpensive worldly flavors? Have you tried exploring into new tastes with them? I plan to master Indian cuisine next before moving onto Vietnamese and maybe some of my Hawaiian favorites. I did live on Maui for several years, afterall.