Tom Kha Gai — Thai Coconut Soup

Tom Kha Gai -- Thai Coconut Soup

This recipe scales beautifully – just multiply the ingredients below.  I’ve included substitutions for ingredients you may not have easily at hand, but a trip by an asian grocery will turn up everything on this list handily.  I buy lots of lemongrass and galanga ahead, then chop and freeze in pre-sorted ziplok bags for future use.  They keep quite well.  You can also do this with the shallots, coriander root, and kaffir lime leaves.

Broth:
1 can coconut milk
2-3 cups chicken stock (homemade is best, then the stuff in cartons; boullion cubes are a last resort.)
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon palm sugar (I usually substitute brown sugar)
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, washed and choppped in chunks (dried lemongrass is far inferior – punch it up with extra lime juice and zest at the end if you’re forced to go this route)
3 red shallots, peeled and chunked (I often substitute 3 smashed cloves of garlic plus a bit of onion)
2 coriander roots, scraped (I usually substitute a pinch of whole coriander seed plus a handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves)
2 chili peppers, halved (pick your favorite type, and modify number to suit your spice taste)
1.5 inch chunk of galanga root, chunked (ginger is in the same family, but tastes totally different – galanga TOTALLY makes the flavor of this dish.  If you can’t get this locally, travel to a nearby city and visit the asian markets or scour the internets, buy a pound, then freeze what you can’t use now.  It’s a floral flavor that you’ll definitely recognize if you’ve had tom kha gai before.)
3 kaffir lime leaves, coarsely chopped (I have a kaffir lime tree in my yard, but you can substitute lime zest if necessary.  It just won’t be as fragrant and complex.)
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (optional, and kind of a cheat, but often good.)

Chunks:
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut to 1″ pieces (you can use breasts, but the thighs are moister and tastier)
1 cup chopped mushrooms (your choice – mix it up)
1-3 Tablespoons fish sauce (This stuff is pungent – if you’re not familiar, add incrementally and taste before increasing.  But don’t be turned off by the smell.  Definitely use some, as it’s a key flavor that softens when you add it to the soup.)
1 can baby corn, drained and chopped to 1/2″ chunks (optional)

Finish:
1 Tablespoon lime juice (more if compensating – see notes above)
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup grape tomatoes halved, or 2 plum tomatoes coarsely chopped (optional)

Tools:
1 large pot, at least 3 qt
knife
cutting board

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